Coxswain Recordings, pt. 6

Part 1 || Part 2 || Part 3 || Part 4 || Part 5

Mercer/PNRA Women’s Lightweight 8+ (Edit 6/6/14 – this video has been made private. Sorry!)
I like this one. Personally I’m not a fan of female coxswains who take their voices to that unnatural deep tone … I never understood what that accomplished. I like what this girl does though – she’s got a good balance between the deep voice and her normal voice. The deep voice adds a little extra every now and then without being too overwhelming.

  • 0:22, “lengthen…” I love how she says “lengthen”, with that little kick right at the end of the word.
  • The starting sequence as a whole was great. I liked the intensity of how she called the first 20, which quick calls in between the counts.
  • 1:28, “let’s take 10, focus on technique…” Good call for giving the burst a purpose but specify what you want to focus on with regards to technique. There’s a million different things everyone could think of when you say that and trust me, at this point they’re not thinking. They’re relying on you to tell them what to do. If you want to focus on technique while pushing Oakland Strokes back, take ten to work that connection with the feet and maximize the amount of time your blades are spending in the water – every strong, connect and send.
  • 1:50, “this is our race, Oakland Strokes is moving on us, we’re gonna respond on this one…” Nice call. How are you going to respond? How much, if anything, did they take when they took their move? What do you want to take back?
  • 2:00, “everyone needs to stay checked in…” Don’t be afraid to remind your crews of this, regardless of the race. A focus 5 would be a good follow-up to get everyone’s eyes, heads, and brains in your boat.
  • 2:29, “big power 20…” Right before this she called the move early to respond to Oakland Strokes, which is a solid tactic to use when you need to. When she said “big power 20” though she sounded unsure of herself, like she was questioning if this was the right thing to do or not as she was saying it. Don’t question yourself. Commit.
  • 4:17, “back each other up…” I really like this call. I can’t say why for sure but if I was rowing and heard this it’d definitely remind me that I’m working with eight other people and there are eight other people working with me. It’s not any one person’s responsibility to move the boat. I trust them, they trust me.
  • 4:45, “let’s stay connected, let’s find a new gear right here…” Another call I like.
  • 5:12, “holding on to the back end…” This is a great way to essentially say “finish your strokes”.

Overall, very good. The calls and intensity were great and you could tell that what she was saying she actually meant – she wasn’t talking just to talk and fill a void.

OARS Lightweight 8+
Guys, please. If you’re not going to wear the camera, don’t bring it in the boat with you. Put it on ahead of time (like at the hotel or at practice or something) to figure out how best to wear it, what’s comfortable, etc. If you’re messing around with it at the starting line and then letting it get thrown around the boat during the race, it’s not going to do you any good and you might as well have just left it on land. If you attempt to watch this and don’t puke and/or have a seizure, hats off to you. Anyways, moving on.

  • 0:06, Right off the bat I love that he reminds them to “look at the flag”. This is important and definitely something I recommend coxswains do. Remember, you go on the drop of the flag, not when the announcer says GO. If the flag comes down before he says GO, you go anyways. You can’t see that so it’s important that everyone else in the boat is watching for it.
  • 1:06, “we’re ahead of everyone”…cool…by how much? If you’re going to tell your boat you’re ahead or behind, always tell them by how many seats. If you only say you’re up or down, inevitably someone is going to look out of the boat because they want to know by how much. If we’re up on everyone I’ll say “up on the field, three seats over Lane 3, two seats over Lane 5” and tell them where we are compared to the lanes on either side of us. When everyone is still clustered together it tends to be too difficult to say specifically where you are on five other lanes so a semi-specific overview is generally sufficient.
  • 1:36, “quick catches…”, if you want the catches to be quick, keep what you’re saying short and staccato. Don’t draw it out.
  • 2:16, “big 5…” Five strokes isn’t really enough to accomplish anything if you’re trying to make a serious move. If you can make any kind of significant gains in five strokes, that’s impressive, but if you’re trying to push a crew back or absorb them, go with 10 strokes. The only time when I can think 5 strokes would be good as a pure power burst is when you’re bow ball to bow ball to someone and/or you need to get your bow ahead to cross the line first.
  • 2:37, “5th place, that is not going to cut it…” I love this. There’s a big difference between telling your crew to do better just because you’re down and you need something to say and telling them to do better because the expectations you’ve set for yourselves demand it. This is definitely the latter, in my opinion. After saying that would have been prime opportunity to take a real move (like a 10 or 20) to catapult the boat back into the top 10. If you’re going to get on your crew with a call like this you damn well immediately better follow it up with something on your end. They’re following your calls and your strategy so if you think 5th place isn’t gonna cut it, I expect you to already have a move in mind to get us to 4th or 3rd or wherever you want us.
  • 5:06, “they all got nothin’…” This is great. Psychologically, this would do it for me. Hearing that the other crews have got nothing on us and then hearing where we are on all of them…that’s the kind of boost I know I’d need coming down the final stretch.
  • 5:58, “up 2 to a 48…” Wait, what??
  • 6:15, “come on, don’t let them take it…” Be careful about how you phrase this. The situation at this point probably is frantic and you obviously don’t want to give anything up but you also don’t want to make your crew think (more than they already might be) that the situation is life-or-death. Instead of “come on” say “show me what ya got”, “right here, lemme see it”, “stomp on the feet, lemme feel it”, etc. Instead of “don’t let them take it” say “don’t give an inch”, “don’t yield to them”, “show ’em you’re not backing down”, etc. All of this requires a bit of “planning” ahead of time but if modifying how you say something results in a more positive psychological response by your rowers, it’s worth it.

Of course after I finished this video I clicked on the other videos he’d uploaded and found this video of his audio superimposed on the race footage. I love when coxswains do this because you can actually see how their calls are affecting the race. If I’m ever the assistant coach somewhere and I’m in charge of recruiting, you can bet your ass that any coxswain who sends me their audio over footage of the race is going to get put right on top of the pile to be listened to and watched first. Not only is it good for all the obvious reasons but it’s also a great way to see your personality. Do you just sit there and do you get into it? At 4:10 when he’s saying “Wayland-Weston has got nothin’, Dallas has got nothin’, etc.” and you can see him pounding his fist – I like that. It shows me he’s invested and that’s something that’s really important to me when looking at coxswains. Also…is he wearing a captain’s hat? Someone find him and confirm this for me.

Final thing, at 6:32 after the end of the race you can hear somebody yell “fuck yea!” and then someone else say “shut up, shut up!”. I’m not going to be a hypocrite and tell you not to do this because I’ve had some pretty epic races where this has been the first thing I’ve said to my stroke seat after crossing the finish line. I do it, you do it, a lot of us do it. There are however, rules, and even though you may not be directing it at anyone other than yourself or your teammates, it’s still considered poor sportsmanship. My advice: be careful. Throw your hands in the air, drag them in the water, cheer, whatever, but be respectful about it and try to limit the swearing. Save the “fuck yeas” for your group huddle afterwards when you’re away from the crowds of people and the crews you raced against. One exuberant exclamation is not worth getting disqualified for. Coxswains, remind your rowers of this and keep it in mind yourself.

Jesuit Dallas Lightweight 8+
This is the same race from the previous video. OARS was in Lane 5 and Jesuit Dallas was in Lane 6.

  • 0:24, “pry…” File this under one of the top three most unenthusiastic first strokes of a race ever.
  • The way he counts out his numbers is good but whatever he says in between the numbers is sometimes hard to understand. Make sure you keep everything clear and concise.
  • 2:05, “sophomores, big 5…” I like calls like this. I think it’s good to remind everyone once in awhile that you recognize that there are eight other individuals in there who bring something to the table and then calling on them to capitalize on that.
  • 2:16, “two seats up on first place…” …so…you’re in first place…? A better thing to say would be “we’ve moved into first, two seats up on second”.
  • 2:37, “five to get four seats…” That’s ambitious.
  • 3:21, “let’s commit…” If you want me to commit to something I’m going to need to hear a liiittle bit more enthusiasm than that. Allow me to direct your attention to 17:40 of Pete’s HOCR recording. That is how you call for commitment.
  • 5:55, “time to find that next gear…” Good call for the last 250m.
  • 6:18, “even, go!” Right about here I started thinking “when is he going to stop with the rhythmic calls and start just going crazy?” The ending of this race was tight between 3rd, 4th, and 5th place (which you can see starting around 6:21 of the OARS video) so I was expecting…more, I guess. When you can see you’re in a tight race like that you’ve got to let loose (while still staying in control) and just get on your rowers’ asses to get that bow ball ahead. Your calls should be reaching down their throats and pulling out something they didn’t know they had left in them.

There were two main things that I took away from this recording. After a few minutes I got bored because a lot of the calls were the same – stand on it, push, let’s go, big press, etc. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t tune out a few times, open up a new tab, start scrolling through Twitter, and then realize that I missed 45+ seconds of audio. This is one of the reasons why I encourage coxswains to record themselves. If you listen to your recording and find yourself getting bored, how do you think the rowers feel? The other thing is that I was thisclose to going through my backpack to see if I had any spacers so I could just chuck them at my computer screen and hope that they magically found their way to 7-seat’s oarlock. There were a fair number of strokes where it looked like his blade wasn’t getting buried all the way and he was washing out. For as often as the coxswain was looking over to port I was a little surprised he didn’t say something. There isn’t a rule barring you from calling out technical issues during a race – if something isn’t right you’ve gotta say something otherwise you’re giving away tiny, tiny amounts of speed to the other crews with every stroke. You can’t just go on race-mode autopilot; you’ve got to be aware of everything.

SoCo Crew 4+ Youth Nationals Heats
The very first thing I noticed – not even joking, the very first thing – is where the starboard buoys are at 0:27 (a foot or two off the blade) and where they’re at at 0:43 (nearly under the rigger). You know what I’m going to say so I’m not even going to say it.

  • 0:44, when you’re counting out strokes try not to just count out the strokes and say nothing in between. I’m definitely guilty of this sometimes, usually when I’m trying to concentrate on something else that’s going on (either where we are, something with the blades, etc.), but it’s something I’m actively trying to get better at. When you’re just counting strokes, especially during a 20, it’s so monotonous. Case in point, the beginning of this race was 50 seconds of straight counting. Go sit in front of someone and count continuously for 50 seconds and see how long it takes for them to get up and walk away. Personally I’m also really anti-counting up and then counting down when calling 20s. If you’re going to count up (1, 2, 3…) on the first ten, do the same with the second ten. Don’t start counting down (10, 9, 8…) because it makes it seem like you’ve hit a peak and you can start coming down now when in actuality you’re still building into the piece. Psychology, guys. Psychology. 
  • 1:17, “we’re in 5th place…” Thanks for that encouraging update, Stan. Now over to Bob for a report on the weather.
  • 1:23, “we need to get under 1:40 the whole time to win this…” This clip is the only thing that properly expresses how I feel about this call. Where do I begin? OK. Goals like this are fine as long as they’re realistic and something you’ve done in the past that you know you’re capable of replicating. Read that again and burn it into your brain. Knowing your splits during a race is a blessing and a curse and as the coxswain it’s your responsibility to know how to work that information to your advantage. You should go in with a plan – are you going to negative split the whole time or try to hold a steady average? If you go into the race wanting be under a 1:40 you’ve got to communicate and remind your crew of that in an encouraging way. Don’t assume they remember those on-land conversations. “We committed ourselves to holding a 1:38, I want to see that commitment right now. Sitting at a 1:40, let’s go, big stomp now…drive it, find that rhythm, 1:39, stomp, swing…1:38. Connect, press, sssend. YES! This is how I want it to feel for the next 650m until we make our big move at the 1000m. Commit, sssend. Commit, sssend.” Make sense?
  • 1:26, “I want it bad so we gotta have it…” NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. What?! No! You’re sitting there not exerting that much physical effort by comparison and you’re telling four guys who are putting their bodies through seven minutes of unnatural hell that you want it, gotta have it, etc? You know what that makes you sound like? A slave driver. Want to know people’s opinions of slave drivers? They’re not usually that positive. Stop with the separation between you and the rest of the crew. I’m serious.
  • 2:05, “Lane 5 has a big lead, we gotta catch up to them…” How many meters in are you? What place are you in? How many seats/lengths does Lane 5 have? “A big lead” does nothing for me other than make me think we’re losing and there’s not a lot at this point we can do to change that. It’s kind of hard to tell but I think at this point this boat was sitting in fourth. That means you’ve got to overtake two other crews, all of whom look to have a couple seat lead on you, in order to challenge the first place crew. That’s a tall order. Focus on the crews directly in front of you in 3rd, and then if/when you pass them, focus on the boat in 2nd. Use small doses of energy to reel in the small fish instead of exerting everything right off the bat to do battle with the shark. (Hopefully you understand what I’m trying to say there.)
  • 2:10, “get us the hell down…” Chill. The responsibility to do that does not fall on just one person. There’s five of you in the boat. I have to assume he’s talking about the split here and not the stroke rate because you’re at a 33, the crew on your starboard is at a 35ish, and the crew on your port is at a 34.5ish. Regardless, you have to tell them what to do to get it down while not sounding pissed that things aren’t going your way. “Lengthen as much as possible” isn’t effective. I say this all the time, you’ve got to talk to them like they’re toddlers and tell them every. single. thing. you want them to do. “1:44, let’s drop the split and get that ratio back. Follow *stroke*, let’s lengthen it out and feel the power on the drive on this one. Lennnngthen, boom. Lennnngthen, boom. 1:42, control on the way up, back it in, get on the legs, lennnngthen, boom. 1:41, let’s hold it steady now, moving together, work that rhythm.”
  • 3:17, “this is unacceptable…” This call is unacceptable so how ’bout them apples.
  • 3:40, they were starting to walk on the crew on their port side. This is where you should have said “yea, walking!” and inserted something positive into the piece.
  • 4:44, “almost 500m…” C’mon man.
  • 4:48, “lengthen 10…” You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
  • 6:03, “I want this to piece your best race piece ever!” I don’t! I want your final to be your best piece ever! Who cares about the crew that dominated heats if they can’t come back and do even better in the finals?
  • 6:06, …no…you’re not counting from 25 all the way down to 1, are you? You are.
  • 6:30, “…7, 6, 5, power 10, 1, 2, 3…” Oh god.
  • 6:46, “…6, 7, 8, power 5, 1, 2, 3…” *sigh*

The biggest thing I noticed in this piece was that the coxswain sounded so irritated the whole time, like he was just pissed to be there. Yea, you’ve gotta stay on them and pay attention to what’s happening around you but saying stuff like “this is unacceptable” or “I want it bad” during a prelim would make me seriously reconsider wanting you in the boat for semis and finals. I went and looked up the heats results from YN this year and in this race it was first place to semis, next two to the reps. Does going to the reps mean you’ve gotta row another race, yea, but sometimes you’ve gotta cut your losses and know that that’s the inevitable result instead of pushing your crew to beat a team that you’re most likely not going to catch. I don’t want to say that I didn’t like this recording because I’m a coxswain too – I’ve been there and I know how you can get caught up in the moment during races – but I will say that I’m disappointed. Disappointed because I felt like this coxswain has a lot of potential that he’s just not taking advantage of. His voice is great and his intensity (when he’s channeling it properly) is solid, but the calls and overall race strategy need work.

SoCo Crew 4+ Youth Nationals Reps
This coxswain posted all their races from Nationals on YouTube (yay!) so I’m going to quickly go over the rest of them. Most of the comments from prelims still apply here.

  • 1:07, “get that ratio, they just got us by a little…” So much talking going on about length and ratio and yet you’re not actually calling anything for it. Sorry, this is such a pet peeve of mine. For a 34.5 stroke rate the ratio doesn’t appear that bad, at least in my opinion. Obviously I’m not in the boat so I can’t say for sure but if you’re going to make so many calls for ratio I expect there to actually be a serious issue with it and for you to tell the crew exactly what you want done to fix it. Saying “give me all the ratio you’ve got” is not the answer. What does that even mean? Tell them what you want. “Let’s make sure we’re staying long, not shortening up the slides, getting that body prep as the hands come around the turn. Get all your length before the wheels start, rotate out, catch send. Catch, send. Big press with the feet, stay connected, layback, finish the strokes. Hands away quick, back it in, and go. Sittin’ at 1:43 split. Work the rhythm, swwwing back, swwwing back. Think of that 2:1 ratio, accelerate the blade through on the drive, gimme that power. Accelerateee through, GOOD, again…accelerateee, hook, relaaax…”
  • 2:04, “I want to get first this time, what the hell…” I like winning just as much as the next coxswain but seriously, check the attitude.
  • 5:56, “build 5…sprint in two…” The final two of your build five should be your “in two”, so it should go “build 5, on this one, that’s 5, 4, 3, in two we go, that’s 1, and 2, open it up, NOW.” They really started moving on this sprint, would have been a good spot to throw in a “Good job, now you’re moving” or something motivational.
  • 6:37, again with the counting. Staaahp.

There was so much counting in this one and (way) too much talking about length. What do you guys thing? Agree or agree to disagree?

SoCo Crew 4+ Youth Nationals Semis
Last thing about this crew.

  • 5:27, he tells them last 500m and that they’re going to start their sprint early. At this point they’re sitting in sixth place with top 3 (I think) to finals. From the video, it does not look like they’re close to 3rd, 4th, or 5th place (I could be wrong though). Starting the sprint early is something you should consider doing if you’re in a tight race coming into 400m to go or so, since most people start their sprint somewhere between 250m and 350m to go. Any more than that and you’re essentially burning your wheels and setting yourself up to fly and die 50m from the end. What I want you to pay attention though from this is when the stroke seat says “no, we can’t” the coxswain just…stops talking. He says the split and the stroke rate (for the 800th time) but nothing else. There’s just silence. And then when he does call it up and the stroke says “no” again he says “I don’t care, nothing to lose”. Except the respect and trust of your rowers. Yea, you might have nothing to lose in the race but you have to know when to accept defeat and finish the race for yourself, not for the other boats. Let me clarify this too; I don’t mean that you should accept defeat and crawl across the line because you realized you weren’t going to win and just gave up. I mean that you should accept the fact that you’re racing crews who today proved to be the stronger opponent and that you should finish the race rowing as well as you possibly can so that you can cross that line knowing that you might not have won but you gave everything you had to give for yourself, your crew, and your team.
  • 6:26, “we can still catch 3rd, I bet you…” Rule #1, be realistic. Rule #2, don’t lie to your rowers.
  • 6:37, $&#@!!!! *expletives*

What I did like about each of these videos was the high five between the stroke and coxswain at the end, regardless of the outcome.

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