Question of the Day

Hello! I’ve seen you mention before that coxswains are supposed to be completely silent during seat-races and that was a huge surprise to me because I’ve been a high school coxswain for three years now and we always talk during our seat-races. We race our boat against the other boats making calls like those that we’d make during races. My coach is a retired olympic rower so I figured he knew how to run seat-races but then I read what you said and it seems to make more sense to have a seat-race be all about the rower. I was just wondering what your thoughts were on this (having coxswains cox the seat-races). Thanks!

Ah, I assume you saw my comment on Reddit the other day. I don’t think coxswains should be talking during seat races because seat races are supposed to be about which rower can make the boat go fastest under neutral conditions, not which rower can make it go fastest with someone motivating them along the way. To me that’s just a regular piece and would qualify as “unofficial” seat racing, which is something we do on occasion too. We’ll do normal pieces if we want to compare a couple guys and if the times are close and warrant it, then we’ll set up a day to do actual (no-talking) seat races.

Related: How to: Cox a seat race

Check out the post linked above – it’s all about how the role and responsibilities of coxswains when rowers are seat racing. There’s a lot more info and details in there but here’s what it says about actually coxing the pieces.

Do know what you are and aren’t allowed to say. 99.9% of the time, coxswains aren’t (and shouldn’t be) allowed to say anything more than the stroke rate and the time/distance. If during a normal sprint racing you are talking 98% of the time, during a seat race you should be silent 98% of the time. When I’ve coxed seat races I would tell the crew the stroke rate every 30-45 seconds, point out 250, 500m, and 750m, and let the crew know the time (i.e. 1 minute down, 2 minutes down, etc.). All of that was regulated by the coach too – I didn’t just randomly decide to say those things or when to say them, I was told to give that information and only that information at specific times during the piece (usually 1000m pieces).

You cannot cox them at all. No motivation, no technique, no moves, nothing. In the boat, the most important thing you have to stay on top of is making sure the stroke rate stays consistent and doesn’t surpass whatever cap the coach has given you. If the cap is no lower than 28spm and no higher than 30spm, it’s your job to communicate with your stroke if he/she is under or over that. The only thing you can do to get the stroke rate back in that range if it’s outside of it is to keep reading off the numbers until they get it where it needs to be. You can’t cox or coach them on how to get it there. (In any other situation you should not do this. Seat racing is the only time when reading off stroke rates like this is OK.)

Everybody does seat racing a little differently. Some people take coxswains out of the equation entirely and just do pairs matrices or pieces in straight fours. Sometimes they do regular pieces and call it a day and other times they get super official about it and do it the way it’s laid out in the post I linked to (which is how I’ve done it several times so it’s what I’m most familiar with). I’ve seen them done all three ways though and the most effective/efficient ones are the ones where the coxswains just steer and stay quiet. Pairs matrices/straight fours are fine but then you’ve gotta worry about the rowers being capable enough to steer in a straight line. That usually just ends up being an unnecessary distraction and in some cases can tamper with the validity of the races . When I’ve seen coxswains be allowed to cox the seat races like a normal piece, for whatever reason it always ends up being more disorganized and frantic. Like I said though … everybody does it differently based on what they think works (or is the easiest and least trivial).

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