Question of the Day

Hey Kayleigh! I love your blog so much and wanted your input on three different issues I’ve been navigating for the past year. I am a freshman and still adjusting to college rowing, so any advice you have is much appreciated.

1. I do a good job steering when we’re just doing steady state or drills, but when we do pieces (especially at higher rates) I totally fall apart. I’m not sure if I freak out because I’m thinking too hard about what to say and then forget to steer or if I’m just bad at steering off of other boats or if I psych myself out and try to not touch the rudder at all but end up pretty far away from the other boats – it seems like all of these things happen to me sometimes. What can I do to improve my steering on pieces?

2. Thoughts on coxswain-rower relationships?

3. Advice for balancing rowing, school, and social life?

Thank you!!!

Check out all of these posts – they all touch in some way or another on the things you asked.

SteeringCoxswain skills – Steering, pt. 1 and pt. 2 and this QOTD

Relationships: QOTD, QOTD (I assume you mean in the dating sense so that’s what those address), QOTD, RESPECT, and Follow up to the RESPECT post (those ones address “relationships” in the more professional sense)

Balancing everything: This is a long-ish post but it basically details how I failed miserably at this and what I realized (years later) I should have done instead. Also check out this post.

Something that most coxswains don’t realize you can do is tighten the slack on the steering cables. Even if they don’t seem that loose you can almost always get them a little tighter. Don’t attempt this yourself though (especially since it’s easier done in some boats than others) – ask your coach or boatman if they can do it for you. Keep in mind this might make it a little tougher to take turns but it’ll help you steer straighter when you’re racing or doing pieces and ultimately that’s the bigger priority.

I talked about this in one of the posts I linked but if you can, put yourself in the middle of the other crews you’re doing pieces with (assuming you’re out with two other crews – if not, go between the other crew and the shore). This forces you to be aware of your steering and limit how much you’re touching the rudder so that you don’t interfere with their courses or clash blades. Steering a straight course is more important than making calls so if you need to not talk or talk less in order to focus more on perfecting your line, tell your crew you’re doing that (before you go on the water, preferably) and focus on that for the first piece or two.

Also spend time off the water going over everything you’ve been doing and coming up with a bank of calls that way you don’t have to think about what to say, it’s already there in the back of your head. In high school and college I’d write stuff down in my notebook and then go back and highlight the stuff that I wanted to use as calls but since I started at MIT I’ve been (semi) organizing stuff I hear in recordings, things the other coaches say, etc. into a spreadsheet that’s broken down into calls for the catch, finish/release, bodies, racing, bladework, etc. It might be worth spending some time doing something similar, that way you can see everything in one place and you won’t have to rack your brain to come up with stuff or try to remember that thing your coach was saying to 5-seat about his catches.

As far as relationships go, just be mature about it and don’t start unnecessary drama if things don’t work out. This tends to be easier said than done when you’re in high school but by the time you’re in college most people (most … not all) have figured out how to not be dicks when they stop dating someone so it should be a little easier to manage provided neither of you acts like a 12 year old. On the flip side, keep it professional when you’re at practice and make sure you’re not avoiding calling them out on stuff in the boat if they need to make a technical change or won’t shut up because they’re talking to their pair partner or whatever.

Balancing crew, school, and a social life is one of those fun “here are three things, pick two” situations that everybody deals with at some point or another. The best piece of advice I can offer is that the sooner you start to feel overwhelmed by school or crew, speak up and talk to your professors, advisers, and coaches. Most of the time they’ll be willing to work with you but you can’t wait until the last minute to say something or avoid saying anything at all because you’re afraid you’ll look bad, weak, etc. Yea, some people are assholes and they’ll say “too bad, deal with it” (which truthfully, despite learning this the hard way, isn’t the worst thing … you do have to figure out how to handle things when life is throwing everything it has at you) but the sooner you acknowledge things are starting to go downhill the better prepared you’ll be to handle it. Make sure you’re familiar with the available resources on campus too – mental health services, tutoring (either through the athletic department or the relevant academic department), etc.

Social life-wise, if your school has frats/sororities and you’re into that, consider rushing. Greek life is HUGE here at MIT (I think all but one or two of our guys are in one) and it’s a good way to get involved with something and meet people outside of crew. Also look into low-key, non-academic clubs/groups that relate to other hobbies/interests you have since that’s a built in way to meet people and do something fun. If you like singing, join an acapella group or if you think you’re the next Amy Schumer, see if there are any comedy clubs on campus or in the city that you can join. You can also do something as simple as getting a few teammates together to watch and analyze the Bachlorette … religiously … every week … which some of our team may or may not have been doing the last few months.

The point is, don’t put all your eggs in one basket and make sure you schedule some down time that has nothing to do with school or rowing. Even during days or weeks when you’re completely swamped with work, you’ve still gotta give yourself an hour or so each day to unwind otherwise you’ll go crazy and burn out hard and fast.

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