Coxing Head Races

 In Faster Masters Rowing Radio

With Kim Degutis (Riverside Boat Club, Cambridge MA) and Heather Franklin (Orlando Rowing, East Arm Rowing, NY).

02:30 Coxing a four compared to an eight.
Heather – coxing a four (front loader) you can’t see behind you. My bow seat is an extra pair of eyes stroke telling me if a boat is coming up behind and stroke seat communicates with other crews. It’s great for picking a point beware knowing how wide your oars are because you can’t see.
Kim – the eight has a bigger engine and you can see your rowers and help them with technique calls.
The pivot point for an eight is like pin a tail on the donkey – it turns differently from a four because it has more mass to get around the corner. Setting up a turn in an eight is easier for visual acuity.
06:30 Bow loaded four gives a different vantage point. The rowers partially obscure an eight’s coxswains view. The eight is the “dump truck” or “freight train” of rowing boats. In a four you have to trust the rowers behind you – you need better boat feel to cox it skilfully.
09:45 What to say in a long race.
Filling the time can be scary. At the start focus on the rhythm in the boat and steering “inside the gunwales” and to get a good start. The middle section of HOCR is setting yourself up well for bridges and making moves between crews. Overtaking comes later and when the crew gets tired I focus on good technique, rowing smarter not harder and ending with the sprint to the finish line.
I can hear the wheels really loud I know they are digging into their seats and the crew isn’t floating up the slide. I freeform some motivational calls for rowers specific to them to prevent them zoning out. Or do a silent 5 or 10 where I listen to the finishes – that makes the rowers realise I’m silent and they need to focus.
13:30 Kim uses landmarks to structure the race. She brings to the focus onto splits, or a technical point to get the crew out of their heads and to feel the flow.
She focuses on little bits on the race course.
15:00 Help the rowers to not focus on their pain. We work on this in practice you are a psychology coach.
16:00 Working on 2 modalities – prepare them for what’s coming up and at the same time get them to stay in the present to make this a good stroke.
The cox is part pilot, part jockey. In a head race pilot is a good start. Heather moves between these two modalities but it depends what’s happening around you.
18:00 Advice for novice coxswains.
Lean into what you hear at practice from your coach. Those things being worked on will be useful in a race. You can’t do power 10s all the time. Get more tools in your toolbox with things the crew has practiced.
Also know your race packet (joining instructions) so your crew don’t have to think.
Kim’s advice is to re-learn key words the coach uses – don’t beat the crew with endless power 10s. Know the major landmarks and have a plan for the technical calls around the landmarks.
Look up under the bridges as you may get into a photograph!
21:30 Tips for motivating
Heather reminds her crew that there is 100 years of experience in the five of us. We have done the work. We are no less qualified for the race than the Olympians in front of us.
Marlene believes that training year round takes a crew to a whole other level.
Kim’s motivational calls for the main is team-specific and situational. It depends on the crew’s culture and needs. No two crews are the same. A good cox dials in to their crew which is the difference between coxes who only steer the boat.

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25:00 Communicating to the crew how to mentally prepare them to row the distance.
Heather says the training has to be there first. We do time trials on our local water and a “ghost race” the crews we are racing against. I pretend we are at the race, I do all the bridges. I practice doing crazy turns and passing crews. I make it as realistic as possible.
Kim says imagine your arch rival crew in front of you. The cox on land tries to find videos of the race and learn the landmarks from the race map so you’re prepared to give the crew an additional kick on the chin if needed. If you need to be the “bully on the river” if you aren’t rubbing then you aren’t racing.
I like to make them hurt if they want to pass us. Have the discussion on land first. I sometimes tell them ‘the beer is getting cold on the finish line’ and ‘there’s an ambulance waiting for you’. Anything can happen, people will not yield but whatever happens, I will talk to you as we go down the course so you are aware.
Marlene says practicing screwing up and coming back from it.

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