Hi! I just started coxing this fall, and towards the end of the season my rowers told me that the calls I was making during our race pieces were good but that I should work on being more controlled with my voice. I think it’s because I’m nervous about being silent for too long so I rush everything out but then I also run out of things to say. I also think I need to work on being less repetitive and have a little more intensity to my calls. However, we went off the water right after that. Is there any way I can work on this over the winter? I really want to work on these things and I’m bummed I won’t really have a good opportunity the whole winter. I cox the guys on the ergs but it’s very different than being in the boat. Right now I’m just listening to tapes when I have spare time and taking notes, but is there any way to actually practice this before spring?
One thing you can do in the winter to increase the variety of your calls is get together with some other coxswains, listen to some recordings (including each others), and start creating a list of calls for … everything. Catches, finishes, drive, recovery, making a move, sprinting, etc. Everything. Google Sheets is a good way to keep it all organized. With each call you write down, make sure you understand where it should be called (meaning where during the stroke and if necessary, where during a race or piece), what its purpose is, and how it should be said (tone of voice, intonation, etc.) – all good things to write down next to each call.
Another thing you can do is get some video of crews on YouTube (or your own crew, if you have some) and watch it with no sound while practicing your calls. The coxswain’s view of races would be a good way to practice this. This allows you to practice making the calls at the correct spot in the stroke, as well as work on your intensity, tone, control, etc. during the more “frantic” parts of the race. It’ll also help you work on your pacing so you don’t use all your calls up right at the start of the race. I’d recommend doing this with the other coxswains so that you can critique each other and get feedback on everything.
When you’re coxing the guys on the erg, make sure you’re coxing everyone and not each individual, if that makes sense. Normally when you think of coxing people on the erg you think about standing behind them giving them power 10s. What I’m talking about is talking to the entire group of rowers and making calls similarly to how you would in the boat. Make individual calls if/when necessary but the majority of what you’re saying should be directed towards everyone. Forget about the 5s, 10s, etc. and focus more on making general reminders about the bodies and helping them visualize being on the water with an oar in their hand. Take calls from the list you’ve been creating and try to incorporate 3-5 into your vernacular every few days until they become a regular part of your vocabulary.
It’s great that you’re going into the next few months knowing exactly what you need to work on. It can be tough working on the audible part of coxing in the winter but it’s definitely possible if you get creative.