How should a coxswain deal with pre-race doubts and jitters?
I think you should always be a little nervous before you race. I get nervous going to the starting line but that’s mostly because I try to micromanage everything (not really the best course of action, to be honest…). Granted, being in control of your nerves and not being that person that is a blithering idiot about everything is fairly crucial too. If you’re doubting something before your race, whether it’s your skills as a coxswain or your crew’s ability to have a good race, you didn’t prepare enough, plain and simple.
Related: Once we are underway with an outing or actually in a race, I am completely in control and able to respond to any situation and keep a level head, which is what I think makes me a good cox. I find it difficult to keep that same composure on land or as we navigate up to the start. I panic and stress that we are missing a rower/ late/ something has gone wrong. I find it difficult to not get irate with my crew and my coach tells me to stop stressing but I don’t know how. Help?
Using your time wisely and effectively during practice and practicing the things you need to work on will ensure that on race day you’re adequately prepared to do what you’re there to do. I mean, that’s the entire reason why we practice, right? If you come back from a race knowing you were really nervous going to the start, figure out why. Is it just general nerves or is it because you didn’t have a race plan, were running late, etc.? Once you’ve figured out the root cause, determine how you’re going to do it differently next time. That could be actually coming up with a race plan, getting the crew together 30 minutes sooner than last time so you can launch earlier and not be rushed to the line, etc.
If you’re nervous and it’s just the normal kind of nerves, relax, close your eyes, and take a deep breath or two. (This is commonly called “centering yourself” in the sport psych world.) Outside of trying to micromanage things, I’d say that most of my nerves are nothing more than an adrenaline rush. That helps me out a lot at the start though because once the flag drops, the nerves go away and the adrenaline takes over, which means I’ve got a lot of energy to put into the beginning of the race.
Another thing that helps that a lot of athletes do, particularly pro-athletes, is visualization. If you’ve been watching the Olympics you’ve probably heard at least one athlete from every sport say the spent the previous night or the morning of their competition visualizing their routine or their race. It’s exactly what it sounds like too – you’re visualizing yourself going through every step of your event, from launching to your warm up to back into the starting platform to every part of your race plan. Visualizing how everything is supposed to go helps you build a bit of confidence which ultimately leads to your nerves either being eliminated or at the very least, better controlled.