Hi! I have my last race coming up in a couple of weeks and I’m coxing four boats at it. The first boat is our Varsity 4A who I am very used to and have been coxing all year. The second boat is a LWT Novice 4 that was kind of thrown together last minute because we needed to boat everyone. The other two are masters boats for my club team that I’m obviously not a part of because I’m in high school, but they needed an extra coxswain and their coach is my old coach, so he asked me. Do you have any tips for coxing races generally and not super person-specifically, but still well? The two masters boats have real shots at medalling so I want to make sure I do my best with them, even though I’ve never met or worked with any of them before. The LWT4 doesn’t really have much of a shot just because who we’re competing against but I still want them to feel like they had a good end-of-season race. What do you think? Thank you so much!! PS: The two masters boats will be bowloaders and since I won’t have very good boat sense with them because they’re not my teammates, I don’t know how well I’ll do with technical calls.
I wouldn’t be super concerned with the masters boats – your main goal there should be to just steer straight. (Obviously that should be the goal every time you race but in this case it’s really your only responsibility.) I’d ask your coach if he has a race plan he wants them to follow and if he does, go over it with him so you understand it and then just execute it on race day. Don’t worry about technical calls or anything like that unless they specifically ask you to make some (this is something you should ask rather than waiting for them to bring it up).
Masters crews tend to fall into two categories – the ones who are doing it recreationally and should never (ever) be left to their own devices and the ones who are fairly competitive and a little more self-sufficient. If these guys have a chance at medaling then they probably fall into the latter category, in which case they might just ask you steer and handle everything else themselves. When I’ve coxed one-off races with masters boats they usually tell me up front that to keep things simple since I’m new to the boat all I need to do is get them from Point A to Point B and the bow seat will make whatever calls they need outside of rate shifts and transitions. It’s not the worst arrangement and it definitely takes a ton of weight off your shoulders when you’re meeting them for the first time the day of the race.
You have two jobs on race day … steer straight and execute the race plan. If you do those two things well then you’ve done your job. With your lightweight boat, if they’ve raced before then I’d ask them to tell you one thing that motivated them in their race or if they haven’t raced, give you something they want you to say to them during the race (either technical or motivational). That way you’ll at least have something you can fall back on during the race if it starts to feel a little dry. I’ve said this a lot but you can also incorporate them into whatever moves you take, i.e. “lets take 5 for the legs, here we go middle pair…” or “let’s take 10 to take two seats, go get your seat [3-seat]”. Stuff like that can bring a good energy to the boat and it literally takes no effort on your part.
Usually my approach to “generally” coxing a race is to just do what I know works. There were plenty of times in high school where my main boat would be my eight and then on top of that I’d also have a four that we put together that week as an extra entry so everyone could race twice. If it was a light four comprised of four people from my light eight then I’d cox them the exact same as I would the light eight. If it was four people in the 1V and I’d been coxing the 2V then I’d ask the 1V coxswain for a few calls that she’s been using and incorporate that into my race plan, which would more than likely be the same one that I’d use with my regular boat. Very, very little changes for me when I get into a new/unfamiliar boat, especially if I’m only gonna be with them for one race.