Question of the Day

I quit rowing and I have no clue what to do with myself and I’m so sad but I can’t go back because I need to do school work … but adjusting to normal life is so fucking hard and I don’t even know how to manage my time anymore.

There have been a lot of questions posted on here that I’ve identified with but this is definitely one of the most relatable ones I’ve come across. I felt the same way when I quit in college but looking back now I can see that the way I “adjusted” to it was, well, wrong.

When I stopped coxing it was the first time in several years where I wasn’t doing some kind of extra-curricular activity that took up a ton of time outside of school for at least ten of the twelve months out of the year. Up to that point having legitimate free time was something I’d only really experienced for about four weeks in December and four weeks in June, so going from an Energizer bunny-like mentality to suddenly having all this time to do whatever I wanted was bad. There was this initial feeling of wanting to go party my ass off and just let loose because I no longer had coaches/teammates to answer to or practices to wake up for. (I remember thinking that this must be how child actors feel…) There was also this feeling of suddenly needing to be fiercely protective of my time. If it didn’t relate to going to class, a project, meeting, or some other school-related obligation, there was no way I was doing it because it would cut into the time I had to myself. I wouldn’t even do anything during that time either, which was so stupid. It was like I was trying to hoard the seconds I had to myself and soak in the lack of having to be somewhere doing something in case this period of downtime never happened again. Cue time wasted. The downside to all of this was that I didn’t experience anything in college. Nothing. All because I quit rowing to focus on school and ended up completely mismanaging my time while convincing myself that I wasn’t because I deserved a break, some time to myself, etc.

I could go on and on and on and on and on about this but to keep things brief, here’s my advice. Take the time you used to spend at crew and divide it in half. On the conservative side, let’s say you spent two hours a day, six days a week at practice. That’s 12 hours, split down the middle to six and six. The first six hours are yours to do whatever you want with. Schedule it into your day if you can – for one hour, Monday through Saturday, unplug, disconnect, whatever, and do something that you previously didn’t have time to do because you were at crew. If that’s as simple as reading a stack of magazines, playing with your dog, or going for a run so you can continue staying active, go for it. Or it could be picking up a new hobby, volunteering, etc. Whatever you want to do, that’s your hour to do it. The other six hours you put into school. It doesn’t necessarily have to be studying either, it could be joining a new club or group that you’ve always been interested in but couldn’t join because the two schedules conflicted or picking up an internship in a field you’re interested in. There are an infinite number of possibilities of things to do on-campus if you’e in college and this is your chance to get out there and try something new so … take advantage of it.

My point with all of this is to not do what I did. Be as protective of your new-found free time as you need to be but don’t be so protective of it that you sabotage the opportunity you now have to do something that you might not have otherwise been able to do. If managing your time in general is tough for you (which is common) then find a planner/scheduling system that you like and put it to work. Plan out your days/weeks/months as necessary and stick to it. That takes commitment but you’re a rower/coxswain so I doubt that that’s a skill you’re lacking in. The bottom line though is to not let yourself spiral out of control because you don’t know what to do with yourself or your time anymore. Find something fun to do to fill up that two hour window every day and move on. Don’t look at this as the end of your rowing career either. You can always jump right back in again if you want to when the circumstances best suit your lifestyle.


Music to erg to, pt. 75

25+ inches of snow and no school/practice later…

Check out this question that I posted on Monday on how to improve your coxing when you’re out with novices and there’s not much for you to do. At the end I included one of my own tricks/secret weapons that I used throughout high school (and a bit in college) to help keep me relaxed/sane and get me through the week.

Question of the Day

I am currently a senior in high school and have been rowing for a while. If I am interested in walking on to a team in the fall, should I fill out the questionnaire on the website?

It couldn’t hurt. I would follow up by sending a quick email to the recruiting coordinator (usually the assistant coach) as well saying that you’re interested in walking on to the team but you filled out the recruiting questionnaire anyways just so they would have your info and stats on file. In most cases if you walk on to the team as an experienced rower/coxswain (after previously contacting with the coaches while you’re still in high school) you’ll likely get lumped in with the recruits anyways so having an idea of where you stack up against them can be really helpful.

Video of the Week: Why I Row

I’ve had this video saved for nearly two years – I can’t believe I haven’t posted it yet. As much as I dislike how people romanticize rowing and make it seem like the only hard, pretty, complex, time-consuming, soul-crushing, etc. sport out there, something about this video stands out. It gets all the emotions right without being (too) cheesy.

Question of the Day

Hi, I was wondering about coxing brand new novices. I’m in boats right now where most, if not all, people are still learning how to row and working on figuring out technique so I haven’t been making very many calls other than if the balance is terrible or if people aren’t rowing together because my coach is talking individually to people to work on body form and things I can’t see. I feel bad about not saying very much, but I don’t want to interrupt the coach or focus on things not important right now. Other than steering straight and paying attention to explanations for correcting form, what should I be doing to improve my coxing?

This is a great question and one I know plenty of novices (and occasionally experienced coxswains) have at the start of each new season. It was also one of those “hard lessons” that took me awhile to learn, understand, and fully appreciate when I first started coxing. Truthfully, as long as you take advantage of what you’re already doing (steering, etc.), even though it might not seem like much, you’ll go a long ways in improving your coxing in a very short period of time.

Gonna go off on a tangent here for a sec. I don’t know if it’s a “just me” thing or if it’s because coxing can be really boring sometimes but I’d always think that I was listening to what my coaches were saying and then I’d get off the water not being able to remember a single thing that we’d done for the last 90 minutes. When I was a freshman in high school, I learned one thing from my math teacher and it’s stuck with me ever since. She was kind of an asshole and always made me feel like an idiot for not understanding what was going on but I reluctantly went to her for help because I was having a lot of trouble grasping what we were doing. She said, in response to me saying in an exasperated voice “yes, I’m listening (when you explain things)”, “Are you listening to me or are you just hearing the words I’m saying?”.

This really made me think and start to approach things a little differently, not just with my math class(es) but with crew too. When I’d come off the water not remembering anything we’d done, I’d think “had I actually been listening to my coach or was I just hearing him”? This was when I started teaching myself to be objective when it came to evaluating my own coxing. It’s really easy (like, really easy) to make excuses for yourself when you fall short of your goals and/or expectations because they’re not always as tangible or out in the open the way a rower’s are but you’re really only going to improve when you can objectively look at the situation and say “this is where I can do better”.

Once I realized that I was taking advantage (in the wrong way) of that very small window where you’re new and not being held accountable for anything yet, I started to challenge myself to be better at holding myself accountable. This meant listening to my coach’s explanations, mulling them over in my head to make sure I understood what he was saying, and then applying what he was saying to what I was seeing. Obviously after only a few weeks on the water I didn’t know very much about technique yet so after practice while the rowers were putting stuff away I’d try to run one or two things (be it a drill we did, something my coach said, something a rower asked me, etc.) past either our varsity coxswains or our coaches if they weren’t busy. I’m a huge proponent of the whole “you don’t understand something if you can’t explain it to someone else” so to make sure I understand how X related to Y or why A caused B to happen I’d explain it to someone else and have them help me fill in the holes or provide more context/details. Outside of doing what I talked about in the post linked below, this was one of the ways that I took my “coxing education” in my own hands (which I think we can all agree is pretty imperative).

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?

Circling back around to your question, the biggest thing I can recommend is to make sure you’re actually listening to your coach when he’s talking to the rowers and not just hearing the words he’s saying. Try to relate what you’re seeing to what he’s saying and the effect that implementing a change has on an individual’s bladework, how the boat moves/feels, etc. After practice pick the thing that you least understood from practice and have someone explain it to you. Also pick the thing you felt you understood the best and run it by a varsity coxswain or a coach to make sure you actually understand it. (If you only have time to ask one of those questions, go with the thing you understood the least.)

As you get more comfortable with the basics of technique, start trying to make the connections between the blades and the bodies; if X is happening with the blades what does that say about what the bodies are doing? Don’t let your inability to see the bodies act as an excuse to not think about or understand how they work in the context of rowing. If the coach tells 5-seat to do A with his body, what kind of effect will that have on his bladework? Or, alternatively, if the coach is saying 5-seat is doing A with his body which is causing B to happen, how does that actually work? What about A is causing B … and why/how? For example, sinking into your hips at the finish. First of all, what does that mean? Can you visualize what it looks like (rounded low back instead of a long and supported core)? Poor posture is causing the rower to pull down into his lap … why? Pulling down into his lap is causing him to wash out with his blade at the finish … why? The effect that washing out is having on the boat’s speed and balance is … what? Once you understand all of that (which will take some time – there’s nothing wrong with spending a couple practices thinking about all that) start thinking about what the corrections should be (with regards to posture, body position at the finish, where the hands should be, etc.) and how they will in turn effect the bladework, balance, and speed.

Another thing to do that will really help your coxing, albeit in a slightly different way, is to give yourself at least one practice a week to just do … nothing. If you’re spending four or five practices doing everything I suggested up above then by the end of the week you’re probably going to feel a little overwhelmed. Give yourself a day to not pay attention to anything other than your steering. For me that day was always Wednesday (for four straight years with very few exceptions) but you can pick whichever day you want. Think about how your coach schedules practices, what you tend to do each day during the week, and then pick one of those days to be your “just go out and steer” day.

Consistency was key for me because once you start really getting in the grind of things, combined with whatever you’ve got going on with school, work, and life, you really need a day to just unwind and relax and having it always be whichever day you choose gives you something to look forward to. Wednesday was my day because it was the middle of the week and if you’re already having a shitty week then Wednesday is kind of that make-or-break point. Ending the day with two hours of “no talking, just steering” was how I cleared my head of everything that had happened during the week up to that point and got myself in a positive (or at the very least, not negative) mindset to tackle Thursday and Friday. It sounds silly and you might not appreciate it right off the bat but trust me, there’s always at least one or two days during the season where you show up to practice and you’re like “thank god it’s Wednesday and I can just steer and not think for two hours”.

Question of the Day

I emailed the coach of a college I’m interested in about two weeks ago and she hasn’t emailed me back yet. I’m going to look at the school in a week and I’d like to meet up with her. Would it be worth sending her another email or should I just drop it?

Yea, it couldn’t hurt. It’s possible that if her team went on a winter training trip that that’s where they are now if classes haven’t started back yet or where they were when you initially emailed her two weeks ago. I’d send a quick email saying that you’re just following up on your previous email from [whatever the date was] and that you wanted to see if she’ll be around campus on [date(s) you’ll be there]. If you still haven’t heard back from her by the time you get to the school then you could always stop into the athletic department and ask them if she’s on campus. They can usually call her office or the boathouse to see if someone’s available to talk with you.