How to Be Useful During Winter Training

Previously: Steer an eight/four || Call a pick drill and reverse pick drill ||  Avoid getting sick || Make improvement as a novice || Protect your voice || Pass crews during a head race

Outside of the standard “what should I do during the winter” questions I get, another one I frequently hear is “how can I be useful?”. Similar questions but not quite the same. I hate feeling like I’m not doing anything or that I’m not contributing (either directly or indirectly) to whatever I’m participating in so this was something I tried to figure out early on in my coxing career, that way I could minimize the amount of time I spent wondering what the hell I could/should be doing.

Related: “The Coxswain in Winter”

Obviously these aren’t tasks that are going to take up a ton of time (probably no more than 10-15 minutes each…) but it’s something which is always better than nothing. The key here is to remember that it’s the little things that sometimes make the biggest difference.

Keep the rowers water bottles filled

This is more of a nice gesture than anything else but it does save the rowers from using their recovery time to do it and they will (hopefully) appreciate not having to rush around doing it themselves and trying to make it back on the erg before their 30-second rest period is up.

The easiest way I’ve found to do this if you’ve got a lot to fill is to do it during the pieces and have one person filling the bottles while two other people alternate between bringing them up and carrying them back. Otherwise you can just do it whenever someone asks or you see they’re out of water. I always try to get them filled up before someone has to ask, just because I think it’s the nice thing to do and it shows them that I’m paying attention and on top of the little things. (Rowers – a quick “thank you” goes a long way here.)

Set up the ergs

While the rowers are doing their warmup run/workout or after their erg warmup, set up the ergs for whatever workout you’re doing. Varsity coxswains, take this opportunity to show the novices how to work the display screens if they’re unfamiliar with how to use them.

Having all the ergs set up before the actual workout starts is a huge help to the coaches because it means we don’t have to stand around saying “are you ready yet … are you ready yet … OK sit ready, atten-ugh, sit easy, *ten seconds goes by*, ready? OK, attention…go.”. If the team does an erg warmup and then has a few minutes to stretch, grab water, run to the bathroom, etc. there’s usually less for you to mess with since some of the rowers will set theirs up before they get off. Taking care of the leftover ones, even if it’s only two or three, saves time in the long run though and the coaches more than anyone else really appreciate that.

If there’s an erg not being used while the rowers are doing their workout or if they aren’t using them at all, that’s another good time to go over how to work the displays with the new coxswains. It also gives you a bit more time to go over things and answer questions. I think most coaches would appreciate the initiative here too on the part of the varsity coxswains simply because this is another thing that we should know how to do but no one really has the time to show us.

Clean the boathouse

By “clean” I mostly mean tidy up. Yes, I know, there are only so many times you can rearrange things to make it look like you did something (this is basically how I cleaned my room until I left for college) but if the foam rollers are all over the mess, get them in one place and find a way to corral them. If the cox box area is a tangled jungle of wires, spend some time organizing them so they don’t get twisted or broken and double check to make sure that all the chargers are plugged in and working. If there are cox boxes that aren’t working, remove them from where the working ones are (and label them as needing to be fixed) so they don’t get mixed in with them and someone ends up on the water with a dysfunctional or dead box.

Related: Katelin Snyder on winter training

If no one is using the ergs, lifting equipment, etc. spend 10 minutes or so running over everything with wipes or a cleaning solution. You can check out the video in the link below for info on the bleach-water solution you should use.

Related: How to avoid getting sick during winter training

Outside of those options, yea, I know there’s still a ton of time to kill but I’ve detailed plenty of things you can do in previous posts so you should have no shortage of inspiration when boredom strikes. As long as you’re not standing around in cliques literally doing nothing, you can pretty much do anything.

Related: Winter training tips for coxswains

When all else fails, hop on a bike and get in a quick 20-30 minute workout or go on a run with the other coxswains. As anti-activity as some coxswains are (which drives me nuts), you should consider getting a workout in anyways because it’s good for you and as any rower will tell you, they appreciate you working out with them during practice even if you’re not doing the same stuff they are.

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