Coxswain recordings, pt. 28

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

Over the next few weeks I’m going to start cleaning up the recordings posts, getting rid of ones that have been deleted, and making the posts more reader-friendly. Part of that will entail breaking up some of the longer posts with 5-6 recordings in them (tbh what was I thinking putting that many recordings in one post) and shortening them to around three recordings each (some might have two if they’re really long, others might have four if they’re really short). To avoid spamming you with email notifications whenever these “new” posts go up, there might be periods of time where the site will be inaccessible. If you see that, don’t worry – the blog’s not going anywhere, I’m just working to make it better.


First thing you should take note of in this video is how good both the coxing and rowing is … and this is their 3V. Don’t take the attitude of “oh well it’s Washington, of course their 3V is good”. If you want to cox at most Division 1 programs – men or women – you’ve gotta be about this good, give or take, just to get into a lower boat. The youngest or “leftover” coxswain isn’t necessarily the default coxswain for these crews anymore, especially when you’re on a big team.

On your current team there might be competition for a single boat whereas for most teams competing in the grand and petite finals at IRAs or NCAAs, there will be competition for all the boats because there are more coxswains than there are crews. Whatever your “A-game” is now, this audio should be a wake up call that that ceases to be good enough the moment you join a collegiate team. I’m not saying that to freak you out either or make you question your ability to cox in college, I’m just putting it out there because it’s an expectation you need to be aware of and prepared for.

Back to the audio. One of the things I really like is how spaced out her words are. She’s not slowing her speech down or drawing anything out (on the contrary, she’s talking at a pretty normal pace and tone for the majority of the piece) but there’s a crispness and to each of the words that makes understanding her effortless.

I also liked the transition between the high strokes and the stride – the “press long” and “long stretch” calls were a good addition there as they brought the rate down. I say “breathe” a lot too because it’s an easy default call but it’s also easy to get repetitive with so the more alternatives you can come up with (in the vein of “press long and “long stretch“), the more effective you’ll be at initiating or maintaining that stride.


I coached with Ale this summer and she sent me several of her recordings from her time at Wellesley College where she coxed the 1V to an NCAA title this year. The audio’s a little muffled (I think she said it was in her bag or uni) so it might be a little hard to understand her – just turn the volume up and listen close.

This recording is from their heat and one of the things that immediately stood out was how calm her tone is while still being intense and assertive as fuck throughout the entire race. You can hear that at 1:08 where she says “one seat Amelia, NOW“. Preceding that she does an excellent job of telling them where they’re at (“35, 250 in, sitting on Bates’ 8-man”) and what they’re going to do (“we’re going to stride”) and part of what makes that “NOW” call so effective is how effectively she changes her tone between the two sets of calls. She increases her volume not by yelling but by inflecting the level of intensity she wants to see in the rowers. There’s a huge difference and if you can nail that skill, your worth as a coxswain is gonna go up a lot.

Related: The language of the first 500

Further on in the piece at 4:07, they’re coming off a counter-move and she says “totally neutralized their move, in two let’s swing it back…” to re-establish their pace and rhythm. Calls like this after a move are smart because it’s easy to get a little frantic when you’re countering someone’s move or making one of your own and coming into the last 500m of the race you want to make sure you’re moving as effectively as possible so there’s no unnecessary energy being expended.

Other calls I liked:

“Hook it, move it…”

“We go with our winning rhythm, taking 6-seat of Bates in two…”

“We trust our rhythm, we trust our speed…”

“Sit up across the thousand…”

“One press together, catches in sharper…”


If you’ve never been to the Princeton Chase, the 30-60 seconds of “light … light … light … pause … continuous, light … etc.” is pretty standard because there are so many boats corralled together in a U-shape along the end of the lake.

One of the things Connor consistently does well is incorporating individual rowers into his calls. You’ll hear him at 2:06 say “calm around the back, right Hugo?”, at 6:06 “Ben, you’re fuckin’ killin’ it…”, at 9:53 “Joey, I like the change man, good shit…”, etc. and that kind of engagement helps get the most out of each of those guys. If you’re just reciting your race plan during a race and only paying attention to stuff outside your gunnels, you’re leaving a lot of free speed on the table.

Related: (Connor swears a lot – I think it’s a non-issue but it is something to be mindful of, especially if you’re a junior coxswain.) I’m trying out for New Trier Novice Rowing in a couple days (go NT! I was super excited to see New Trier in the 8+ Midwest Championships recording!) and wanted to know what the real rules are on swearing in a race. I heard that you can get DQ’d but it is super rare and most coxswains swear anyway. What are your thoughts? 

Once they’ve got everything established, at 3:06 he starts to bring a bit more personality and energy into the piece and makes a call for five to bend the oars and swing back. As I’ve talked about before, primarily in the post linked below, this is how you can/should call a burst in order to get the most out of it. You can hear the energy in his voice before and he engages them by saying “let’s fuckin’ go ham today boys”, which is just way more effective than saying “power 10!” or simply “5 to bend the oars”.

Related: Race skills: All about Power 10s

One thing that I consistently get questions about from coxswains is how to avoid being repetitive and sometimes it’s hard to do, as you can hear at 7:24 when he says “guys, I’m gonna sound like a broken record but we’ve gotta get the blades in”. I love that and don’t see any problem with making a call like that. There’s good repetitiveness and bad repetitiveness and this is a perfect example of how to execute a string of calls in a “good repetitive” way. A big part of why this works is there’s no sense of pleading or franticness in his voice. He says what he sees, just with a more direct sense of urgency, and follows it up with five to sharpen the bladework. He ends it by telling them the changes they made worked and now it’s time to maintain it and move.

Other calls I liked:

“We’re gonna stride it out one beat with a big boom, ready, on … this one GO … BOOM, yea … BOOM, yea…”

“One leg drive, one swing…”

“Tall at both ends…”

“Remember the fundamentals…”

“It’s all us … it’s all us .. it’s gotta be all us…

You can see all the recordings I’ve shared by checking out the “Coxswain Recordings” page listed on the front page of the blog.

What makes a good coxswain recording

This is a short clip from a talk that Marcus gave during the Sparks winter camp last December on coxswain recordings. In it he talks about how just because you have a good recording doesn’t mean you’re a good coxswain (#preach) and the three things USJNT coach Laura Simon listens for when she’s evaluating the audio sent in by prospective coxswains.

These three things are not groundbreaking, they’re not innovative, and they’re not hard to do. If you’re looking for ways to improve your audio, this should be your starting point because they are, as Marcus said, “the bare minimum” of things most people want to hear.

Coxswain Recordings, pt. 27

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

Michigan Men’s V8+ Head of the Charles 2014
Something I noticed in this recording was a distinct lack of decisive calls/moves. There was a lot of “get me XYZ”, “we need to XYZ”, “I need you to XYZ”, etc. but there was never a follow up that actually said what needed to happen in order to accomplish whatever the coxswain was saying needed to be done.

One thing this coxswain does in contrast to some of the other head race recordings I’ve posted is she stays very chill throughout most of the race. There’s obviously a benefit to this style of coxing but I think you end up walking a fine line between “composed” and “low-energy”, and for me it came off as more low-energy than not for most of the race. There were times where she’d put a bit more emphasis on her calls (she did better with this towards the end) and others where she’d try to rush through them – several times when she’d say “one … two, on this one” it felt like she was saying both numbers on the same stroke because she’d say them so quickly. You might as well just say “on this one” and skip counting the strokes. Point being, I wish there was a bit more energy and more targeted calls since a lot of it came off as just filler.

She did do a great job steering though and ultimately I think that’s the big takeaway from this piece. Her turns were good, she was right on the buoy lines, and did a good job of managing the water when she was coming around the first turn with Drexel at the beginning.

Hobart Rowing at the Cornell Invite
This coxswain has good energy but there are times where she’s trying to say a lot of things in a short span of time and that ends up making most of her calls (many of which are pretty good) rushed and, presumably, hard for the rowers to process. There were some things that I think maybe weren’t that important that they needed to be said but for the most part she was passing along good information so my only suggestion here would be to slow down the train of thought and space out the calls a little bit more.

I like her tone and that she’s regularly giving the crew updates on where Cornell, Syracuse, etc. are amongst all the technical calls she’s making. One of the calls she made as they’re coming past the Ithaca and Cornell boathouses was “we’ve gotta get the blades in a little bit quicker if we’re gonna fly” – I like that because it’s a simple way to say what they need to do and what the outcome will be if/when they do it. Another thing she communicates well is her line vs. the coxswain behind her’s line and how in order to stay on the course she’s currently got, the crew’s gotta get a bit more send off the finishes in order to open up some water between them and the other boat. Rowers might not understand all the nuances of coxing but if there’s one thing they do get (most of the time), it’s the importance of maintaining the fastest course and holding your line. Everybody has to work in tandem to make that happen and how she communicated that was really effective.

Radcliffe 1V HOCR 2014
This is just a short 40-second long clip from the start of Radcliffe’s turn around Magazine Beach but I wanted to share it because I like this coxswain’s energy as they move through the crew on their port side. She starts off saying she wants to take them out early before calling a ten that begins with her saying “here we go, on this one NOW … we go NOW” in a really intense, clear, direct voice that sets up the rest of the move really well.

Coxswain Recordings, pt. 26

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

Two recordings this month – the first is from Marcus McElhenney coxing an “exhibition” race against OUBC with a mixed lineup of members of the 2008 (I think) USA men’s squad (including the Winklevii) and the other is the last of Katelin’s recordings, which is the final of the 2010 World Cup III (you can check out the heat of that race in the this post).

Marcus McElhenney USA Men’s 8+ vs. Oxford University Boat Club
The first thing you hear is Marcus getting the crew set before the start. I like that he says “stern pair, hands only” because the “hands only” part isn’t something a lot of coxswains do. When you’re trying  to get aligned, unless you’re several seats back (and even then…), the rowers don’t always need to be taking full-slide strokes. Sometimes hands only, arms only, etc. will get the job done. Awareness of the distance you need to move and the amount of manpower it’ll take to get from Point A to Point B is a crucial skill that you’ve gotta learn so that when you’ve gotta make small adjustments like this, you can do so quickly and efficiently with no hesitation.

At 0:41 you also hear him say “my hand is up, do not go…”. Rule #1 of racing – if you’re not ready, don’t go. This would be a good habit to get into with your crews as you’re getting your points at the start so that if you find yourselves in a situation where you’re actually not ready, the crew won’t flinch when you say “don’t go”.

2:35, “use your 5:50s now!” This is a good call for power, motivation, etc. (I can see it being used a lot on the men’s side.) Many of his “motivational” calls are team related too – use your 5:50s, show Mike Teti what you can do, you’re the USA Men’s 8+, etc.

6:47, “if you can hold them now, we can take that turn.” I like this because it shows he’s thinking a few steps ahead of where he’s at now. He’s taking the information he’s getting from what’s around him, looking at the distance between where they are and the turn, and assessing the situation … and he’s doing all that in the middle of the race without letting it impact any of the other stuff he’s doing. This is also a good call to make to your crew, especially for a head race when you’re jostling for positions.

7:45, “I’ve had enough of this sittin’ around shit!” Pretty sure Marcus has said that to coxswains who were hustling fast enough at camp. 😉 I’ve made similar calls when we’re just sitting on a crew and the change in words helps, obviously, but it’s the change in tone I think that makes the biggest impact. You can just sense that there’s a different sense of urgency when he says this compared to what he was saying before this call. In this call you can hear that he’s demanding more of the crew even though he’s not specifically saying “give me more”.

8:40, “you know these guys can sprint, you know they can sprint!” This is smart because it reminds the crew that even though they’ve taken the lead now, it’s in no way secure yet and they can’t underestimate Oxford just because their (USA) bow ball is in front. This is why it’s always a good idea to have an idea of what the strengths/weaknesses are in the crews you’re racing against. I don’t think you need to get all stalker-ish and scout the hell out of them but if you hear things like Columbia has a strong sprint or Washington takes a move at 750m and leaves everyone in their dust … you’ll know that if you somehow get up on them, you can’t take that position for granted because these other crews might still have something in their back pocket that they’re waiting to break out and use against you.

I also like how at the end he keeps them focused on rowing well at the end of the race. I hear a lot of coaches really harp on not being dramatic at the end of the race and immediately getting them rowing inside arm only, maintaining some semblance of timing, etc. is a good way to avoid that.

USA Women’s 8+ 2010 World Cup III Final
Similar to Marcus, whenever her hand goes up or comes down, she tells her crew. The start of the race is typical Kaitlin, just like all the other recordings I’ve posted, she’s super chill but still being very direct, very focused, and very in her boat.

At 0:45 – 0:47 when she says “we’re gonna take our first lengthen in two … one, send it … two, now…”, you can hear that nothing changes with her volume, the only thing that is different is the inflection in her voice and that naturally lends to a more aggressive punch behind “two, now“. If you’re trying to work on maintaining your composure and being calm while also still being intense … that’s a perfect example.

3:36, “Trust the plan, trust your rhythm…” Love this. When you’re behind, don’t get frantic, don’t panic, just trust your teammates and your race plan.

5:15, “In two we lengthen and go with legs, ready? One … two, TONE CHANGE NOW. Boom, that’s it… Boom, Katie! YES, walking!” Not only was their a tone change in her voice, there was an actual physical change in the tone of their race. This was their move and she did an incredible job of facilitating that by being relaxed and focused up to this point so that when she said “tone change!” not only did they hear it in her voice but they felt it too.

What do you think?

Coxswain recordings, pt. 25

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

This month’s recordings post all feature Kaitlin Snyder and her races with Washington in 2008 and 2009 at the Crew Classic. If you missed the other recordings I’ve posted of her you can find them here and here, as well as in this playlist on my YouTube channel. You’ll see me say “awareness” a lot in this post and that’s because it’s one of things she excels at. It’s a crucial skill for coxswains to have (if you’ve been to Sparks you know how much Marcus harps on this) and there are several examples in here for where it can/should be applied.

Sorry there’s no captions this time, I’ve been preoccupied with other projects and just didn’t have time to listen and write everything out.

UW 2008 San Diego Crew Classic
Washington lead for most of this race but going into the 1000m Cal had a two seat advantage before UW took a move to retake the lead. They finished first in 5:39.9, two seconds ahead of Princeton (5:41.8). Harvard finished third and Cal fell back to fourth.

1:06 I love how she called the stride here and that she said “you know how to do it together”. The start of the stride is executed really well – the change in her tone is great when she calls “striiide POWER, hold the knees…”.

1:35 “Strong Husky rhythm…” I like any call that references the team because it reminds you who you’re rowing for and gives an extra kick of motivation.

Note the balance (up to this point and throughout the entire recording) in her tone between being calm and being aggressive. There’s an awareness there for when to employ each that is a huge advantage for her crews.

2:41 “Bend now…” This is another drive/catch/legs call that I really like. There’s nothing groundbreaking about it but it’s simple and just another way to call for power.

2:45 “You’ve got good water, take advantage of it. Row smart Roko…” This is a good reminder to the crew (and individuals if/when necessary), especially if the conditions aren’t perfect. When you see good water in your lane make sure the crew knows so that you can sharpen up and take full advantage of it before you hit the next gust or batch of chop. This is another instance where awareness can give your crew a huge advantage.

3:17 I’ve talked about this before, calling out guys in your boat who might not necessarily be stern pair to lead the crew through a move. In this case, Simon and Roko were 3-seat and 5-seat … so not even a pair, just two individual rowers that lead the rest of the crew through this move.

3:25 The 3rd 500 is almost always one of the toughest parts of the race which is why your energy has to be high here. How she called “3rd 500 now” is a good lead-in to this section and through her tone you can tell that she’s not fading which is going to help keep the crew from fading.

4:08 Most of the time when I hear coxswains call 10s they get super overly ambitious and say “power 10 to get even” when they’re a length down on the boat they’re trying to walk on. Here they’re taking a 30 for inches. Inches. I also like the added call to lengthen both ends of the slide. You guys know this but the further you get into the race and the more fatigued you become the more likely you are to start shortening up – this was a well-timed call to get them to get their length at the catch and hold on to the full stroke through the finish.

Related: All about Power 10s

4:27 “Splits are dropping and you are in the fucking lead!” Perfect example of when you see/feel the crew responding to your calls, the moves, etc. to tell them.

4:44 This chunk through here is what I really like hearing in recordings – coxswains demanding more from their crews, in this case inches and leg drives.

4:59 This is a call worth stealing – “those are your fucking jerseys!”.

5:07 The last minute shows how you can call a burst, in particular a long one like this 30, and not count every single stroke. If it’s a well practiced move like this was then the rowers will know, not just because they can count but from muscle memory so to speak, how long the 30 lasts. What I like about this is she tells them when the last 10 is instead and then when the 30 is done instead of starting the 30 and not saying anything else about it, which is something I hear a lot in recordings.

5:23 “Up two for 10 with power…” I like calls that like this that emphasize something rather than just saying “up two for 10 in two, one … two …”. Whether it’s awareness on your part because you want to remind the crew of something, you see something starting to fall off, or it’s just part of your race plan, I think this is a more effective way of calling your build strokes, especially as you get into the last 300ish meters.

5:40 This was excellent awareness to see that Princeton started moving early and to make the call to go with them. This shows how important it is to not just be focused inside the boat but to keep your head on a swivel and be aware of what’s happening around you so crew’s don’t sneak up on you like Princeton tried to do here.

UW 2009 San Diego Crew Classic Heat
I think my new goal when I get time to go on the water is to work on refining how well I balance my calm/aggressive tones. She does it so well and it just makes me want to do it better.

The defining part of this recording for me was at 5:25 when she said told them to “stay in time … stabilize at the 38” then recalls back to builders they did the other day and how their directness at the front end then was what they needed right now. Sit up, loose shoulders … now they’re connected, now they’re walking, now they’re moving. Again with the awareness thing but that’s really all it comes down to. Knowing what your crew is working on, knowing their strengths, weaknesses, etc. and knowing just what to say to them to snap them back into rhythm.

UW 2009 San Diego Crew Classic Final
Listen to how she calls the move at 900 and then carries that energy over into the third 500, in addition to what specifically she’s saying. All listen to how towards the end of the race (when the pack is tight) she’s keeping the focus on her crew instead of making a lot of calls about where the other crews are. She still tells them where they are but the primary focus is on getting her boat rowing well and maintaining it because without that, the moves they make won’t be as effective. Again … awareness helped give her crew the edge.

Coxswain Recordings, pt. 24

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 || Part 22 || Part 23

This month’s recordings post is a continuation of January’s – more recordings from Katelin! These three are from a 3x1500m workout she did with UW back in 2007. What I like about this set of audio is how sitcom-y it felt. Hear me out, you know how in any show things start off fine and then something happens but then at the end things are good again, if not better? That’s what these pieces are like – the first one was alright, the second piece not great, and the third is where they make some changes and it all comes together. We’ve all had practices like that but this is the first set of recordings I’ve come across where you can actually hear and feel how the pieces ebb and flow throughout the practice.

Obviously you should listen to these anyways but if you struggle with how to call practice pieces (i.e. how to find that balance between race-coxing and still maintaining a technical focus), you should definitely make time to check these out and take notes. Seriously.

Related: Race plans for practice pieces

UW OTC 3x1500m Piece #1
At the beginning I like when the coach (Bob Ernst, I think … this would have been his last season with the men before switching to the women’s team) says “try not to make it a tug of war with the upper bodies”. When the water’s not great or there’s a headwind it’s easy to fall into the trap of pulling more than you’re pushing and it can be tough to come up with a way to communicate that (that’s not the same played out “make sure we’re driving with the legs” calls…) so I like the tug-of-war analogy there.

Throughout these pieces you’ll hear Katelin talk a lot about the rate and where to bring it up (the drive) and bring it down (the recovery). If you’re trying to take it up, “a beat through the drive” is the simplest, most straightforward way to communicate that and avoid creating a lot of rush on the recovery. The “through” part of it is kinda crucial too because you want the crew to be accelerating from catch to finish and “through” says that without you having to throw in a bunch of extra words and make the command longer than necessary.

It’s not until they’re sixty seconds into the piece that she first mentions the other crew … and only to say that the other coxswain is taking a move but they’re walking on him as he does it. The next time she mentions them (thirty seconds later) is when she says they’re gonna take a move when she’s next to their bow man … but the move isn’t for the other boat (i.e. to take another seat, get the bow ball, etc.), it’s for them (five for timing, five for the legs) and THAT is one of the key things about calling pieces in practice like this. Are you “racing” the other boat? Yea sure, but you’ve gotta get your own shit together first if you want to actually be able to race the other boats like you would other crews during an actual race. She does a really good job of telling the crew where they are and what she wants while keeping the atmosphere calm and focused. They’re racing but she’s keeping them more in tune with what’s happening in their boat instead of constantly calling out the other crew and ignoring the technical issues that you hear her making calls for. THIS is one of those key things that, as a coxswain, the sooner you get it the better – she could have just called this like a normal race and made a third of the technical calls she’s making and the crew might have still finished ahead … but at the end of the day they wouldn’t be any faster. Because of the technical calls she’s making and the way she’s incorporating them into her race strategy, she made them faster that day by being relentless about holding the crew accountable for their strokes. (And now she’s coxing the national team so take from that what you want.)

At around 4:10 you can hear her stroke or 7-seat say “let’s open it up … open water” and then the next series of calls she makes is that ten to get some separation between the two crews. THREE MINUTES AFTER THE START OF THE PIECE and that’s when her boat starts to really race the other one. THREE MINUTES. THREEEE. MINUTESSSS. Her tone intensifies, her calls intensify, and the focus has clearly shifted to walking away. I also really like the call “do not get up and sit up” call she makes towards the end of the ten. They’re not being walked on (yet) but they’re also not walking away either … in that situation they’re the easier target.

6:41 is probably one of my favorite “speeches” I’ve heard a coxswain make in awhile. A lot of coxswains are … for some reason … afraid to say shit like this to their crews but sometimes you really do just need to get on them and say it’s really fucking unacceptable that we – WE – let this happen. This is also a perfect example of the difference between being a bitch and being authoritative and really reiterates the point I was trying to make in this post from November. Next time someone tells you to “be more bitchy” when you’re coxing, THIS is what they want you to do.

Related: The Bitch in the Boat

UW OTC 3x1500m Piece #2
The tone of this piece is a little different because they lost a length at the end of the last piece so they’re fired up and planning on going hard right off the line to match the other boat. Spoiler alert, this backfires. Now don’t get me wrong, I love that she says “we’re not waiting to make the move” (that’s a great call, especially for situations like this) but as the piece goes on you can hear how that mindset, while good in theory, probably contributed to a lot of the slide control issues they experience. I don’t think you need to spend three minutes waiting to get into race mode on every single piece but at the very least you do have to establish your in-boat presence first (whether that takes ten strokes or two minutes, whatever) before your focus shifts to walking on or away.

At 3:44, I like how she splits up this ten. A lot of coxswains, particularly younger, less experienced ones, will call for a ten and then trail off midway through because whatever they called for didn’t actually need to be ten strokes long whereas here, she calls for a ten but it’s actually two fives that are focused on timing at both the front and back ends of the stroke. This is a much more effective way of matching up the timing without saying “move together”, “watch stroke seat’s blade”, “ten for catch timing”, etc.

Related: All about Power 10s

At 5:11 you can hear her stroke seat yell out “get long, get longer!” and then the next set of calls she makes after she finishes the ten are for length on the slides. Normally if my stroke says something to me or yells something out to the boat when I’m calling a ten (it’s always during bursts) it knocks me out of my bubble for a second and I’ll stutter on the next call because it’s like “wait, what just happened?” … I hate that. I can’t tell if that rattled her focus or not (which is good, obviously) but even if it did, she did a great job of finishing up the ten and then immediately incorporating in calls to reiterate what her stroke said. This is another thing you should talk about with regards to communicating with your stroke. I’m OK with my stroke talking to me (as you hear her stroke doing throughout the pieces) or occasionally yelling things out to the boat but one of the few no-no’s I have is if I’m calling a burst, don’t say anything until we’re done because I just go into a zone when I call those 10s and 20s and them saying something just jolts me out of it. If you don’t like your stroke yelling out to the boat or talking to you when you’re calling 10s or whatever else, make sure you have a conversation with them about that off the water.

Her point at the end about it not being a big deal if they get up a couple seats applies to pretty much any situation with any boat ever. A few seats isn’t a death sentence so long as you regroup and focus your energy through the drive and not on trying to get to the catch faster just so you can get your blade wet again.

UW OTC 3x1500m Piece #3
Her stroke makes a good point at the beginning about it being the same number of strokes and that they just need to get longer on each one. If you’ve ever done those “how far can you go in X number of strokes” pieces then you’ll get what he’s saying. The crew that controls the slides and accelerates the handles on each stroke is going to be the one that covers more ground and does so more effectively, not the crew that is rowing at the same stroke rate but has lost their ratio in the process.

Compared to the previous piece, you can hear the difference in her tone at the beginning here. It’s pretty similar to those pieces from the last post where the stakes are high but you know that she knows that the key to her crew’s bow ball being in front at the end is staying calm, focused, and loose right from the start.

At 2:11, that’s the kind of positive reinforcement you should put out there when your crew does something well, particularly the “nice fucking response, that’s the way to get it done” part. Obviously you don’t have to say it exactly like that but you can’t deny that just hearing “nice response” would probably make you sit a little taller and push a little harder on the subsequent strokes. (Also another example of swearing with a purpose.)

2:52, “let ’em know it’s over” … this is one that I would save for just the opportune moment – it’s one of those afterburners calls that just reignites the fire at the end of a piece. I distinctly remember using this call once during a similar workout where we’d been sitting on the other boat for probably 5-7 strokes after having walked up on them about half a length on our previous move to get almost even (we were maybe half a seat to a seat back).This was a crew I knew we could beat (I was in the 2V and we’d been evenly matched with our 1V on the ergs and the water for pretty much the whole season) and I could tell the other crew was getting comfortable with us being beside them, to the point where they thought we were starting to fall apart because our progress on them had stalled. I heard the other coxswain say something to the effect of “show them why YOU’RE the 1V” and my stroke said “fuck that, let’s go” so I called a ten and made the “let ’em know it’s over, go now” call. We ended up finishing two seats up and me, my stroke seat, seven seat, and three seat all got switched into the 1V.

This will be the last recordings post until the summer but the next one in June will also be three more recordings from Katelin so you’ve got that to look forward to. I’ve come to the conclusion that it just makes more sense to do these posts during the “off” seasons rather than year round, which  makes it a lot easier for me to find recordings, put them together, etc. and not get burned out on doing so while trying to listen to all the recordings you guys send me throughout the spring. If you find any good recordings though that I haven’t posted, feel free to send them my way. I’m always on the lookout for new (good) ones.

Coxswain Recordings, pt. 23

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 || Part 22

As most of you know I got to coach at the coxswain camp that Sparks hosted in Tampa the week after Christmas. One of the other coaches was Katelin Snyder, current coxswain of the USA women’s eight, and she graciously offered to send me a bunch of her recordings to put on the blog. I’ve been obsessing over these things for the last week so I’m really excited to finally share some of them with you guys. The three I’m posting today are all in a playlist on my YouTube channel that I’ll keep updated as I share more of her audio in future posts.

University of Washington Opening Day 2008 vs. Poland and Navy
This is from Katelin’s junior year at UW, her second year in a row coxing the varsity eight.

Right off the bat you can hear how she calls the start isn’t like how a lot of coxswains call it. There’s some punch behind her words but for the most part she’s very calm and relaxed. One of the big concepts that we’ve talked about with coxswains at the Sparks camps is not losing your shit at the start of the race and instead remaining composed and keeping your focus on steering straight through the first five or so strokes. This is a perfect example of what that should sound like.

0:45 “We’re striding in three strokes … increasing boat speed in two…” I like how she called this – what she wants (stride) followed up with an objective (increasing boat speed), all said as succinctly as possible.

1:17 When calling something like a minute move it’s easy to think that in 60 seconds you can take a handful of seats on the other boat(s) but I like that she kept it simple here by going after just one seat and calling out the guy in her boat whose seat they were targeting (and then told him when they’d got it).

4:13 In between her calling “inches” you can hear her stroke say “length!”, which she immediately follows up with on the next call by calling for more length through the water. That’s a fairly common question that I get, how to communicate with your stroke during the race and this is a good example of how simple it really is.

University of Washington vs. California Duel 2009
OK, so for some context watch this video of the race that was taken from the launch. Turn your volume up too and prepare yourself for the single greatest move that I think I’ve ever seen at 1:41. (TBH I’m kind of excited to hear from inside the boat how this move played out because we saw Washington do something similar several times at IRAs last year, including when they were in our race in the V4+, so … it’s nice having some insider knowledge now of how they do it.)

0:40 Again with the “lengthen and increase boat speed” call – I really like this as a reminder to not let the power fall off as the stroke rate starts to ease out into base. Also saying “hold the knees” instead of something related to the slides is a good alternative.

1:44 I like that they take their move at 650m in. Calling moves at the 500m, 1000m, etc. is basic fine but these moves taken at relatively unconventional spots are what gets your bow ball in front.

1:52 I’m obsessed with this chunk of calls, particularly the “get outta here!” one. I’ve looped it so many times because even without watching the video, I can feel California’s souls getting crushed and as a coxswain there are few better feelings than seeing that moment when the other crew realizes they’re about to get dropped.

2:25 After you make a successful move on another crew, the next thing you have to do is watch them for the counter attack because it will happen and you don’t want to be caught off guard when it does. I like how she stays calm and reminds them to defend it by completing the strokes (nothing fancy, just relying on flawless execution of the basics) before calling that ten at the thousand to “end it”.

3:34 Lengthening out at 1250m is a really solid strategic move. It’s not necessarily a move to gain anything, rather it’s an internal move to get the bodies ready for the last 500m. By 1250m – the middle of the third 500 – this is probably the peak of pain before the rowers catch that second wind leading up to the sprint. Reminding them to breathe, stay long, etc. eliminates any tension that could otherwise shorten the strokes and decrease the boat speed.

3:55 “They’re going!” Reason #875 why stroke-coxswain communication is important. If you’re far enough ahead that you don’t have a clear view of the other boat in your peripheral vision, you’ll need to rely on your stroke seat to alert you to when the other boat starts to move on you.

USA Women’s 8+ 2010 World Cup III Heat
This is my favorite of these three recordings.

Note how, similarly to the other two recordings, she has a very focused calm in her voice during the start. It isn’t until about 60 seconds into the race where her coxing voice really comes out.

4:03 “Hold your momentum.” I like this as a post-move call. I usually say something like “sustain it”, “maintain this”, etc. but I’m definitely gonna borrow this one.

4:48 “…5 more and we lengthen back out. I wanna do it by sending … now send through the back end.” Similarly to the “lengthen and increase boat speed” calls, I like this one because the objectives are clear and she’s calling for them to do it by emphasizing their swing and acceleration (which if that’s something you know your crew does really well you should incorporate that into calls like this and work the rhythm that comes from it). I also love how her voice is pretty chill at the start of this and then there’s that kick in her voice when she says “fuck yea” – the excitement there is motivating in itself but the contrast in her tone would for sure make me drop a split or two if I were rowing.

5:42 “Third 500 is crushing … base … speed!” I’m stealing that call, I’m gonna make our coxswains steal that call, you should steal that call … that call is gold.

5:56 …as if the gauntlet hadn’t already been thrown, right? Talk about a fucking ballsy call. I love it.

6:45 Similarly to the lengthen move at 1250m in the previous recording, I like this “breathe for 5” move that they take coming into the last 500m. This has always been one that I do too with my crews just as another way to get them to stay fluid and loose and refocus before we make the final push to the line. The thing to remember with calls like this (that Katelin does really well) is you have to match your tone to the intensity of your call – a call like this can’t be said in the same tone as the “we’re gonna send a fucking message to Canada” call.

Side note, one of the many amusing stories that the guys told me last year about our V8+ coxswain was how during a race he was trying to get the crew to relax and because he was getting progressively more frustrated with how the boat felt, eventually he yelled “JUST. FUCKING. RELAX!!!” which obviously accomplished absolutely nothing. Don’t do that. If you’re gonna make a call that falls under the “relax” umbrella, your tone has to be a little more subdued that it is during the more intense parts of the race.

One last thing I want to point out is the swearing, which I’ve talked about on here a few times (most recently in this post). These recordings are some more good examples of how to swear and how to make it work without sounding like a try-hard. If you’re a junior coxswain and even less so as a collegiate coxswain, very few people are ever going to actually care that you said “fuck” during a race if you use it to punctuate your calls like she does. It’s when it gets gratuitous that coaches get annoyed because it’s just unnecessary and can be borderline unsportsmanlike.

I hope you guys enjoyed these. Thanks again to Kaitlin for sharing these with me and letting me post them on the blog!!