Hi there!! So I am a junior school (Under 14′s) cox and we have moved into using bow loader quads, instead of the usual stern loaders we used to use. We have been racing in an oct for awhile so I am a bit out of practice with the quads. Anyways, in the bow loader, I obviously have a very restricted field of vision, so I was wondering if you had any tips on “reading” or “feeling” the boat, to pick up on faults e.t.c ? Also I sometimes feel like I stay quiet for too long, during steady state if there are no obvious technical calls, rate calls, or rhythm calls. Is there anything that I can say to make it a bit less silent and awkward for the rowers?
Don’t underestimate the power of not talking. I think there are plenty of rowers who will agree with me in saying that if you don’t have anything constructive to say, especially during steady state, it’s best to just not say anything. When we’re doing long pieces I’ll actually tell the rowers that for the next 2, 3, 5, etc. minutes, I’m not gonna talk and that they should focus on X, Y, and Z. During that time I focus first on steering and second on feeling the boat. If I’m weak in any area as a coxswain, it’s definitely steering. I mean, I’m pretty proficient at it but if I had to grade myself I’d definitely give myself a lower grade there compared to my other skills. When I get the chance to go off auto-pilot and actually focus on the adjustments I’m making, I take the opportunity. You can read about all that and the technique “game” I play during steady state pieces in a bit more detail in the post linked below.
Related: Since were still waiting for the river to be ice-free, I’ve been thinking about what I need to work on when we get back on the water. I’ve decided that coxing steady state pieces are harder for me to cox. I think it’s because I don’t want to talk to much but I’m also scared of not saying enough or being too repetitive. Do you have advice for coxing steady state workouts?
When it comes to feeling the boat, the best thing you can do for yourself is listen painfully hard when the coach is going though a technical practice with the crew. I hate technical practices because they’re boring as hell and there’s hardly ever anything for coxswains to actually do but I appreciate them to an extent because it helps me continue developing my sense of boat feel, regardless of whether I’m coxing an eight or a four. What you want to do is focus on how the boat feels while the rowers are doing the drill and how it feels after the coach gives them an instruction or feedback (i.e.”pull in higher”, “good adjustment with the hands”, etc.). For the most part, I gauge the “feel” of the boat by averaging the last three strokes. How did the last three strokes feel as a whole after an adjustment was made vs. pre-adjustment?
You can’t judge how the boat’s moving or what the rowers are doing if you look at it stroke by stroke – or at least, I don’t think you can. You’ve gotta base it off of what’s consistently happening. If the boat is set for ten strokes, dips to starboard for one, and then goes back to being set for several strokes, do you really need to say something about handle heights? On the flip side, when you would say something is if it’s down to one side for several strokes then setting up for one before going back to being offset because then you know that someone (or multiple someones) is consistently doing something that’s affecting the set (whereas before it might have been one person trying to readjust themselves on the seat or something).
Anyways, the point is is that if you use your time wisely during technical practices then when you’re doing steady state you can test yourself regarding technique and how that makes the boat feel. If the boat is doing this then you know either X or Y must be happening. X is caused by this, Y is caused by that. The factors causing X aren’t something your crew typically has an issue with but you know that factors B and C (that cause problem Y) are two things that your 3-seat has been working on a lot lately. Keeping that in mind, whenever you start talking again you can make a call for that or when you stop you can say to your coach “It felt like Y was happening and I know Dan has been working on B and C lately but I couldn’t tell if that was what was actually causing the problem. Did you see anything?” and then go from there.