Coxswain recordings, pt. 12

Part 1 || Part 2 || Part 3 || Part 4 || Part 5 || Part 6 || Part 7 || Part 8 || Part 9 || Part 10 || Part 11

Drexel WF8+ vs. Bucknell (Scrimmage)
Just a couple quick notes on this recording. I love pretty much everything about it except for one thing…one pretty major thing.

  • Aggression and tone at the start and throughout the entire race is spot on. This is what you want to sound like.
  • So. Much. Counting. Guys, you’re not a metronome. They know how to count – you don’t need to count out ever single stroke for them.
  • 2:19, “body swing in 5…” Taking five for body swing is fine (ignoring the whole over-counting thing in this particular instance) but make sure you say over 5, not in 5. That’s a very important distinction that you don’t want to mess up, regardless of what you’re doing.
  • You can tell that the timing and rhythm is solid just based on the sound of the oarlocks but I’m wondering if that’s because of all the counting. That’s part of the reason why I caution against counting so much because the rowers can start to rely on you for the rhythm instead of each other and then when you stop counting, whatever rhythm they’ve had they lose.
  • She does good job of balancing her feedback and telling the crew where they’re at on the course, where they are on Bucknell, giving individual feedback when necessary, etc.
  • 5:30, “shake it off, you take one stroke off the next stroke better be ten strokes better…” Solid point. If you have a bad stroke or you take a stroke off (don’t do that) you gotta make sure the next stroke is 100% on.
  • 6:18, “they’re gonna kick it up, we’re gonna kick harder…” Great motivating call coming into the final 500.
  • 7:13, “body swing in two…” That’s not really an “in two” kinda call, rather it’s a “let’s get that swing riiiiight here, swing back…” kinda call. Not everything needs to be called “in two”; a lot of things, such as body swing, can just be called “on this one” or just said normally without specifying a stroke to do it on.
  • 7:18, “hold the open water and take it away…” Good call to make when you’ve got open water and want to maintain/build on that.
  • 7:27, “last 20” –> 6 strokes later, paddle. Calling more strokes than there actually are is the lesser of two evils here but you still shouldn’t be estimating that much over.

I really wouldn’t change anything about this other than the excessive amount of counting. Ignoring that though and thinking about the overall piece, I’d say this is a solid example of what a collegiate coxswain should sound like.

Drexel WF8+ Knecht Cup Grand Final
Pretty much everything from up above applies here as well.

  • 0:53, “2, be an animal, 3, be an animal…” Good call for the start of the race.
  • 2:14, “bow 4, I need your speed…” I love this as a call for when the catches start getting lazy, we’re rowing it in a little, etc.
  • 2:26, “this will be a dogfight, get dirty, get proud, now walk…” I mean, if that doesn’t make you find a little something extra in yourself and pull just a little harder, I donno what will.
  • 3:01, “walk it through the 750m mark…” I like this call as just an alternative way of saying where you are on the course.
  • 3:10, if you’re gonna call for the crew to relax, maybe try not to sound possessed as you say it.
  • 4:36, “Buffalo’s tryin’ to walk, make your decision now, are you #1?” Good call to make when a crew’s trying to come back on you when you have the lead and to ultimately keep them focused on the end goal.
  • 5:30, “It’s gonna be intense, it’s gonna be a fight, get ready…” This sounds like something that would have/probably was said at the start of a Muhammad Ali/George Foreman bout. Good call coming into the last 500m.
  • 6:50, “last 250 in 3… 1, 2,3…” Unless you’re building into another rate shift, there’s really no reason to be counting down (or up, in this case) to the meter marks. If you are counting, you should be counting down, not up.
  • 7:29, I love how she called the end here. After seeing how close the times between first and second were (less than 2 seconds), this level of emotion is definitely appropriate for a race like this.
  • 7:39, “GOLD!!” In a race as tight as this, as soon as you know your bow ball is for sure in front in the last 5-10 strokes, making a call like this is brilliant to draw out that last bit of energy from the rowers to keep them pushing all the way through the line. It’s not like they don’t know how tight the race is when there’s another crew right beside you (or on either side of you) so confidently saying “GOLD” can help them dig deep and make sure their bow ball stays out in front for 10 more seconds.

Like I said with the first piece, I wouldn’t change anything except for all the counting. I talked about this a bit in the power ten post from last week t00. Over the course of 2000m it’s probably unnecessary to be calling more than six to eight bursts total. It’s important to remember too that just because you’re calling a 5, 10, 15, or 20 doesn’t mean that you have to count out every. single. stroke. Calls like jump, swing, attack, legs, sit up, breathe, together, send, long, stride, kick, power, etc. are just as effective when you intersperse them between 1, 2, 3, etc.

MN4+ College coxswain, sprint race semi-finals
The biggest thing that I noticed throughout this piece was that it sounds like a 10 minute medium-pressure piece during practice. There’s not a ton of emotion behind her voice and her tone overall hovers between too calm, kinda bored, and every so often a little unsure of what she should be saying.

  • 1:09, “find the rhythm…” This would be a good opportunity to use the “long, rhythm” call from a couple posts back to help the rowers find and establish it. It also ensues that “finding the rhythm” happens together rather than at three or five or eight different times. Another good thing to do would be to specify how you want to get the rhythm, i.e. “let’s get that rhythm, establish it with the swing here…swing together, long rhythm, long rhythm…”
  • One of the things that I noticed was that through the middle there was a lot of repetition with the calls (“long”, stuff about the rhythm, etc.) but not much about where they were, where they were on other crews, etc. There also weren’t any 10s or 20s to make a move, walk away, increase the lead, etc. and the 10s that were taken weren’t really right for what they were being used for.
  • 4:50, “10 for swing…” A 5 would have been more appropriate here. Remember, not all bursts have to be 10 just because the most well-known phrase is “power 10”.
  • 5:17, “100m away from the 1500m…” A better way to say this would have been “10 strokes out of the 1500m” or “getting ready to come into that 3rd 500m…”. Think about it like when you’re traveling, you’ve been on the road for several hours already, and you just want to get home because you’re tired, sore, and sick of seeing the same scenery in every state you go through. “100m away from 1500m” is like saying you’re 30 miles away home…you’re close but you’re not quite there yet and all that bit of information is gonna do is make you go “ugh seriouslyyy“. That’s what calling X-hundred meters away from the major marks is like. The only time you can say that and get away with it is when you’re within ~300m or less to the line.

MN4+ College coxswain, sprint race finals
The biggest difference between this one and the previous one is that there’s actually some intensity behind the calls in this one. The best part of the recording in terms of tone and aggressiveness is the end starting around the 6:20 mark. Besides that, I’d say a lot of the same comments from above apply to this recording as well.

Marietta Tiger Navy Lightweight 8+ Midwest Championships Final
This obviously wasn’t one that was emailed to me but I figured since the girls gave me the video this afternoon I might as well include it in this post. This is from Sunday’s final in the lightweight 8+ at Midwest where they placed 2nd overall and received an automatic bid to nationals next weekend. Yes, it’s a little nitpicky because a) it’s my team and b) I’ve watched this about eight times and nitpicked it with our other coach already. Nitpicking is good though. You should want your coaches to nitpick your recordings.

Shout out to New Trier, by the way – you guys killed it in this race (and throughout the whole weekend). Looking forward to seeing you at Mercer!

  • 0:47, “On for 10 more…” I’m just really biased against coxswains who say “10 more” or something similar. If I was a rower it just wouldn’t entice me to row harder and stay on it. If you’re doing a high 20 to start, take the first ten to get the boat moving and then the following ten to establish your lead with the legs (or whatever). When you call it, say something like “5, 6, 7, ready to hammer it with the legs, establish your lead, now … GO, 1, 2, 3…”
  • 0:55, “Even…” Even with who? Don’t assume that just because there are crews right beside you that they can tell who you’re even with (or that they even care enough to look since that’s … your job). Always specify “even with lane 4, one seat up on lane 6”.
  • 1:01, “settle 5…” You gotta prep them for that settle, especially when they’re at high rates like this. Their start was a 40 and during these five strokes they settled to a 38.
  • 1:04, “Pick it up, 2…” This was so rushed when she said it. If you’re trying to get the crew to lengthen out and bring the stroke rate down, you can be spitting out calls this fast. What you’re saying or how you’re saying it vs. what you want to happen end up being in competition with each other and it’s not the like the rowers want to think about anything at this point so they’re going to go off of your voice because that’s what they can latch on to to help set the rhythm and pace. If what you’re saying is coming out super fast and/or mumbled, that’s what the slides, strokes, etc. are gonna look like. Also, unrelated, but it’s important to make sure you don’t lose the intensity in your voice on the settle. If the rowers are expected to maintain the pressure as the rate evens out, your tone of voice has to do the same thing.
  • 1:10, “Lengthen 10…” I don’t know why we did two settles here but if that’s how your start goes, a great way to call it is to use the first five as a preliminary shift (“5, 6, 7, ready to shift in 3, 2, 1 shiiiiiift BOOM 1, BOOM 2…”) followed by the ten to bring it down even more (“…press hands away together, get ready to lengthen it out, on this one, NOW shiiiiiiiift 38, lock on 37, controllll here, length and power,5 36, 6 two seats up…”)
  • Regarding getting the calls and numbers out super fast, I’ve said this before (at least 3,402 times to date…): you don’t have to count out every single number. It differs between crews but for most it’s preferable that you don’t in order to avoid sounding like a broken record. If you have to rush through whatever you’re saying just to say what stroke you’re on, it’s not worth it to call the number. Remember, how you call the race is a factor in how good or bad the overall rhythm is.
  • 1:18, “Pulling ahead…” Pulling ahead of who? See the comment from 0:55.
  • 1:21, “A deck up…” Again…
  • 1:28, so usually when your stroke says “down” that’s an indication that the settle didn’t work and the crew (or certain individuals) didn’t bring the rate down together. From personal experience I’ve found that this is almost always because I called the settle poorly. When I’ve been sharper with the calls and given the rowers more prep time to get ready for them, they tend to be smoother and more “on” in terms of getting the stroke rate where I/we want it in the fewest strokes possible. Sometimes it’s because of tendencies that individuals have (i.e. rushing) but I also kinda take the blame for that sometimes because there’s always something I could be saying to address that. In this case, I think just better preparation for the settle(s) and sharper calls probably would have helped.
  • 1:33, “I’m on 8…” More like their 8 is on your 6 seat. Don’t lie to your crews. They might not be able to see everything that’s around them but they know when you’re not being truthful about the margins.
  • 1:35, “They’re walking…” Who’s walking?
  • 2:03, “Competition’s New Trier…” Ok, so you’ve established who your main competition is, now use that to do something. This would have been the perfect spot (especially after that call and the fact that it was right at the 500m mark) to take a 10  to regain the two seats they just took from you in the last 100m or so.
  • 2:21, “New Trier’s half a deck up…” Three seats would be a conservative estimate but the angle makes it look like a little more.
  • 2:33, “Big 10 on this one…” That came out so fast that there was practically no time for the rowers to process what was happening, which meant that instead of ten solid strokes you’re gonna get maybe eight. Also, what are you taking the ten for?
  • In this stretch the port oars were a little too close to the buoys for my liking.
  • 2:55, “Shift…” So when our stroke seat says “shift” I’m assuming there was some rush happening so a good way to call that would have been “control the recovery, right on 8’s oar, let’s shift the ratio over two, on this recovery looonnnggg, quick through the water…”
  • Between 2:21ish and 3:21ish New Trier walked nearly a full length on us. As a coxswain you’ve got to recognize that that’s happening and make a call to counter it. It’s fine to be “in the zone” but you can’t be so in the zone that you ignore everything that’s happening outside the small confines of the coxswain’s seat.
  • 3:35, “We can walk up here…” This would have been a good spot to take a big 20 to walk.
  • 3:39, make sure if you’re making calls for the recovery you actually make them on the recovery. Calling “lengthen” on the drive doesn’t do much because the drive isn’t where your length comes from.
  • 3:42, “Still 3 seats up on us…” Presented with comment because … margins.
  • 3:51, “Gold medal here today…” I said this to our coxswain and the girls when we were watching this at the boathouse earlier. Look at the margin between New Trier and us – at this point they’ve probably got one or two seats of open with ~500m to go. I’m not being a Negative Ned here, I’m just being realistic in saying that we were never going to get gold at this point given what the margin was. As the coxswain, you’ve GOT to recognize that and shift your focus to the crew in Lane 5 (I think we determined that was Huron…?) who is walking on you and try to maintain your lead over them rather than burn yourself out trying to crawl back up to New Trier. (I talked a bit more about that in this post…) Plus, saying they’re “three seats up” or whatever makes the rowers think they’ve still got a shot at gold, which isn’t fair to them.
  • 4:09, the steering. I can see us shifting to port and it’s making me twitch. Every touch of the rudder is extra meters you’re adding to your course – remember that! Sometimes it’s necessary and that’s fine but the majority of the time it’s just chronic oversteering coming through (that was the case here).
  • 4:31, “they’re sagging…” WHO?! If it’s New Trier, capitalize and make a move to walk. If it’s Huron, punish them for taking strokes off and make a move to extend your lead.
  • 5:02, “they’re up a length now…” A length of open. A length up means the tip of their stern deck is on your bow ball. A length of open means there’s a full boat length of open water between your bow ball and their stern deck.
  • 5:04, “5’s on my bow…” I know “5” means lane 5 but I donno what the “on my bow” is supposed to mean. I’d say their bow ball is probably sitting close to our 6 seat here…
  • 5:06, “keep 5 back there…” This would have been a good spot to take 5 for legs to push them back since they just took at least a seat on you.
  • 5:34, our stroke was hurting here, as I’m sure were the other girls. At this point you’ve gotta drop the technical calls and start telling them where they are and what the other crew(s) is doing (even more so than you should have already been doing) in addition to motivating the hell out of them to push through the pain, sit up, and drive for the line. One thing I remember my college coach teaching us was that if someone in your boat starts groaning anywhere in the last 300ish meters before you’ve made any motivational calls, you messed up. Our stroke’s posture was not good here and that combined with her exasperated groans should have prompted our cox to talk directly to her and say “Sit up Hailey, breeeathe, you got this…you’re leading the crew into the last 250m, time to dig deep right here…”
  • 5:39, “New Trier’s up a length…” Two lengths of open.
  • 5:38, “Bow ball of 5’s on me…” 5’s bow ball was on like, our 5 seat and walking.
  • 5:52ish, should taken a big 10 to the line to close it out.
  • 5:58, “20 to go…” This was the only part of the recording that actually really irritated me. She called 20 to go and then the crew took 3 strokes. THREE STROKES after the coxswain called last 20. This was another thing I talked about with the girls and later with our head coach – when you’re racing, you’re most likely giving 98%, 99% every stroke. When your coxswain calls “last however many to the line” that’s kinda when you re-negotiate with yourself about how much you’re hurting and say “OK, there’s 20 strokes left…I can push just a little bit harder over these next 20 to make sure I finish on completely empty”. You prepare to kill your body just a little bit more because your coxswain’s told you there’s a finite amount of strokes left – it’s balls to the wall, lights out for the next 20. When you, the coxswain, over exaggerate the amount of strokes left by seventeen there’s a good possibility that you just robbed your crew a few tenths of a second. It’s not about the rowers pacing themselves for the end or anything like that, it’s just them digging deeper within themselves to make sure they use up every last drop of energy they’ve got. There is a BIG difference between the two; one’s physical and one is mental. When they cross the line after only three strokes, there’s a possibility that they’re gonna think “Wait…what? I had more to give. I’m 99% empty, I’ve still got 1% left”. If five, six, seven people think that, how many tenths of a second do you think that amounts to? In this race a few tenths of a second wouldn’t have made a difference but who’s to say it won’t at Nationals? When I coxed the lightweight 8+ there our semi-final had something ridiculous like two or three seconds between 1st through 5th place. In situations like that, tenths of a second matter. When medals and championships are on the line, tenths of a second matter.

The rest of the recordings that were emailed to me will go up in the next recordings post (which will be posted after the season ends, most likely…) so keep an eye out for that if yours wasn’t included in this post. (Feel free to email it to me again because there’s a solid chance that your original email is buried behind 100+ other emails…) Keep posting your stuff on YouTube too. It seems like there’s been a serious influx of recordings being posted over the last month and whether that’s related to the post I wrote or not, I love it and am really excited to listen to them all. As always, feel free to leave your own comments down below or shoot me an email if you have questions on anything (particularly the two of you whose recordings are the first four posted).

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