Any tips on being clear and concise with calls during race pieces? I tend to get a little overwhelmed by everything going on around me and I sometimes trip over words or get too wordy.
Tripping over words is gonna happen. It’s just one of those things that you can’t get defeated by, especially if you’re just starting out as a coxswain. Out of all the recordings I’ve listened to I’d say probably three of every five have some kind of flub in them. It’s not that big of a deal though and most of the time if it’s just a quick stumble the rowers won’t notice it, especially if it’s during a race. If it becomes a frequent thing and it’s causing you to get flustered and lose your focus, then it’ll start becoming a distraction to the rowers, which you don’t want.
The times I have the most issues with this is when it gets really cold outside and my face is so cold that my lips are numb. Numb = not moving very quickly = my brain is stringing together calls faster than my mouth can spit them out. Most of the time I just stop, shake it off (I literally shake my head), refocus, and pick up where I left off. All that happens in about a split second so it’s not like you’re taking five strokes to recover. Acknowledge that you slipped up but remember that at the end of the race, you’re most likely going to be the only one that remembers and/or cares.
One thing that can help with being too wordy is to plan out your calls ahead of time. I don’t plan out my races word for word but I at least have a general idea, based on previous races, practice that week, and talking with the crew, of what I want/need to say. You can make it easier on yourself too by putting a post-it note near your cox box with a list of calls on it so that you can see the calls that you need to start incorporating into your vocabulary. That way on race day you’ll already have them in your brain and won’t have to worry so much about getting tripped up over trying to come up with things to say. It also helps you avoid being too wordy because you know these are the calls you need to make at some point based on everything I already mentioned, meaning the rest of the time should be filled with anything you see about their blades right now (as a crew or individually), where you are location-wise, where the other crews are, etc.
Related: HOCR: Race plan “hacks”
Before you work on your calls though you need to figure out what’s overwhelming you about races. Is it just because you’re not the only boat out there or because everything’s happening so quickly or …? As soon as you determine why you’re getting overwhelmed then you can take the necessary steps to work on that during practice so that in future situations you don’t feel that way. If it’s because of the other boats being around you, put yourself in between two other crews while you’re doing warmups or something and don’t pay attention to them. Keep an eye on the distance between the blades so there aren’t any clashes but other than that, pretend like they aren’t there. Focus on your crew, their technique, and what they’re doing.
Since you’ll likely need to look at another crew during a race to see their position, practice doing this by pacing yourself throughout your row – try doing it every 5 strokes to start. All you’re doing is giving them a quick glance too. The longer you look at them the greater the chance that you’ll get distracted. Everything that’s going on around you should be secondary to what’s happening in front of you. Keeping the focus on what your crew is doing and not getting distracted by the other crews around you is a matter of discipline, plain and simple.