Coxswain recordings, pt. 22

Part 1 || Part 2 || Part 3 || Part 4 || Part 5 || Part 6 || Part 7 || Part 8 || Part 9 || Part 10 || Part 11 || Part 12 || Part 13 || Part 14 || Part 15 ||Part 16 || Part 17 || Part 18 || Part 19 || Part 20 || Part 21

University of Delaware V8+ Dad Vail Petite Finals (2015)
Jake, the coxswain of Delaware’s heavyweight 8+, sent me this recording after Dad Vails and it really blew me away. Easily one of the best recordings I heard all season – actually, I think this is the best I heard all season. Here’s what I said in my email to him with a few additional bullet points below that.

Hey Jake! Congrats on winning the petite! This is really good – your intensity, tone, calls, etc. are on point. I feel like I’m nitpicking just trying to find stuff to critique. The one piece of advice I have is when you make a call like “walk away, walk away”, “it’s time to go”, “time to break off UNC” (great call btw), etc., immediately follow that up with a 5 or 10-stroke push just to carry over the momentum from your call. When I make a call like that I want the rowers to immediately think “yea, let’s go!” and since I know they tend to get a burst of energy from that I want to capitalize on it by immediately following up with a 5 or 10-stroke move to do whatever I just said to do, be that to walk away from the field, put away another crew, etc. If you say “it’s time to go” and then there’s crickets after that then it’s like “OK … I’m ready to go … tell me what to do …” and you kinda lose the opportunity to make something happen. You also run the risk of another coxswain hearing you say “walk away!” and them thinking you’re calling a 10 so they call their own 10 to counter the move they think you’re making. That can backfire on you if they end up getting a seat or two out of it. (The only reason why I say that is because I’ve done this to other coxswains before and if you’re down a seat or two and do it at just the right point in the race you can pretty much kill their momentum and take the race from them.)

In addition to everything I said up above, I really like the simple “assault” calls he makes throughout the race. This is something I think a lot of younger coxswains have to learn/remember – every call you make doesn’t need to be a full sentence long and every call doesn’t have to be “a call”. More often times than not you can easily get away with saying something simple like “assault” and that will convey the same exact message as “OK guys, this is where we get after it and start taking back some seats”.

Another thing I really liked was the build up into the sprint starting with the “10 at base” at 4:55. I like how he calls the first five of that ten, says “assault”, then starts the next five with “next five, bow ball”. THAT is what I mean when I say to simplify your calls and cut out all the excess. You know exactly what he wants and how many strokes you have to do it and it only took four words to communicate that. Now, what I really liked about the sprint was how he transitioned into it. At 5:12 he says “shifting up to a 38 over two … shift one, shift two …” and then they hit it. I like the simplicity. If you’re trying to figure out how to get your crew to shift up at the end without doing a big build or anything (or alternatively, you’re only going up two beats and don’t need five to build into it) then I’d definitely suggest trying the shift over two and seeing how that works. (Related: If you haven’t read this post on “in” vs. “over” vs. “on” check it out so you understand the difference between all three and make sure you explain it to your crew too. In, on, and over do not mean the same things!!)

So yea. This is my pick for best collegiate recording of the 2015 season. If you’ve got any other contenders feel free to send them my way!

Kent School Boat Club Women vs. St. Andrews
Colette sent me this one of her boat’s race against St. Andrew’s and it’s also on my list as one of the top recordings from this past season. Here’s some of the feedback I sent her:

Tone, volume, intensity, calls, etc. throughout the entire race were solid. I wouldn’t change a thing. You got a little repetitive with the “twist” call but I think you had a good enough variety otherwise that it doesn’t matter too much. In the future you might consider incorporating in some alternatives to “twist” (“rotate” is one that I use a lot), that way you’re still communicating the same thing just with a different word so as to not get too monotonous or repetitive.

Another thing is it seemed like you stuttered over the names of the crews a couple times when you were giving the girls your position – if you’re not 110% sure of who is in each lane then just say their lane number. When I race I only call the name of the top one or two crews that we consider our biggest competition and everyone else I just refer to by their lane #s, that way I don’t risk tripping myself up in the middle of a call if I can’t remember who is where. I feel like when you’re in a groove of coxing and then you stutter over something like a crew’s name it can throw off the momentum a bit (or at the very least knock you our of your zone) so that’s always something I try to avoid.

A couple other calls I liked –

– “I just lit the fuse” call at 2:32. I love the way she said it and I love the call.
– “No mercy one, no mercy two…” at 2:56. The intensity is great (there’s nothing like a good “no mercy” call to really stick the knife in) but I like that she sandwiched them between counting out the ten. Making simple but occasionally deadly (for the other crews…) calls like this are a great way to get just a liiiiittle bit of extra punch on each stroke.
– “You don’t mess with us ’cause we’re the best” at 3:45 (Cocky? Hell yes. A great call? Oh hell yes.)
– “They’re coming, let’s sprint in two, this is it – one … and two, no fucking mercy! One back it in, two back it in, three YEAAA, four, five don’t let ’em touch us, six breeeathe, seven, eight, nine, ten…”

Henley Royal Regatta 2014 Temple Challenge Cup – Oxford Brookes vs. Brown University
Henley is next weekend (if you’re racing, record yourself!) so I figured it was only appropriate to post Rory Copus’s follow up to the epic Abingdon – Belmont Hill recording of 2009.

I actually got an email about this a couple weeks ago asking my thoughts and it said: “Both my crew and coach love the coxing here, but the other cox at my club, who’s very experienced and has coxed the [redacted the very prominent team name] eight, doesn’t think the coxing is great – he reckoned they would have won regardless. I wondered what your take on it is?” This was my reply:

Personally I do like this recording. I think Rory’s other one (the Abingdon – BH one) is better but this is still in the upper echelon of recordings that are out there. Something I’ve heard a lot of people say is that he was a little over the top and should’ve acted like he’d been there before, which I can definitely see and agree with (to an extent). At this level I think having a coxswain like him can only add speed to your boat so regardless of whether they would have won or not, I don’t think that should really change how he’s coxing them. The only real thing that I didn’t like was he was a little repetitive for me, although I think that’s just a general difference in style between the UK and the US.

Now, make no mistake, I love this recording. Our V8+ coxswain even borrowed some calls from it this season. The main thing I hear people have spirited discussions about is how over the top he gets and like I said, I get that and can see how it might annoy people but to me it’s not the kind of “over the top” that is offensive or asshole-ish. There are PLENTY of recordings I’ve posted on here where you can argue that the coxswain is being “over the top” during the race but sometimes that’s just part of coxing. As long as you’re not being unsportsmanlike, does it really matter how into it you are as long as you’re still steering straight and communicating clearly?

The takeaway for coxswains from this recording is the Beyonce levels of flawlessness in the execution of the race plan. They grab the lead right from the very beginning and just pile it on from there. The bladework at the start is excellent and the gradual build in volume he has as he’s calling “legs loose” really sets the tone early. You can tell they have a plan going into this because the moves and his calls just flow really well throughout the race. It doesn’t feel like anything he’s saying is being come up with on the spot, which is rare since you’re not usually in a position (at this level, let alone at this regatta) where you’re far enough ahead of the other crew(s) that you don’t have to worry about deviating from your race plan.

Some calls I liked:

– “Legs loose…”
– “Stay relaxed as we hit the gust … stay loose … stay loose …” If you can see the ripples in the water up ahead of you, always prepare your crew and let them know it’s coming.
– He makes a lot of rhythm calls (and announces them too…), in addition to encouraging the rhythm by the way he makes the calls so if that’s something you’re looking to work on definitely listen to this. There are lots of spots throughout the recording where he does this and they’re very easy to identify. (Plus, you should be able to pick this stuff out on your own anyways without someone else pointing it out to you.)
– “Keep moving in this rhythm, in your rhythm…”
– “10 months, every erg, every session, together, for this one fucking moment…” This is the kind of call that I’d pull my ass off for. I don’t care if I”m blacking out, this is the kind of call that would force me to dig deeper and find some way to give more.
– “Drop the knees” – good alternative to most “legs” calls.
– “Take it all in, feed off of it…” This is a great call for those regattas where you can feel the energy from the spectators and you can hear them screaming as you approach them. Never underestimate the power of the crowd to give your crew an extra surge at the end. Bring that energy into the boat and make it work for you.
– “End them now.” I love this but what really seals the deal is the finger point he does as he says it. I did this once and my coach told me it was the most demoralizing thing he’d ever seen a coxswain do to the rest of the field so I’ve always had an affinity for psychological fuckery like this. (Fun story, Wisco’s V8+ coxswain did this to our eight when we raced them back in May and when they came up to collect their shirts I told him in front of our coxswain how much I respect coxswains that have the balls to make moves like that. Luckily our cox knows me well enough to know that it wasn’t a dig against him so it was cool. Laughs were had later.) To me, stuff like this is the ultimate sign of confidence. Some people probably/definitely think it’s cocky but I don’t think it is. Being cocky is fine (and necessary) to an extent but at some point it crosses the line from being legit to being compensatory and it’s always obvious when you’re compensating for something (usually a lack of confidence more than anything else). No coxswain would ever do the “shut them the fuck down now” finger point if they weren’t 1000% sure that their crew was executing everything exactly the way it needed to be done and that their position in the race was unquestionably secure. This isn’t one of those things that you can do every race though. This is one of the ones that you do once, maybe twice in your career. The moment’s gotta be right otherwise you do just look like an asshole.

(Also, can anyone confirm that that is Neville Longbottom circa Order of the Phoenix rowing in seven?)

MIT Men’s Rowing V4+ 2015 IRAs Repechage
I don’t think I’ve posted any of our recordings on here (they’re all on YouTube if you wanna listen to them) but I wanted to post this one because I think it’s our varsity coxswain’s best recording of the season and I’m really damn proud of that for more reasons that I can count. I wish I could remember everything I pointed out to him when we initially watched this after the race but that was a month ago so below is a brief-ish (OK maybe not…) synopsis of what I assume I told him.

The whole starting sequence – start, high 20, transition to base – was really well executed. He started off the year/season drawing his calls out to really annoying and unnecessary lengths so to finish the season really crisp like this is a huge improvement. I also really like how we started doing the shifts down to base. I honestly don’t remember if this is something we talked about or if he just started doing it on his own but adding in that second shift really helped clean up that transition and make it a lot smoother.

It still annoys me (in the most minor of ways) that he calls a “ten to establish (the rhythm)” right after the start but if you’re going to take a ten for something at that spot, calling it for rhythm isn’t the worst thing to choose. (As long as it’s not for power – you have no idea how much this makes me rage.) One of the things we/I really harped on this season was not relying on 5s and 10s to get across whatever you wanted them to do. Instead of calling numerous 5s for catches, finishes, legs, etc. just make the call for a few strokes and then move on. You don’t need to take a burst just to get them to do something. My point there is that instead of calling a 10 to establish the rhythm I would have just gone straight into “legs long, legs loose” for five to eight strokes. Just counting out the strokes doesn’t establish the rhythm, you’ve gotta back it up with legit calls.

As I said on Rory’s recording, prepping the crew for an oncoming wind gust is always smart so I like that he saw the gust coming at 1:16 and said “wind gust on this one”. This is probably the best footage I’ll be able to get from a coxswain’s POV of what the wind looks like so if you’re still trying to figure out how to read the wind, look at the ripples in the water immediately before, during, and after he makes that call. The wind had been picking up throughout the reps (there were three total) but it stayed pretty much a cross-head the entire time. You can tell it’s a headwind because the boat is going into it (vs. a tailwind where you’re going with it) and the diagonal pattern of the ripples indicates that it’s a slight crosswind, meaning that the wind is going perpendicular-ish to the course instead of straight with the lanes (in which case it’d just be a direct head or tailwind).

A couple strokes later you can hear BU’s coxswain say “I’ve got bow ball”, which could easily have been disastrous for us (and if it was earlier in the season it probably would have been). I like how he handled it though. He’ll probably say that he didn’t hear her or wasn’t paying attention, thus what I’m about to say is totally irrelevant but I like that he just said where they were on BU, that they were walking, and to stay relaxed and poised. From there he makes the call to get the boat set (the crosswind wasn’t helping us there) and they immediately took a seat back on BU. The calmness in his voice throughout that segment is not something I would have thought was possible a few months ago, or at least not something that could be executed that well, so I’m really, really proud of how he handled that. (But like I said, he’ll probably say he had no idea what BU’s coxswain was doing so I’ll just pretend that what I said was his plan all along.)

As they come into 750m and he says “let’s walk up and pass, I’m on 2-seat, get me bow man…”, that’s a perfect way to call that and is another good example of what I mean by simplifying your calls. All you’ve gotta do is tell them where you are and where you wanna be and that’s it. The only thing I wish he would have done after that five was to tell them whether the move worked or not (by either saying “got the bow man” or “they held their margin” or something easy like that).

At 1000m I like the shift in his tone. I was getting a little worried initially when I listened to this that his usual fire during the body of the race wasn’t going to be there but it came out here and stuck for the rest of the race, which was good. All his calls through this section are great, especially the “now keep the attack” that he finished off with. I also, obviously, love the “that’s BOW BALLL” call. That 20 plus the small moves for each pair that he followed up with are, I’m convinced, what secured our position for the rest of the race. Couldn’t have asked for better execution here.

The “five for each pair” move is something we’d been working on throughout the season and it was getting to the point where I was so frustrated with it that I almost told him to just stop doing it because he could just not go from pair to pair without freaking monologuing between each one. It was driving me nuts. (You can hear this in the Sprints recording I think.) He did a great job calling it here though. I love the transition from stern pair into all four with the “establish dominance, 5 strokes for open” call. (400ish meters ago we were down two seats and now we’re going for open … can’t ask for much more than that.)

The ten for length at the 500 was kinda the only thing that I wasn’t super happy with, only because his calls didn’t match up with what he was asking for. Taking a ten for length there is a great idea and something we definitely needed but if you’re gonna call it for length your calls have to match that and his were a little all over the place. I liked his tone and everything, just not the words themselves.

5:31, “drop them” … this aggression was what I was waiting for and he brought it out at just the right time.

The end of the race always makes me a little nervous because he’s not the most reliable at calling the finish – sometimes he nails it, other times he’s way off (ahem … Princeton) – but he did fine here. In any other situation casually calling the extra two like that probably wouldn’t have worked, especially if the race was close, but we were ahead by enough that it didn’t make a difference. We were in a position to advance so whatever. Not something I’d recommend though – if you’re gonna call last five or last ten, make sure it’s actually the last five or last ten. Practice this whenever you do pieces so you can get used to gauging the distance between when you make the call and when you cross the line, that way there’s no question on race day that you’re calling the correct number of strokes to the line.

Like I said, I’m really, really happy with this race (as was everyone) and being able to see the culmination of all the tweaks and improvements in Alex’s (he has a name!) coxing made me really proud. It’s no secret how much I love this team and a HUGE part of it is because I got to work with some amazing coxswains this year. Every coxswain on all four of our teams is good but I’m adamant that even on their worst days, which we definitely had a few of, the heavyweight coxswains were still the best ones in the boathouse.

Alex, I couldn’t have asked for a better sparring partner this year. You challenged me, stuck to your guns (even when you were wrong 😉 ), and finished the year as the coxswain I knew you could be (and told you you could be) all along.

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Video of the Week: 48spm

If you thought Princeton’s sprint vs. Brown last weekend was sick, wait til you see FIT’s sprint vs. Michigan in the last 10 strokes of the MV8+ finals at Dad Vails this past Saturday.

If you haven’t seen the Princeton-Brown video, check it out here. Fast forward to the 1:09:27 mark for the start of the race and the 1:14:00 mark for the sprint (and the commentary, which is hilarious).

Coxswain Recordings, pt. 14

Part 1 || Part 2 || Part 3 || Part 4 || Part 5 || Part 6 || Part 7 || Part 8 || Part 9 || Part 10 || Part 11 || Part 12 || Part 13

Washington-Lee Men’s Junior 8+ Stotesbury Finals
When this coxswain emailed his audio back in May he also sent along a list of things that he felt he did “wrong” during the race. It included the following:

  • Didn’t give my rowers specifics on where we were on the course
  • Numerous times, I said stuff like “We’re walking St Joes! They can’t do anything!” But I didn’t tell them how much we were walking/how much we needed/what I wanted them to do.
  • I told them to “Bring up the stroke rating” but once or twice I didn’t tell them how (specifically, quicken the hands out of the finish).
  • At the starting line I made two major mistakes. Firstly, I sounded extremely frantic, which is never good. Secondly, I wasn’t assertive enough on establishing my position in the floating start, and because of it, we started almost 3/4 of a boatlength down on the 1st and second crews (total bullshit). Instead of racing, I should’ve protested the start.

Self-awareness like that is good because it shows you’re actually thinking about how you did and where you can improve. Below is the reply I sent him with my feedback:

“Your self-awareness is spot on and that’s something that is going to be a HUGE asset for you as you progress through your coxing career. I agree 100% with everything you already pointed out so I won’t go into too much detail with those parts.

So, when you’re at the start the boat looks really off set while you’re trying to get your point. If the boat’s not set while bow or two is trying to row, it’s going to negate whatever they do to turn the boat. The easiest way to fix that is to have everyone sit at half slide (or wherever your first stroke is from) with their blades flat on the water. REMIND THEM at practice, going to the start, at the start, etc. that you need them to keep the boat set so that you can QUICKLY get your point. Also remind everyone that when you or the officials tell them to tap it up they need to do it NOW, not in five seconds. This is definitely something worth practicing during the week so they know how to respond on race day. You were a pretty frantic, which I agree isn’t how you want to be, but just from watching the video it looked like that was partially caused by your crew’s slow reaction time to what you were saying.

Regarding being 3/4 of a boat length down, there was a thread on Reddit talking about the MJ8+ predictions for SRAAs and we all somehow got on the topic of Stotes and crews starting way down at the start. Someone said that the problem occurred beforehand on the paddle down to the start. This was what I said in reply to that: “While the officials are definitely responsible for making sure the crews are coming down together, I’d say the coxswains are partially to blame in situations like this because they need to be telling their crew to bump up the pressure or ease off if they find they’re getting too far up/down on the other crews.” You’ve gotta make sure as you’re coming down to the line that you tell the rowers to adjust the pressure as necessary so you aren’t that far down when you start. I don’t know what protesting would have done because with USRowing’s new rule of not recognizing hands, it’s likely they would have just said “sorry” and that’s it.

The beginning of your starting sequence sounded … off. Like, you forgot what you were supposed to do or something. Plus, your stroke had to remind you it was a high 20, not 10.

At the end of the first ten/start of the second, that would have been a good time to throw in a “2 seats down”, “1/2 a length up” call in between calling the strokes just to give them a quick idea of where they’re at. I like to do that in between the 10s if/when possible because if they know they’re a couple seats up or down, then they’ve got at least 7-8 high, hard strokes left to either increase the lead or get even with the crew out front. If you call it right before the settle then I feel like it makes the settle less effective and more frantic because they’re like “Oh crap, we’re down two seats, we’re about to slow down the rate, we’re gonna keep falling behind, gotta make up that distance, ASDFJKL;!!!” I don’t know if that’s true across all crews but I’ve noticed it sometimes with mine so it’s just something I personally try to avoid.

I like how you called the start of the settle. Good calls and aggression.

1:22, “they started far ahead…” Maybe not the best thing to tell them during the race. They probably noticed it at the start but what if they didn’t? Now you’ve planted it in their head that they’re fighting an uphill battle for 1500m because you weren’t even at the start. And you know who they’re gonna blame for that? YOU. A better way to say the same thing would be something like “they got a good jump right off the start but we’re walking on ’em now…”. Also avoid saying it’s gonna take something big to catch them or whatever so early in the race. That’s just depressing to think about as a rower if you hear your coxswain say that when you’re only like 400m in.

1:28, “calm down…” I would have taken 5 to relax/stay loose/regain the composure instead of just saying “calm down”.

1:34, “OC, etc. is trying to walk back…” This would have been a great spot to take a 10 to push them back, hold them down, counter their move, etc. I tend to tell coxswains that if you tell your crew that someone is trying to make a move on you or anything similar that you better follow it up with a 5 or 10 to counter it. Don’t just let it happen and then have to try to come back from it later on it the race.

When you told them to bring the rating up two around 1:40, that shouldn’t be an “in two” call, that should just be “on this one”. You can easily bring the rate up two beats in one stroke so don’t draw it out longer than you have to. Also, the rate doesn’t come on the recovery, it comes on the drive. The hands follow the legs, not the other way around. I’d call it like “we’re at a 34, let’s take it to a 36 with the legs on this one, LEEEGGGSSS send, LEEEGGGSSS send…”

At 1:55 when you say “calm down”…listen to that and think if you were in a different position and you heard someone say “calm down” in a really rushed, frantic, not calm voice. Would that help/make you calm down? Probably not. When you tell the rowers something like that you’ve gotta make sure your tone matches the call.

At 2:02, I would have taken a 20 with 3 to build to get at least a seat or two up on whoever was to your left and regain a few seats on whoever was on your right. By this point you’re probably 750ish meters into the race so this would have been a great spot for your big move, especially considering how tight it was between the crews. The first ten I would have called for sharp, direct catches, long strokes, maximum length at both ends of the slide, etc. The first three of the second ten would have been all legs, followed by “get ready to attack it/them … stay sharp on this one, ATTACK [your position on the crew on your left], ATTACK [position on the crew on your right], ATTACK [location on the course], ATTACK [walking! (or whatever)], ATTACK YEA BOYS…” followed by a call to maintain this momentum through the next 250m.

During that 10, try to avoid the “me” calls. I’m OK with coxswains saying “gimme a big 10 right here” or “lemme feel that leg drive” but I’m really anti-calls that say “get me to their ____” or “walk ME up” because it just makes it sound like they’re your horses or something (and not in a good way). Remember, you’re one crew, not eight individuals and their slave driver. A good way to call stuff like this is to say something like “we’re walking on LaSalle, let’s get our bow ball up there” or even better, “we’re sitting two seats down, we’re going after that bow seat [name of the bow man in your boat]. We’re going for your seat – let’s take 5, I wanna feel that leg drive [name of your bow man]…”.

3:03, “We can get 2nd, I donno about 3rd…” Oh, come on. I really hope you know what I’m gonna say about this so I DON’T have to say it…

3:38, I like the “unleash hell” call but I think an even better way to say that would have been to wait until right before your sprint and then during your build say “they’re not gonna know what hit ’em, get ready to unleash hell … on … this one, now, GO!!” in a slow, steady, controlled, intense as hell tone.

3:49, “let me tell you something…” Not gonna lie, I was expecting a really rousing last minute speech right here. 😛

4:06, when you say “they can’t do anything”, that’s not a bad call per se, but I don’t know how effective it is. I think something like “they’re struggling against your move”, “they don’t know how to counter us”, etc. would do more for the rowers psychologically in terms of helping/making them think that they’re accomplishing something … if that makes sense.

Nice job with that final sprint – you guys went for a nice little walk there in the last 100m or so.

Overall, I think this is a good recording. You’ve got a lot of potential that I don’t think you’ve tapped into yet though. The BIGGEST thing that I think you need to work on is reigning in your voice and being less frantic overall with the calls you’re making, that way you can focus more clearly on what’s going on around you, what’s going on in your boat, etc. and make more effective calls to the crew.”

GWU Varsity 8+ 2014 IRA C Final
51spm. 51. strokes. per. minute. (Maybe the theory that mustaches make you go faster actually does have some merit…) Overall these guys finished 2nd which put them at 14th place overall – a program best finish! The link up there is to Connor’s SoundCloud but you can listen to his audio overlaid on the race footage here.

1:58 “Five to open to the angles…” Good call to remind the rowers to get all their length at both ends of the stroke.

3:28, “Get ready to take our move…” That’s the kind of aggression you need when you’re in the thick of it and have to do something to separate yourself from the pack.

3:46, “We’re movin’, half a length up OSU, half a length up FIT…” After you call for a move this is exactly what you want to do – let them know if they’re walking and if so, by how much.

4:13, “Move away from FIT, fucking put ’em in their place…” I mean, if that doesn’t make you want to pull hard, what will?

4:18, I like how he goes down the boat here and calls out certain individuals then calls out the seniors. That’s a great way to get just a little more out of the rowers when you already know they’re giving you all they’ve got. It’s that sense-of-personal-responsibility thing…

5:54, that build though… Tone/volume = perfect.

UCSB 4 minute piece
I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume everyone in the boat is a novice, including the coxswain. I’ll be honest, I had to start and stop listening to this about five times (the video’s only four minutes long) because I was getting so annoyed with how long and drawn out every single word was. You’re not petting cats or soothing toddlers, guys – you can talk like a normal person and still communicate whatever it is you’re trying to say.

There’s not much to say about the coxing other than that but if you’re a novice coxswain and you’re doing short pieces like this, here’s a rough example of how you should manage it:

  • First, make sure all the blades are buried before you start. It’s a habit that the rowers need to develop early on and it’s something that you should always be on the look out for when you start any kind of piece. Blades that are half-buried (or less) at the start are going to contribute to the boat being off-set from the very beginning, in addition to just not being very strong in general. The first stroke sets the tone for the rest of the piece so you might as well spend a few seconds making sure the blades are all the way covered. Call out individuals as well too if necessary. Sometimes that’s the only way for them to realize they’re part of the problem.
  • Give them something to focus on if your coach hasn’t already done so. Something like this would be good if you’re just doing basic pieces but if you’re doing race-pace pieces, trying to simulate an actual race situation is always a great idea.
  • If you find yourself converging with the other boat, give the rowers specific instructions (“ports more pressure, starboards back off for three on this one“) to get you back on track. Don’t write your name in the water, it makes you look like a n00b.
  • Instead of saying what sounds good or what you think you should be saying, pay attention to the stroke. Not stroke-the-person, stroke-the-actual-stroke. At least 85-ish% of your focus should be on what the blades are doing and what’s contributing to what they’re doing (That’s not just for pieces like this, that’s in general really…) For this particular crew I would have made calls for getting the timing down (throughout the whole stroke, not at one particular spot), keeping the blades buried throughout the stroke, getting and feeling the connection with the feet right off the front end, getting length at both ends of the slide, etc. Each one of those things has several “tangents” that go off of them so as long as you’re paying attention, there should be an endless number of things for you to say to the crew (that’s more effective than what was said in the video).

Temple WV4+ Dad Vail Semi-final
The audio’s a little choppy on this one (it’s mainly the background noise) but otherwise this is a really great recording from Temple’s V4+ coxswain. Below is what I wrote in my email reply:

“This recording is great – my favorite ones to listen to are the ones where I don’t have to pause it every five seconds to make a note of something. You do a really fantastic job of being right in the moment and communicating to your crew what they need to know about what’s happening inside the boat as well as outside the boat. Far too often a lot of coxswains will get too focused on just spitting out the race plan and end up not making calls for anything else. I really liked your buildup into your 20 when you a couple of the girls if they were ready to go – that’s a great way to keep the boat engaged in what you’re doing and keep them focused. I LOVE the 10 that your bowman calls – that is a really creative and SMART strategic move.

I have two quick suggestions for you. One, maybe not count as much at the start throughout the high strokes and the settle. It can get monotonous after awhile so don’t be afraid to change it up and replace the numbers with catch or finish-related calls. You called it really well though – tone, intonation, intensity were all perfect. Don’t change any of that. Two, make sure you don’t let the aggressiveness of your coxing fall off throughout the race. There was one ten you called (maybe around 500ish to go?) that sounded bored and not as into it as your other ones. The goal is to nail sounding/being calm without it coming off like you’re tired, bored, etc.”

Marin Rowing Alumni 8+Boats that are this set are so much fun to row in. Once you get up to speed it literally feels like you’re flying and it is so damn cool.

This is just a short little snippet of what I assume was a practice row or something but I wanted to share it for two reasons. The first is how he calls the crew back down a beat at 0:14. Instead of saying “bring it down” or some other annoying phrase like that, he says “let’s relax together one beat…”. I like this because it just sounds more effective than “bring it down” but also because when you’re only trying to come down one beat, you don’t really need to change that much with the slides or speed through the water – all you’ve gotta do is relax a little.

The second reason is for how he calls the crew up two beats to a 32 (0:33) and 34 (0:54), especially the 34 one. I like how he calls “legs down boom” and “pump it” (or whatever he says … initially I thought he said “bop it” which made me think of that toy from the 90s) as they bring the rate up and then “sustain it” once they’ve hit it.

Capital Crew Junior 8+ Crew Classic
Right off the bat, I really like how he calls the first few strokes of the start. It’s very rhythmic which is great because it helps the crew establish the boat’s rhythm almost immediately (vs. the start just being an all out clusterfuck and the  crew not getting into any kind of sustainable rhythm until 20-30 strokes in).

0:20, you shouldn’t be saying anything about the other crews yet. Focus on your own boat and tell them where the other boats are once you’ve finished your entire starting sequence (start and settle). Telling them anything before that means nothing because it’s all moving so quick that who’s up and who’s down can literally change every other stroke. Give it at least 200m before you say anything.

1:18, “sitting in 6th place right now…” Not that sitting in sixth in the grand final is bad or anything but it’s always good to try and spin it positively so the rowers don’t get discouraged or whatever. If you’ve got contact on all the boats a call like “sitting in sixth, you’re in this…” is always a reliable go-to. Similarly, one like this also works well: “Sitting in sixth right now, [position on crews X, Y, and Z], we got plenty of water to work with, plenty of time to walk into these guys. Let’s relax and focus on getting our catches in one stroke at a time…”

1:27, “gimme 5 together … smile … and light ’em up…” At first I was thinking “where’s he going with this” but I actually really like that call. Keeps the atmosphere light (which it should be, regardless of the race) while also pushing them to dig in and go.

2:20, I assume he’s talking to his stroke here which is something I really love doing in situations like this. Whenever you want to start something, be it a 5/10/20, getting a little more snap at the release, etc. I always like to pick someone out and say “you lead this”, particularly if it’s something that I know that person has been working on during practice. When it comes to straight power stuff though, I like to go with my stroke or stern pair and have them lead the charge since they’re at the front of the boat and usually looked to as another leader/set of leaders in the boat.

3:05, “get hungry boys…” This is such a simple call and really easy to look over but I think it’s a really good motivating call, especially when you’ve got a goal you’re working towards (i.e. walking through the pack, walking away from the pack, building into the last 250m, etc.).

Overall this is a really good piece. I like how he uses his voice, mainly by smoothly changing his volume and/or tone to fit the situation, and how he uses the rowers and almost gets them to work off of each other by saying “you lead this”, “X, pass it up to Y”, etc. He also does a really good job of keeping the crew informed of their position on the course and against the other crews. I can’t say this enough guys, do not underestimate the importance of your crew knowing their location at any given point during the race. It’s like free motivation, so you might as well take it and use it.