Video of the Week: “Don’t do anything stupid.”

This week’s video isn’t embeddable so you’ll have to click over to the Olympic channel to watch it. It’s a quick 5 minute interview with Pete Cipollone where he reflects on his two Olympic games and the USA’s “third time’s the charm” shot at getting a gold medal after falling short in 1996 and 2000.

Coxswains especially, there’s a lot for us to relate to in this video so I encourage you to check it out. If you take away one thing, make it be what he says about not changing the race plan – “don’t do anything stupid, don’t do anything you don’t have to do”. If you’re up on the field and something is clearly going right, keep doing whatever you’re doing. Solid words of wisdom as we gear up for the spring season.


Flashback Friday: February 12th – 25th

Coxswains + Weight Management

Top 20 terms coxswains should know: Cut the cake

QOTD: Hi Kayleigh!  I am a junior in college and due to a combination of good and bad experiences with coaches as well as a love for the sport,  I’m seriously considering coaching once I graduate and just had a few questions.  Would you say you need a specific degree to coach,  or is the saying “A degree is worth the paper it’s printed on” true? Do I have any chance of getting the opportunity be a grad assistant if I’m not studying exercise science, sports management or something else related? In general what advice would you give to someone who wants to coach? Thank you!

VOTW: USA W8+ 2011 Training Row

Coxswain recordings, pt. 24 3x1500m pieces from the University of Washington’s 2007 training camp

QOTD: Hey there, I am going into my second year as a coxswain (I cox boys novice). I feel like I could be more enjoyable in the boat. Don’t get me wrong, the boys and I have fun all the time but I also don’t want to upset my coach by talking to the guys and having in with them and stuff. I feel like there is no way I can have fun and be an enjoyable coxswain for the guys while still getting my job done. Also I have started a note book to write things down in for practice and regattas, any tips about what to write in it and good calls to make?


Mental health + rowing

How to: Cold water safety

QOTD: Hey! So during races, do you think it’s acceptable to yell to your own crew that “the other coxswain is swerving and looking nervous” or something like that? Is that abusive to the other lanes? And also to say for instance “lane 1 is gone, they are dying”. Are those decent calls? Thank you!

QOTD: Hey! So last year I didn’t make a varsity boat though my ergs scores are very good, my technique was very bad. We just had our first day of practice of the season today, and I have another season and summer training under my belt now though, so I was hoping things would go better. But I seem to be having a lot of technique problems again. When your erg scores are bad, you just pull harder (though I’m worried I can’t repeat my erg scores from last season), but fixing technique isn’t concrete so it’s a lot harder to learn for me since I don’t really have a good sense of hand eye coordination and the smaller details of the stroke just seem so much for difficult for me than others. I mean, a lot the brand new freshmen yesterday already seemed better than me!!


QOTD: I’m a college freshman, last semester I was one of the top rowers on the team, over winter break I tried to keep in shape but I was having back and knee pain so it was minimal. I came back slightly out of shape but got back into the rhythm. This semester has been a lot more competitive as far as erg scores and recently I’ve been having more knee pain. I’ve been going to the athletic trainer but they’re not 100% sure what it is, but they think it is my meniscus. There are days when I can’t erg because of the pain so I’ve been on the bike. When I do erg my scores are really bad (bad for me). It gets me really frustrated and I’m letting this injury get to me. I get flustered over bad workouts and it kills me inside when I can’t erg. I want my knee to get better, but I don’t want to take time off and fall behind and not make the 1st boat. It’s especially important this year because we’re going to Women’s Henley this summer. Any suggestions on getting over this mental block? (PS I was never told not to erg, so it’s not like I’m working out against what I was told to do.)

National eating disorders awareness week: Eating disorders defined + explained

QOTD: Our novice coach has told us that cox selections are based on evals, their judgement, and race results. Today was our first race and my steering abilities in windy weather are very questionable – as in multiple oar collisions. Yes, I am committed to improving before our next race, but do you think it has effected my seating? What can I do other than practice? Thanks!

Intro to rigging, pt. 3: Pitch

How to make improvements as a novice

Racing skills: Pre-race prep

Notebook “hacks”: Post-practice affirmations

I’m only calling this a “hack” because I couldn’t think of a better title.

I think I’ve talked about this before but it’s come up a few times over email lately so I thought I’d write a quick post going into a bit more detail about a trick I used in high school to keep me from being too hard on myself if/when my confidence was taking a hit.

When my coach initially suggested this to us, I thought it was so cheesy. Rather than seeing it as a practical tool, it just seemed like a way to put yourself in a bubble and make it easier to block out any sort of criticism and ignore the mistakes you were making. If you have the wrong attitude it can absolutely be both of those things but if you use it the right way, it’s a great way to help you figure out processes that work and develop your confidence, objectivity, and self-awareness (all of which are, obviously, critical traits for a coxswain).

Related: Tracking progress in your notebook

My approach to this exercise admittedly started off pretty weak. I’d occasionally write down “steered a good line today” or “were the fastest ones to launch after getting hands on” but things like that never actually made me feel better after a bad practice. I told my coach this and he basically said “well yea, no shit” (very nicely though, as was always his style). Everything I’d written down was stuff that I was expected to be doing anyways … so why should I get credit or be patting myself on the back for that? This was one of those critical points in my coxing career because it was when my coach pressed me to start asking “why” and “how”.

Why were we the first ones to launch? Because I’d spent time before practice figuring out what the plan was (drills, workout, were we going upstream or downstream, etc.) so I wouldn’t have to do it at the same time as the other coxswains after the warmup or while we were on the dock. Because I’d used my time better during the warmup to get my tools together and talk with the other coxswains about what order we wanted to launch in. Because I got over thinking that the rowers would think I was being a bitch if I more assertively said “let’s get hands on” instead of just waiting for everyone to make their way over to the boat.

How did I steer a good line today? I trial-and-error’ed the most effective way to hold the cables to minimize unnecessary movements of the rudder and put into practice the one I felt worked best. I held myself to a higher standard because we went out with the 1V and 2V and I was the middle crew when going three across. I was assertive and confident (and didn’t have to fake it!) when communicating with the varsity coxswains about our points.

Related: Coxswain skills: Race steering

The how’s and why’s were always the most labor-intensive because they made me think, which admittedly is sometimes the last thing you want to be doing after a long practice or a bad row. More times than not I’d keep it super simple (sometimes all you wanna say is “got a high five from the men’s V8 stroke after subbing in for them today” and leave it at that) but I know unequivocally that the few minutes I’d spend doing this after practice made me a stronger coxswain and helped me keep in perspective that even if I had a slip-up, I was still on the right track and doing a lot of things right.

To keep myself accountable and out of that bubble I mentioned earlier, I always acknowledged the less than stellar days when practice didn’t go well or I screwed up because, as I’ve talked about plenty of times before, there’s a lot to be gained from that, even if it’s just being self-aware enough to admit that you handled this situation completely wrong and now you know for the future that XYZ is a better approach.

Related: Keeping a notebook

This was always the messiest part of my notebook because it was just a season-long haphazard list of all the little things that I felt were tangible representations of the fact that I was getting better. When I started feeling like I’d hit a plateau or like my shortcomings were outweighing my strengths, I’d look through what I’d written and use that as a confidence boost to remind myself that I’m actually turning into a pretty good coxswain and one shitty practice isn’t the end of the world or as a kick in the ass to come up with the plan to do better. It also made assessing my progress at the end of the season with my coaches a little easier because I’d already subtly been keeping track of it over the past few months.

Like pretty much everything else on this blog, everything I’m telling you works … it just might not work for you. If you like the idea but not the method, by all means adapt it to whatever works for you. One of my friends had a very rigid approach to doing this (his was kind of bullet journal-y, if you’re familiar with them) whereas I recognized that if I wanted this to work for me, it needed to just be a simple, not over-analyzed list with the occasional expansion on topics when it was warranted. If you find yourself looking for ways to get better or feeling like you’re burning out or plateauing, don’t overlook little things like this as a way to help you through (or out of) those situations.

Music to erg to, pt. 141

Two posts worth checking out from the past two weeks – yesterday’s coxswain recordings and last week’s post on coxing people on the erg. Knowing how to cox people during erg tests is a pretty fundamental skill that we tend to overlook so even if your indoor season is winding down and/or your team is done testing, you should still consider writing in your notebook the stuff from the “things to know” section since all of that can be used on the water as well.

Coxswain recordings, pt. 30

Previously: Part 1 || Part 2 || Part 3 || Part 4 || Part 5 || Part 6 || Part 7 || Part 8 || Part 9 || Part 10 || Part 10b || Part 11 || Part 12 || Part 13 || Part 14 || Part 15 || Part 16 || Part 17 || Part 18 || Part 19 || Part 20 || Part 21 || Part 22 || Part 23 || Part 24 || Part 25 || Part 26 || Part 27 || Part 28 || Part 29

Wellesley College WV8+ Final 2016 NCAA Championships

I posted the recording from Wellesley’s heat at NCAAs back in December (you can check it out here) and similar to that recording, the audio’s a little muffled here. This is actually a good thing to keep in mind too now that the spring season is getting closer – if you’re not using a GoPro, make sure you play around with different spots to put your recorder so you can find one that protects it from the water while still being able to capture a clear sound.

If you want to watch the NCAA’s footage of the race and listen to their commentary, you can check it out here – skip ahead to 3:23:00ish (the race starts about a minute after that). Wellesley is in Lane 2 with the black boat and blue and white oars. I’d also recommend muting the NCAA video and starting the recording when the race starts, that way you can listen to Ale call the race as you watch it.

From a coxing standpoint, this piece accomplishes three of the things that make up a good recording – there’s no screaming off the line, she gives consistent updates on their pace and position, and at the end of the race you have a pretty good idea of where most of the crews finished just based on the updates she was giving throughout the piece. All of that is rooted in communication so if you’re a sophomore or junior who is trying to put together audio to sent to the JNT or college coaches, I would highly recommend you make your communication skills a central focus during practice in the weeks leading up to your first race. Ale demonstrates really well how to do this effectively by keeping the information concise (aka saying only what needs to be said) and using her tone rather than volume to convey her message.

Related: What makes a good coxswain recording

One of the most well executed parts of the race was when they’re crossing 1000m between 3:16 and 3:42ish. Through the first 1000m there’s this focus of just chipping away at the field stroke by stroke in order to establish their lead and then as they come across 1000m it’s like OK, we’ve got now, if anyone else wants it, they’re gonna have to take it from us because we are not giving it up.

I think the best part of the NCAA commentary is near the end where Williams starts to take the rate up but Wellesley is still at like, a 33 or something, and the announcer says they have “plenty of stroke rate left to go up and not much water left to defend”. That’s probably the best position you could be in coming into the last 250m of a race.

Other calls I liked:

“Catches with her, shoulders with her…”

“Our confidence in two … one … two, our confidence. MOVE through that 1000 … MOVE through that 1000. Seize it now … seize it now, blue. We command this. Sit up, we’re across. Sit up, now this is our 500 because we’ve trained … LET’S GO!

George Washington University 1F vs. Georgetown University 1F

Right off the start, I like the “draw through” call on the first stroke. That’s an easy one to whiff, especially if your blade’s not all the way buried or you pull out of the catch instead of push, so having that call as a reminder is a good way to make sure everyone stays horizontal through the drive.

Out of the high strokes they make their shift down to base and at 1:47 you hear him say that he wants to shift down one more beat to a 35. His execution here (between 1:47 and 2:00ish) is really smooth, mainly because there’s no sense of urgency in his tone that the shift has to happen right freakin’ now like you sometimes hear in other recordings. He draws it out over a couple of strokes which allows him time to make very clear, direct calls about what he wants and most importantly (especially when it comes to rate shifts), when he wants it to happen. This is something you should regularly be practicing when you’re doing pyramid pieces or anything else involving rate shifts, that way you can establish a good flow in initiating it and the crew can get accustomed to the calls you’ll make when the rate needs to change.

Little goals are obviously a big part of any race plan and he does a good job here of (indirectly) tying those to the crew’s overall technique. You’ve gotta be careful about making too many technical calls during a race and becoming hyperfocused on that but I think he does a good job of balancing those calls with follow-up calls that say where they are now on Georgetown after taking a few strokes to get the blades in, swing through a headwind, keep the outside shoulder up, etc.

The only thing I’d suggest not doing from this recording really isn’t that egregious but there’s definitely better – or at least clearer – ways to call it. Rather than saying “200m ’til the 500m mark” just say “750 to go” or if you’re making a move at 500, “15 strokes ’til we make our move”.

Other calls I liked:

“At the 500, we’re gonna walk away. We’re gonna sting at the 5…”

“Stay loose, stay long … stay loose, stay long…”, said on the drive, recovery.