Question of the Day

Hello! I’m not great at estimating distances but I’m learning and getting better – but my coach told me and the other coxswains on the team that it is better to call the sprint early and then ask for 10 more strokes than to call it a little late and wonder what could have been (strokes used in the race). However, I always feel bad if I tell the rowers we have twenty strokes left when we actually have thirty. What do you think? Is my coach wrong or do I just need to suck it up? Thanks!!

I don’t think your coach is explaining this properly. He’s taking two separate things and explaining it like they’re one in the same. The sprint doesn’t have to do with a certain number of strokes – you’re calling it for a certain number of meters, like the last 250m or something (which is the start of the red buoys to the finish line). Some teams do X strokes at 36, X at 38, etc. for their sprint but they still start it when they cross the last 250. The “10 more strokes” thing comes in if you say “last 10 to the line (regardless of whether you’re sprinting or not)” but it ends up being not the last 10 to the line.

Related: Judging distance

As far as wondering “what could have been”, you’re going to wonder that after every race that doesn’t result in a gold medal. If you aren’t paying attention or “forget” to call the sprint at 250m, don’t call it until there’s 100m left, and then lose by a seat, yea, you’re going to really wonder what could have been.

There’s nothing for you to “suck up”, really. Just keep practicing. At some point or another every coxswain has said “last X strokes” and it’s actually be a few more or less than that. If you can nail it and have the last stroke happen just as your bow ball crosses, rock on, but it’s not an exact science and most of the time you are estimating and hoping you’re within a stroke of what you call for. If you say “last 10” and it ends up being the last 11, it’s not a huge deal. If you say “last 10” and it’s actually the last 20, that’s a bigger issue because by now you should have an idea of how far your boat travels in ten strokes and be able to guess when you’re that far away from the line. Plus, your rowers are trusting the fact that you can see where the line is since they can’t, so they assume that when you say “last 10” you really mean last 10. Like I said though, it comes with practice and consciously making an effort to gauge the distance you’ve traveled in ten strokes, twenty strokes, etc. when you’re out doing pieces.

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