Coxswain recordings, pt. 10b

Part 1 || Part 2 || Part 3 || Part 4 || Part 5 || Part 6 || Part 7 || Part 8 || Part 9 || Part 10

Did you listen to the recordings I posted last week? What’d you think? Here’s my breakdown of a couple of them.

Sarah Harrick’s Race Image
When I was a sophomore at Syracuse I took a sports psychology classย and we spent a good chunk of time talking about visualization techniques. I’d have to dig out my notes to refresh my memory on the “science” behind it all but what it comes down to is that it’s an effective technique for building confidence and is credited by a lot of people, both athletes (Tiger Woods) and non-athletes (Bill Gates), as playing a role in their success. One of the reasons why I like this track is because it gives you the opportunity to help your crew visualize the race before it happens. One year when I was in high school we had an assistant coach who was the older sister of one of the guys on the team, both from a very prominent rowing family in my town. Before practice on a day when we were doing practice pieces to get ready for a regatta that weekend she had us get together before we went out, sit down in a quiet part of the boathouse, and close our eyes. She went through each part of the race with us, from the start to the settle through each 500 then through our big move, all the way down to the sprint and the last 10 strokes. She was really calm and quiet about it but when we opened our eyes I think we all felt like we were about to go race in the finals at Nationals or something. It just put us in the mood to go perform. Telling your crew your race plan is a great thing that you should do but helping them actually visualize the race and setting the scene for them just takes it to an entirely new level. It doesn’t have to be a super big, dramatic production either (which I know can be turn off for some people because you might think you sound ridiculous or something). It’s as simple as what you hear in the recording. If you believe in the plan you’ve come up with and in the abilities of your teammates, your point will be made.

George Kirschbaum 2 minute piece w/ West Springfield HSย I have a lot of feelings about coaches who jump in the coxswain seat and try to cox their crew like it’s one of their boats. Often times I wonder what the point is and it typically makes me raise an eyebrow … but then I realize that kinda makes me a hypocrite because I’ve been asked to cox crews I coach several times. If we’re short a coxswain or the coach wants the coxswain of that crew to watch how something is done, they’ll ask me to jump in and take the boat out for the practice. Don’t get me wrong, I love doing it…if I could coach all my crews while coxing them at the same time there’s no question that I’d do it. I always have to remind myself though that they aren’t my boat, so how I’d act or what I’d say to my boat I can’t do with these guys because the same relationship isn’t there. Similarly to what George said in his description of the piece, you can coach a crew for months and have that kind of relationship with them but there’s no guarantee that that’s going to transfer into the boat if you decide to cox them for a practice.

  • 0:20, “get it set…” This made me uncomfortable to listen to. I don’t really know why. I think there’s a really fine line you have to tread if you’re going to cox a boat you coach because you’ve got to keep the environment loose and casual while still coaching the rowers. You don’t want the crew to be nervous and tense because OMG our coach is in the boat with us, shit, shit, shit, they’re gonna judge everything we do and AHHH too tense to focus!!! Right off the bat here, if I was a rower I’d be on edge because he just sounds so annoyed when we says “set the boat, please” at 0:23 and then calls out the one rower to bury her blade. Anyways, my point here isn’t to harp on his coaching/coxing style but rather to remind everybody to just watch how you say things. Even if you’re having a really off practice, try to avoid letting your annoyance come out in your voice. Remember, you’ve got to keep everyone calm, relaxed, and focused. If you’re tense and annoyed, the crew will be too and this has the potential to lead to a conversation where inevitably someone will say “shut up, you’re just sitting there!” or “you don’t even do anything, why are you getting so pissed off??”
  • 0:58, “at rate…” I like this call just to let to let your crew know that you’re at whatever rate you’re supposed to be at. It’s concise and a lot simpler/faster/easier than saying “OK, we’re at a 34, hold it here…”.
  • 1:45, when you’re calling bursts and make a call for something at the front end, you can’t call the stroke number at the catch because by the time you get to the actual call (jump, knees down, etc.) you’re going to be at the finish and the call will be meaningless. If you’re calling a 5-stroke burst for the front end like he did here, just call all the numbers at the finish. You want all the calls to reflect whatever you’re calling the burst forย  – in this case, the front end – which means they all have to be made when the rowers are at that point in the stroke. Same goes for finishes – call your numbers at the catch so your calls match up with the part of the stroke you’re calling them for.
  • 3:20, brief recaps like this at the end of a piece are a good way for you to quickly communicate what you felt and/or saw with your boat. (Bonus points, it also shows your crew that you were actively in the moment and paying attention to what was happening and not just reciting calls like a robot.) When I do these I try to cover six things – what was good, what wasn’t so good, what did we do better this time than before, what should we work on on the next piece, did we hit the rate we were looking for and maintain it, and then any individual specifics, if necessary. I can usually do this in about 30 seconds and then I’ll save any extra details for when we stop for a water break or are just paddling.

Kara McPhillips w/ UVA WV8+ vs. Ohio State
I liked this piece but I got a little annoyed at the “go” call on multiple consecutive strokes. It got to be a little too much.

  • 0:42, “that’s very good…” Connor, this sounds like you.
  • 0:45 – 0:48, perfect. I like how she called a high 7 and then used the following three as transition strokes. It’s still a power ten, just called differently and, I would argue, more effectively. I like how she says “up in 2, up in 1, here we go” and then “settle in 2, settle in 1” on the settle at 0:58. I like how it eliminates that brief period of silence that’s otherwise there when you just say “in two, 1…2…”.
  • 2:54, “are all eight of you ready to make a commitment…” Personally, I wouldn’t say this in the form of a question because I feel like I should already know the answer. I’d phrase it as a statement, like this is what we’re going to do, this is where you commit. Regardless, it’s still a good call.
  • 4:03, “you’re in the 3rd 500 now, this is where we have the power…” Know the part of the race where your crew excels the most and let them know when they’re in it. This is a great call to boost your crew up, especially in the 3rd 500 which is usually the hardest chunk of the race.
  • 4:29, I like that she made a call directly to her stern pair. Without fail, every single race, I forget about the stern pair. I think it’s because they aren’t really in my eye line so since I can’t see them, I forget they’re there. Don’t do this! They’re more than just the pace setters so make sure you’re talking to them as much as you are the other pairs or other individuals.
  • 5:07, “don’t you dare let those splits ease off…” Damn, girl. That is an effective call. The way she says it is perfect.
  • 6:13, “consciously sit up…” Consciously being the key word there. It’s easy to for what you say to go in one ear and out the other but certain words tend to register more than others. Something like this is probably going to garner a better response than just saying “sit up” because they’re actively thinking about it.

These are only three of the ten, all of which are posted on my YouTube channel. The links can also be found on the recordings page or in last week’s post. Check them out when you’ve got time and let me know what you think!

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