Coxswain Recordings, pt. 11

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

Been awhile since I posted any new recordings (despite having probably ten posts worth bookmarked…). (Un)Surprisingly, sitting in an airport terminal with absolutely nothing else to do during my early morning three hour layover is quite conducive to listening to tapes.

GW 1V vs. Holy Cross
This recording is from Connor, the coxswain from GW whose recordings I posted back in part 7. If you haven’t heard them and want to hear some really great examples of collegiate-level coxing, I definitely recommend checking them out. This race is from the 2014 GW Invite that was in DC last weekend.

  • 0:29, “when they say our name, bury ’em”… We do this too, except we do it when the official calls “attention”. Until then we’re sitting at half slide with the oars resting easy in the water. When attention is called we snap into “time to go” mode and everyone lifts their hands at the same time to bury the blades. Watching crewsΒ lock on andΒ lock in right at that moment is pretty cool. The point of doing this, regardless of whether you do it when you hear your name or when they call attention, is that it helps ensure everyone’s blades are in the water and in the best position to allow them to take a powerful first stroke.
  • 0:47, “sharp and shallow”… This is a call that I’m definitely going to have our novice coxswain start using with our eight. We have a tendency to bury the blades a little too deep at the start instead of keeping them just under the surface of the water – a call like this is a good reminder to keep the catches on point without lifting the hands too much.
  • Listen to the slide speed during the starting 20 between 0:40 and 1:10, then listen to it right at the settle at 1:11. You can actually hear the slides lengthen out…
  • 1:39, “about half a seat down, no worries”… This is exactly how you should tell your crew you’re down, particularly at the beginning of the race.
  • 1:45, “long, rhythm“… Several people have asked about rhythm lately and what calls to make for it. Rhythm in rowing means that the crew is relaxed, they’ve got good swing, they’re getting good run, and they’ve just got a good flow about them. One of the best ways to tell if your crew has good rhythm is to feel the boat and then look at the stroke rate. Does it feel like you’re rowing at the rate your cox box displays? If it feels like you’re rowing lower than the displayed rate, that’s usually a good sign that your crew’s got a good rhythm going. Another thing you can do to gauge your crew’s rhythm is to watch the shoreline. (This is best done during practice.) If the crew is moving well together and not rushing then you should notice that on the recovery you stay in relatively the same place in relation to something on shore. You only surge forward on the drive. If you ever get a chance to ride in the launch, pick a rower and watch for this. If you’re feeling like the boat is being rushed or like there’s no consistency in motion between the rowers, a call like “long, rhythm” (spoken the way Connor said it) is a great simple and to the point call to make. It’d also be a good call to make coming out of the start and into your settle as a way to help establish the rhythm following the frenzy of your high strokes. In order for a call like this to actually get the message across, it’s important that during practice or off the water you communicate with them what rhythm actually is so that they know the “deeper meaning” behind the call you just made. Practice is the time to do the explaining and clue them in to what your calls mean, that way during races you can be short and to the point in order to keep them engaged and sharp.
  • Listen to how sharp the catches are … does anybody else find that sound totally mesmerizing? I don’t think I’ve ever heard audio with catches that sound that precise.
  • 2:36, “now we walk”… I like how he jumped on this opportunity. Whenever you’re down on another crew, if you take a five or ten for something you should always be watching to see if that burst resulted in you walking on the other crew, even if that wasn’t your original intention. If you do gain on them, capitalize on that and immediately say “even”, “gained a seat”, etc. followed by something like what he said here: “now we walk”. These opportunities are rare and fleeting over the course of a 5-7 minute race so when they come up, don’t miss out on them.
  • 2:41, “they came out too hard, now we punish them”… This is what I said to Connor in our email: “I love making calls like this and locking eyes with someone in the other boat as I say it. It’s a great way to start chipping away at them before totally breaking them later in the race.” This is another opportunity that you can capitalize on if you’re paying attention. If you notice a crew go out hard and fast, you’ve gotta make a judgement call: do you push your crew to keep up and risk burning them out too early or do you wait for the other crew to crash and burn so you can (hopefully) walk through them with a strong finishing 500? If you wait and see the other crew starting to fall off pace, jump on it immediately. They made a mistake, now’s your chance to burn them. Bonus points if you lock eyes with someone in the other boat when you tell your crew they came out too hard – trust me, it’s a whole new level of (twisted) joy you have to experience to understand. This is me every time … also this. πŸ™‚
  • 3:15, “internal now”… If you’ve been making several calls in a row about other crews, following them up with an “internal” call helps bring the focus back to you guys.
  • 3:19, “one bad stroke, get it back”… Regardless of why it was a bad stroke, move on. Make this call to keep the rower(s) present and focused on the strokes ahead, not the ones (s)he’s already taken.
  • 3:24, “focus on me, not on them”… Good call, particularly if/when you see rowers looking out of the boat.
  • 3:28, “we gotta keep moving”… If you find you’re just sitting on a crew (not giving anything up but not taking anything either), get a little aggressive and make a call to recommit, get the catches in, and drive the legs. Don’t let the crew settle for anything because you never know when the other crew is going to make a move and surge ahead.
  • 3:51, “this is our fucking course”… I mean, if this call doesn’t elicit some kind of response from your rowers then I’d probably check to make sure they’ve got a pulse.
  • 3:56, “Bobby, this is your seat, gotta pass it back to Jim”… This is a great way to keep the whole crew involved and engaged while you’re walking through a crew. Obviously it’s everyone’s responsibility to take seats but calling out each individual when you’re on their seat gives them a sense of personal responsibility for getting you either through it or to it, depending on when/how you call it. Definitely a move I’d recommend making sometime in the third 500 since this is usually where the rowers are hurting the most and where they’re the least focused on what’s happening.
  • 4:32, “ready…steady…now“… I love this build up and how he says it. It reminds of the movies right before a big battle scene when you see the armies lining up on either side and the leaders are at the front saying something very similar to this before yelling “charge” or “now”. You could also go the Russell Crowe route (via the opening battle scene in Gladiator) and simply say “unleash hell”. That would also work.
  • 5:55, “they’re fucking toast!”… I love this for all the reasons.
  • You’ll notice at the end during their sprint it was more dynamic than it was static – by that I mean that they kept lifting the rate instead of maintaining the same one throughout. I like the idea of this for races when it’s close at the start of the red buoys and it’s questionable whose bow ball is gonna be the first one over the line. If you’re clearly in the lead though then it’s probably unnecessary.

As always, the sportsmanship at the end is worth emulating.

Sacramento State start at the Lake Natoma Invite
Just a good example of how to call a start – sharp, quick, and concise.

Drexel Men’s V8 Coxswain Kerr Cup
Just a couple things with this one…

  • 1:11, make sure when you’re making a catch-specific call like “back it in” that you’re not calling it midway through the drive. Remember, you don’t have to say each stroke number when you’re counting out a five or a ten. If you call your strokes at the catch (like you’re supposed to) but have a catch-specific call to make, just replace that number with your call.
  • 1:33, “I have bow ball, get me more”… I’m really not a fan of calls like this. First of all, how much more do you want? You’re like, 300m into the race. Second of all, calls that separate the coxswain from the rowers are irritating. Just don’t do that.
  • 1:42 – 1:51, he takes the curve under the bridge perfectly. Philly coxswains, take note.
  • 2:48, “in two…on this one…GO!”… Great buildup and intensity.
  • 3:49, “at the wire, you’re bringin’ the fire…” I like that! (For those unfamiliar with the Schuylkill, there’s a wire that runs from the shore to the island with the lane numbers hanging from it. I think this also marks the last 300m…)
  • 5:12, interesting arm movement there…
  • 5:25, at the start of his countdown he said “final 20” and then when he started counting he said “final 10”. I guess that’s better than saying it the other way around and this was probably just a fluke misspeak but still – gotta stay on top of that. The countdown five was also unnecessary. If it’s five to build into the final 250m, yea that works, but if you’re counting down to the last 10 it should be “on this one” and “in two” (at most) for the last 20. If you’re building into a 20 anywhere along the course, two or three to build is usually appropriate.
  • I like his enthusiasm at the end after they crossed the line.

If I had to grade this I’d probably give it a solid B, hovering just under a B+. The biggest thing that I noticed was that he used a lot of basic calls but never said anything to the rowers (except on like, two occasions) or about where they were on other crews. He did say to go for time but I think you’ve still gotta tell them where they’re at on the other boats, even though they were out in front. At the very least, it keeps them from getting complacent. He also did a lot of counting and counting down to things that didn’t really need countdowns. I like the “in 2…in 1…” countdown but is that really necessary just to note the 500m mark? Not a bad piece overall though.

Dev Camp Coxswain Recording
Based on first impressions I think this coxswain probably thinks being as loud as possible is the same as being aggressive. Either that or she didn’t have a cox box. I’m curious if she had a voice after this…

  • 0:19, at the start when you’re calling out your high 20, you should never be silent in between strokes. There are SO many things you could be saying! Calls for sharp catches (“sharp and shallow”), the slide (“jump” on the first inch), where you’re at on the other crews (“1/2 a seat up”), body calls (“stay long”), etc.
  • 0:42, “I wanna see that rhythm”… You, as the coxswain, can’t see the rhythm. You can however, feel it. (In a bow loader you have no choice.) That requires you to know what rhythm is and what the components are that make it up. Not saying this coxswain doesn’t but I’m skeptical after hearing the entire recording.
  • 0:44, “I wanna see bruises on your chest”… Um…whhhy? There are a lot of calls to be made for strong finishes (squeeze, accelerate, etc.) but this one isn’t one of them.
  • 0:53, “I’m on this green boat, I want to be on the coxswain of Pacific, put me on the coxswain…” Couple things with this. “Green boat” is practically the most non-descript thing you could say when identifying another crew. The guys are behind you, they can’t see who’s in front of you, and they’ve likely already forgotten who’s in each lane (and probably didn’t know to begin with what color their shells were). Instead of saying “green boat” a more effective call would have been “Lane 4” if you didn’t know the name of the crew. They know where Lane 4 is in relation to the lane you’re in so it gives them something to latch on to whereas “green boat” gives them no information about that crew, where they’re at, etc. It’s hard to be motivated to go after someone if you don’t know who you’re going after. Regarding “put me on the coxswain”, you’ve gotta tell them how far away that is. Are you sitting on their bow man and only need to move up a seat or are you on 3-seat and half a length down? That’s crucial information.
  • 1:08 – ? I don’t actually know where the ten ends (maybe around 1:30ish?) because she stopped counting and started talking about Long Beach. I’m all for not saying every stroke during a ten but I think you should at least say the last two or three, otherwise it sounds unfinished and like it wasn’t that important (or necessary) to begin with.
  • 1:32 – 1:40, you can want to be on that Long Beach boat all you want but it’s not going to happen unless you tell your crew where they’re at (“down a deck…”) and what they’ve gotta do to get them (“accelerate through and swing…”). This section was way too cheerleader-y and not at all effective for trying to get your crew to walk on another boat.
  • 2:43, “this is your sprint…” Nooooo. The sprint is one of those things where if you don’t do some kind of build into it, there’s no point in calling it. Saying “this is your sprint” is asking for there to suddenly be a lot of rush because everyone’s like “oh crap, the sprint, gotta get the rate up” but because you didn’t call for it like you should have no one is bringing the rate up together.
  • 2:40, “I want to be on the coxswain of the SDRC boat”… Similarly to 0:53 and 2:17 (both saying how she wants to be on Pacific) there’s no information or calls given on how to actually make that happen.
  • 3:03, “last 10″… They probably took another eight strokes after that.

I hate to say this but this is one of the few coxed races where, just based solely on the audio, I don’t think having a coxswain made any difference in where the crew finished. There was a lot of talking yelling in this piece but nothing was actually said. Thoughts?

Temple Men’s Practice
Parts of this are in slow-motion so don’t think your computer is suddenly having a stroke or something (like I did) – it’s just the video. The biggest things that caught my attention here had nothing to do with the coxing, rather it was the stroke’s posture (something about it is driving me nuts but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is … it just doesn’t look like he’s in a strong position) and 5-seat consistently missing water at the catch and rowing it in. The stroke is doing this too, actually. Just looking at the crew as a whole it seems like the front end is collectively a little rushed, I think in part because they’re waiting until the last second to square up (one is causing the other but which is causing which?), which is in turn causing some people to miss water when the blades go in. When you’re coxing, make sure you’re paying attention to the bladework too. You can’t try to fix their technique during a race (or hard piece) but you should still be pointing out when something is off. Don’t get so sucked into the bubble of your race plan that you forget about everything else that’s happening outside the coxswain’s seat.

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