Question of the Day

I am in my second year of coxing and I am really looking to improve my tone. I am not sure how I should be speaking, I like to stay calm but I don’t think I’m being confident enough. Thanks!

This is hard to communicate over the internet since it’s tough to describe tones and sounds when you’re not actually talking in person but the best way I can describe it is to be very clear and deliberate with what you’re saying. Staying calm is obviously a good thing but what tends to happen, at least in my experience, is coxswains become too passive with their calls and they lack the “oomph” that makes them effective.

Related: I coxed a race last weekend and was told that while my coxing was good, it sounded more like a piece than an actual race. Can you give some tips on how to really up the intensity while coxing a race? I thought I was communicating a sense of urgency pretty well through my tone, but I’m not sure if it came across as well as I had hoped. Thanks! Your blog has been an absolute godsend since this is my first year coxing.

When I’m coxing during practice I keep what I’m saying pretty short and to the point but I talk in a mostly conversational tone, just like how I talk when I’m having a normal conversation, and then whenever I interject a call (like “catch send“, for example…) then I sharpen up the words and talk more from my core.

Related: My rowers told me after practice today that I should focus on the tone of my voice and not be so “intense” during our practices. I don’t really know how to fix that actually. Like I don’t think I am so “intense” but rather just firm and trying to be concise with the command I give out. They said that they really like how I cox during a race piece because my intensity level fits the circumstances. But they also said that if I cox in a similar tone to race pieces, they can’t take me seriously during the races. But my problem when I first started coxing was not being firm enough and getting complaints about how I should be more direct on my commands. Now when I am, my rowers say this. I don’t really know what is the happy medium. Like I listen to coxing recordings and I feel like I am doing fairly similar tones.

For examples on how you should sound when you’re coxing, check out all the recordings I’ve posted. If you read through some of the individual posts then you’ll see where I point out the ones that have good intensity, tone, etc. Also check out the recordings of our coxswains that are on my YouTube channel. The Princeton-Harvard race and the basin shots from last week are two good examples for racing and the pick drill/warmup video from Florida is a good example for practice. (That one isn’t a GoPro video but you can still mostly hear what our coxswain is saying and how he says it.)

Related: Is it ideal to sound like a “scary coxswain”?

As far as confidence goes, that’s definitely something that comes with time and experience but it’s also something you need to figure out sooner rather than later. The thing I always tell people (including our three varsity coxswains) is that if you’re not confident about something, fake it and act like you are.

Related: TED Talks, body language, and … coxing?

If you’re constantly questioning your decisions or what you’re saying though then that will definitely come across in your tone of voice and can set you back in terms of overall progress in that area. If there’s stuff you’re not sure of or things you don’t know how to do/call, ask someone to explain it to you. That tends to be where a lot of confidence issues arise, just from simply not knowing something. Once you’ve got it figured out and have worked through it a couple times (i.e. calling a drill, communicating technical feedback, etc.) then the confidence thing will usually work itself out (provided there aren’t underlying things contributing to you not feeling confident).

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