Coxswain Recordings, pt. 20

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

I’ve had a ton of requests to post practice recordings that show drill work so that’s what most of this month’s recordings are. There’s a lot less coxing going on because the emphasis is on executing the drill but there’s still a lot to be taken away from these.

University of Pennsylvania 10 at 40spm
I came across a couple of these UPenn practice pieces awhile ago and debated whether to post them or not but came to the conclusion that even super basic stuff can still be useful to people. In this video I like when he says “and hold” when they hit the rate they want. I haven’t heard a coxswain say that before but I like it as an alternative to “on rate”. I also like how on the first stroke he tells them to “get after it” to try and hit 40spm instead of saying something not helpful/encouraging, which more often than not tends to be the case.

University of Pennsylvania Drills
I wanted to share this one not so much for the coxing but to point out two quick things with the bladework that you guys could/should be looking for, regardless of whether you’re rowing continuously or doing some kind of drills.

  • If you watch 7-seat’s oar (the shaft of the oar, not the blade itself) then you can see how on the recovery it remains relatively horizontal once he taps down and comes out over his legs. This means that he’s holding his hands level throughout the recovery and keeping enough weight on the end of the handle with his outside hand to prevent the weight of the blade itself from counteracting that balance (insert lots of science-y stuff about fulcrums, loads, etc.). Comparatively, you can see 5-seat’s handle do a little wave-like movement as he moves through the recovery. Sometimes it’s more noticeable than others but from this point-of-view (the coxswain’s), it’s definitely something you can see and fix. What this is an indication of is that he’s not holding his hands in a level plane as he moves through the recovery. Instead it looks like he taps down a little too much at the finish (which pushes the blade up), lifts his hands slightly over his knees (an indication that his sequencing is a little off), and then pushes his hands down again as he comes up to the catch. In the grand scheme of things this is a relatively minor issue but if you see it happening it’s always best to say something.
  • When the camera switches to show the port side the most obvious thing is 4 and 6-seat aren’t squaring up at the same time. It’s tough to tell who’s off here since we can’t see stroke’s blade (I’m inclined to think it’s 4-seat) but regardless, you (and they) should know the kind of roll-up you do (slow, quick, etc.) and how square the blade should be by the time you get to half-slide (halfway, fully, etc.). If you don’t know then that’s something you should find out from your coach so that you can get everyone on the same page. One of the spots where this is most obvious is around 3:09 when they pause and 2-seat and 6-seat are about half-squared and 4-seat is still totally feathered. The whole point of doing pause drills is to get everyone synced up at wherever in the stroke you’re pausing and that refers to not just to the slide but to the bladework as well. The devil is in the details…

University of Pennsylvania Drills #2
This last UPenn one is more for the younger, less-experienced coxswains as example of how to call a pause drill, the length that each pause should be, and how to transition out of it and back into continuous rowing since “how to cox pause drills” is something I’ve gotten a lot of emails about in the past.

Dartmouth drills
This is a long video – almost 15 minutes – but if you’re looking to improve your technique-spotting skills then I’d definitely spend some time watching this one, listening to what the coach and coxswain are saying, and matching that up with what you’re seeing with the blades.

Regarding the actual drills, coxing pause drills isn’t that tough (as you can tell, it’s mostly just you saying “go” a lot) but similar to what I said on the last recording, I tend to get a lot of questions about how to transition between pairs while you’re pausing and the beginning here is a good example of how to do that.

Another reason why I like having my recorder on me as much as possible is so I can go back later and listen to everything the coach is saying and actually absorb the things he’s pointing out so I can incorporate it into my own calls later on. Examples from this recording include:

  • Change direction at the front end without the bodies collapsing down
  • Take your time from the finish through the pivot
  • Establish your length through the pause

All basic, all things we already know but as I’ve said before, it’s good to take the things your coach is saying and include them verbatim (or close to it) within your own calls to reiterate what they’re trying to teach and to show that you’re actually engaged with what’s going on and not just zoning out when you’re not the one making the calls.

Dartmouth drills #2
This would be a great drill for anyone but particularly for novice/less experienced crews since doing starts with them tends to evoke images of an octopus having a seizure.

Video of the Week: Row Like Pigs

In case you’re unfamiliar, “Row Like Pigs” is a student-made film about the 2003 Dartmouth men’s team and is considered to be one of the better rowing documentaries out there.

Here are some of my favorite parts:

Chicken vs. pigs, contribution vs. commitment. Took me a minute to get it but when I did

“In reality, it’s pretty simple. You just have to work phenomenally hard, get phenomenally fit, phenomenally tough, and when we race, lay it all out and you’ll do alright. In fact, you can even win it all. It’s that simple.”

“Refuse to be beaten.” (Imagine that as a call in the a bow ball to bow ball race coming into the last 250m…)

Winter training = football camp, works two things: fundamentals of the sport and fitness; great way to explain it.

“At first you’re just like, are you kidding me but then you’re like ‘I can do this! And not only can I do this, but I can do it well.'”

“Bring the assassin out of the closet.” That’d be a great call.

“When it’s time to go, the Dartmouth guys go. They’re not scared, they don’t hesitate, they walk into the valley of the shadow of death and they do not fear evil.” Replace Dartmouth with your team name and “evil” with your competition’s name. Break this out around 1000m in. Good call for toughness, both physical and mental, when they need it during that middle thousand.

“When you feel the splash, when you hear the splash, that’s when you jump.” Anticipate.

“Seat racing’s maybe one of the hardest things about this sport. You go all fall and winter and then you get this one shot after six months to make the boat, you know, and if you don’t, it’s hard to not look back and have regrets and doubt yourself. And also, one week you’re helping your friend through an erg test, you know, he’s your best bud in the world, and then the next week you got switched across the gunnels with him for a seat race. It’s hard to keep emotions out of it. It’s hard to not make it personal. In the end I guess you gotta just make whatever boat you’re on go fast and just train again for next year’s one shot to make it. Making the first boat isn’t everything. You’ll have more opportunities to do it but if you let that shit distract you for too long, you’ll miss the opportunity to just race boats and have fun.”

“I want that fucking bow ball, push them the fuck away. Put them under your footboards and stomp on them.”

48:42, I like the “40 seconds Dartmouth, now GO!” call.

58:27, honestly if you don’t laugh at this just leave.

It’s an hour long so whenever you’ve got free time or you’re getting an extra workout in, put this on.

Coxswain Recordings, pt. 1

I’m always looking for coxswain recordings to listen to and it’s taken a fair amount of digging to find the ones I have but I’ve slowly built up a nice arsenal of videos, some of which I’ll be sharing on here. Not all of them are what I consider “good” recordings, but each one has something you can take away from it.
2011 Sprints – Dartmouth University – Lightweight 8+ Grand Final
Great race footage from the Grand Final dubbed over with the Dartmouth coxswain’s audio. His intensity is great and like all good coxswains, it’s not about WHAT he says but HOW he says it. His calls are sharp and concise and the tonal changes in his voice really emphasize what he wants his crew to do. He tells them exactly where they are on the other big players in the race, as well as how far into the race they are time-wise. The sprints by all the crews were incredible but Dartmouth NAILED it.

RCHS Men’s Lightweight Varsity 4+ Final
This girl is nuts. I haven’t decided if that’s good or bad. Take a listen and you’ll see what I mean.

Bucknell Men’s Novice 8+ Grand Final at the ECAC New England Championships
This race was incredible to watch. I like how the coxswain kept his voice fairly calm and constantly told them where they were. He spoke not to the whole boat but to bow 4, middle 4, etc. and told them to do things for him. That’s a great way to pull your rowers back in during races. If they constantly hear you talking to “the boat” they might write that off as “oh, it’s not me”, but if you specify “middle 4, give me a seat”, that’s a great way to pull their focus back into the boat. He intersperses a lot of technical things amongst the calls stating where they’re at, which is good. He’s also always saying what the OTHER crews are doing – when they’re making a move and what they’re going to do to counter it. “Our race to win” is one of my favorite calls. The other GREAT thing that this coxswain did is when he said 15 left, there were EXACTLY 15 left. Nothing sucks more than having your coxswain say “10 left!” and there’s actually 13 left.

St. Ignatius (USA) vs. Shrewsbury (GBR) at the 2006 Henley Royal Regatta
“Let them burn their wheels” – great call to make after making a shift on the rate. “Show them the thunder” – I like this one too. Get calls that ONLY your boat knows so that you can go out, implement them, and make moves on other crews without them knowing it. Another good thing this coxswain does is tell them when they lost a seat and WHY. The shock in his voice when he says “they’re challenging US?!” is great because that kind of tonal change in his voice gets the rowers thinking about it and ready to make a move to STOP the challenge. He doesn’t lie at ANY point during this race – when they start moving, he lets his crew know that they are walking on them and it is NOT acceptable. Once he tells them to push the rate up they start making their move and he tells them every time they take a seat, but he always asks for more on every stroke. “7 seats, gimme 8!”

Bucknell Freshmen 8+ vs. Holy Cross
This coxswain. I just love him. If anyone knows who he is, feel free to tell him I’m a HUGE fan. Yes, he’s the same guy from the last Bucknell recording. *swoon* “My hand is up. I have my point. My hand is down.” Just listen.

Concord Crew Head of the Fish
I’m iffy on whether or not I like this recording. I like the intensity in his voice but I don’t know if really ever says anything useful other than telling them to claim seats at the beginning. I’m not so much a fan of coxswains saying “fix the set” because, although rowers should know what to do to fix the set, I’ve found that I get better results when I tell each side specifically what to do. “Ports raise ‘em up, starboards bring ‘em down” usually gets each side to think about their hands individually and a more noticeable adjustment is made.

Upper Thames Rowing Club at the Head of the River
I like the “lock, release” call. From the bow camera view, releases looked really clean and strong. I’m a big fan of incorporating tens for things OTHER than power, like he did with the 10 for cleaning up the finishes. When he says “walk away NOW” you could see the intensity go up just a little bit. Tonal changes make a HUGE difference. “Speed the hands up, don’t panic on it, relax” is a great call because when you tell the rowers to speed something up or do something quicker, there’s always that tendency or possibility that they will lose some slide or body control, so throwing in “don’t panic, relax” is a great way to remind them to keep the bodies controlled.

Upper Valley Rowing at Head of the Charles in 2008
I watched this video more to see what lines the coxswain took vs. what was said. There are three parts to this video but you can easily find the other two on the right hand side. I saw a lot of things with the individual rowing that I would have pointed out (bow being late, 4 rolling up early, others rowing at their own pace, etc.). I think with head races the first half should have a more technical focus and then the second half should start to transition to a bit more motivational with only the necessary technical calls. Like I said, I really only watched this one to see the line the coxswain took but the audio itself is decent.

The best recording you’ll ever hear – Pete Cipollone’s Champ 8+ at the 1997 HOCR
The actual race begins at the 13:00 minute mark. I could write a book analyzing every part of this audio and why it is FLAWLESS but I’ll just let you listen to it and draw your own conclusions.

I hope this post is helpful for all you fellow coxswains out there!! My suggestions for listening to these is to have a pen and piece of paper with you so you can write down good calls you hear, try and figure out why the coxswain made those calls, and then find a way to implement them with your own crew. Don’t take any call and use it if you don’t know why the previous coxswain said it. Part of making good calls is knowing WHY those calls are good. How to they help your crew? Are they motivational or technical? What part of the stroke does the call apply to? If you can answer all those questions, then take that call and try it out with your crew. Not every call is going to work with every crew so it’s up to you to discuss after practice with your coach and rowers whether or not they responded to that call or not. Don’t be offended if they say it didn’t do anything for them. Ask them why and then tweak it a little. Fine tune it and eventually you’ll find the combination of words that really gets in your rowers heads. Good luck!!