Here are a couple of head race recordings from Head of the Ohio, Head of the Rock, Head of the South, Head of the Fish, and a quick clip from Head of the Charles. Fair warning, none of them are spectacular “OMG you have to listen to these” kinds of recordings, rather they’re just your average run of the mill ones that I’m posting simply to give you guys more options of things to listen to. I’ll be honest, I didn’t listen the entire 15-20 minutes of each one because after listening to so many recordings they all start to blend together and what I could say about each recording is what I’ve probably said about five others already. For better or worse, the standard for what actually grabs and holds my attention has significantly gone up over the last two years. Plus, the majority of head races are really, really boring no matter who you are or what race you’re coxing.
Head of the Ohio Coxswain Recording 2013
Something that I’ve talked about before and talk about a lot with the coxswains I’m coaching is knowing when to call things in three, in two, “on this one”, etc. At 1:47 where she wants to increase the pressure she calls for them to do it “in two”. Now granted, during a head race you’ve got plenty of room to execute your moves and you don’t have to worry quite so much about running out of space like you do during a 2k but some things, like calling for an increase in pressure, don’t need that “prep period” that those two strokes give you. Instead it should be an immediate thing where the coxswain says “let’s bump up the pressure, getting it with the legs…on this one…leeeegs BOOM…leeeegs BOOM” … or something like that.
Most if not all of you know this but just a reminder – make sure you’re giving your crews regular updates as to your position on other crews (especially if you’re making a lot of calls about pushing them back, walking away, etc.), how far into the race you are (either distance-wise, if you know and/or time-wise since you have a timer on your cox box that you should have started at the beginning of the piece), etc. We just did evaluations with our coxswains last week and this was one of the most commonly made “requests” by the rowers so just keep in mind that little things like this are important for them to hear throughout the race and it requires absolutely no effort on your part to give them that.
Clips from practice on the Potomac, Head of Occoquan, and Head of the Charles
The first minute or so is from this boat’s practice (pretty standard overall but listen to how he calls for the settle at 0:42…) so skip ahead to the 2:00ish mark to hear the clip from HOCR.
I like what he says at 2:22… “Our bow deck is on 71’s stern deck, let’s go. 70’s gone, time to make the next move. You don’t pass one boat then stop, you keep pressing…”. That’s a great call to make after you pass a crew, particularly if you’re close to the next crew in front of you. Another call that I really like (from Pete Cipollone’s recording) that would work well in this context too is “do not sit, do not quit”.
The call at 2:43 is what I’m officially referring to from now on as “the Chelsea Lucas bowball call”. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out this post and listen to her recording.
2:48, “bowball on the Charles, nothin’ better, let’s go baby, enjoy it…” This is a motivational call. This will get your crew fired up and ready to shift into that next gear. Not every motivational call is “yea guys you can do it woooo”, sometimes it’s as simple as pointing out that you’re passing crews at Head of the Charles because dammit, that is cool and that should motivate you.
Head of the Rock V4+ (2013)
So this wasn’t something I ever considered doing before but I really like how she calls half, three-quarter, and full pressure during the build. It’s just another way to get everyone to bring up the rate and pressure together instead of some people going from zero to full pressure right away and others building the pressure over the course of the three strokes while you’re also building the rate. I’ve had that happen to me before and it always messes with my point for a stroke or two. You know how during racing starts when you call “half, half, three-quarter, full” with relation to the slides? I’d probably call the build like that except the half, three-quarter, etc. would be the pressure and in between I’d say the stroke rates … i.e. “half 24, half 27, three-quarter 29, full 32, we’re on…”.
1:22, just gonna throw it out there that I have doubts that you closed the gap on another crew (that’s four lengths ahead of you) by one full boat length over the course of five strokes. Just a hunch.
“Catch and hang” seems to be a fairly regular call for this coxswain and, in theory, it’s a decent call (because you want the rowers to feel that hang on the first part of the drive) but where it falls short is by the time you say “hang” that part of the stroke is over and you’re making that part of the call closer to the finish than the catch where the hang actually happens. A better way to call this would be eliminate the “catch and” part of the call and instead say something like “haaang send…haaang send“, that way you’re actually saying it when it should be happening and for the entire duration of it rather than back near the finish as the arms complete the stroke. (Does that make sense?)
I liked the end of this piece from the sprint to the end. Her intensity is great, she does a great job of telling them where they are on the crews around them, and she also does a good job of calling for each girl to go after her seat on the other boats.
Same with the first recording, this one is pretty average but still a decent example of a high school race. One thing in particular that I want to remind you guys of is that you’ve got to make sure you’re varying your calls. “Catch and hang”, “jump off the foot stretchers”, etc. all lost their meaning to me pretty quickly with this piece because they seemed to be the only calls the coxswain was making. I know that it can be hard to think of things to say in the moment but that’s why I constantly tell you to make sure you have a race plan. You should also be planning some of your calls ahead of time so you can incorporate them into practice, find out what does/doesn’t work, and get used to saying them so that on race day they come naturally and you don’t fall into that endless loop of stale, recycled calls. Obviously there are basic filler calls that you’re going to repeat and that’s fine but those can’t be your only calls.
UGA Rowing Men’s Novice 8A Head of the South 2013
This is a novice race so obviously there are a lot of things that I could point out because, well, #noviceproblems but the main reason I’m sharing it is to point out what happens at 2:45. I’ve talked about what to do when someone catches a crab but not about when they lose their seat. First off, what causes this to happen (in most cases) is the rower driving with uneven foot pressure, meaning one foot is pushing off harder than the other which causes your hips to rotate slightly. This causes the seat to then twist a little and if there’s enough force, to pop off the tracks and/or get stuck. If that happens, that rower (obviously) and their pair partner should drop out (this allows the coxswain to avoid having to steer a lot to counter the extra rower on one side) and everyone else should just keep going like nothing’s wrong. If your stern pair goes out then the coxswain should make a quick call to the 6-seat to maintain the pace/rhythm, etc. since they’re stroking now.
3:17 – 3:24, no. Six novices are going to have a hard time rowing with the pressure of eight people, particularly when their rowing isn’t that great anyways, so saying “I need pressure”, “you’ve gotta make up for eight people”, and “I know it hurts” are all useless calls to make. Instead, take a big 10 for legs and power on the drive and get really into it when you call it. Don’t sit there and and say “I know it hurts” because let’s be honest, you don’t really, and that you need pressure like it’s somehow the other six people’s fault that there was a noticeable drop in pressure when two people suddenly stopped rowing. Keep coxing them like you would if you still had all eight people rowing and don’t say things like “you’re actually gaining on another boat”. Even if that’s actually happening, don’t act surprised by it. Say things like “yea bow six, we’re walking on [whoever you’re walking on], that’s how you power through…” and other things along those lines so that they know that you know they’re working their asses off to keep the boat moving. If you’re actually walking on another crew, take a 10 or 20 and cox your crew through the other boat like you would in any other race while giving them extra shots of motivation and letting them know that they’re killing it by rowing through a crew while going by sixes. That can be a huge confidence boost for them so run with the opportunity.
Also, I know getting a seat back on in the middle of the race isn’t the easiest task but maybe don’t flail around like a fish on land while doing it. That doesn’t make things any easier for the six guys behind you. This coxswain did a (relatively) good job of getting them back into it once the stroke got his seat back in by having them join in “in two” so if there’s one positive to take away from this, it was that. I was prepared to be horrified if they tried to join in mid-stroke or something. Right after they add back in though you’ve really got to get on them and take an all out, balls to the wall 20 to get back into it. Forget about walking on other crews, forget trying to “gain some c-raaazy ground”, forget about everything else – this is for you guys to regain your focus, reestablish your rhythm, and get yourselves back into a competitive mindset. In the immortal words of T-Swift, “shake it off”.
Burnt Hills Rowing Head of the Fish 2012
I haven’t raced at Head of the Fish but … is it really as straight and boring as it looks?
The only thing there really is to comment on with this recording is the coxswain’s voice throughout the race. For what looks to be a dull-as-hell race, I think his tone/volume was fine given the fact that they were completely alone for the entire thing. If he coxed another race where there are crews all around and the atmosphere is just more intense overall and coxed like this, then I’d say he needs to do something different but for what this was he did fine. At the beginning he reminded me a bit of an auctioneer with how fast he was talking and spitting out numbers but that leveled out as they got into the race and wasn’t really an issue.