Coxswain Recordings

By Marcus McElhenney | May 7, 2014

Coxswains are always asking what it takes to make a good recording.  This is the same as, and more specifically, exactly what coaches and athletes want to hear during a race.  After consulting hundreds of coaches, coxswains and athletes over the years I have found that there are three simple rules that need to be followed to guarantee a good recording.

1. Have a plan

Race plans can be detailed and scripted.  This is true even if coxing newly formed or unfamiliar crews and racing unfamiliar opponents.  Having a plan makes sure everything is executed the the way it should be and when it should be.  Of course one can build in variability when deciding on calling big power moves or which different technical aspect to focus on during a race.  But this variability should be planned within a reasonable framework.  For instance, the power move , at the 1000 meter mark can be delayed 100 meters if your crew is in the lead. But waiting until the 1500 meter mark will confuse your crew and disrupt a cleanly executed last 500 meters of the race.  If there is no plan, the coxswain will sound messy and disorganized.  They will also be thinking on their feet and not focusing on their steering.  Plans do not only include how many high strokes at the start or when they should sprint.  A proper coxswain race plan will have scripted different technical focuses that the crew has been working on during training the past week.  It will have the tone the coxswain should be conveying and addressing the speed.  It should address not only power moves, but how the crew plans on making those moves.

2. Details, details, details

Athletes should annouce distance, rate, and margins at least every 250 meters. This sounds simple, but most coxswains almost never call these details. They often also miss calling several distance markers.  Our athletes are fine tuned machines that train on ergs and are used to knowing the rate and distance at all times without having to think about it, or ask for it. If they have to think about it during a race, they have not practiced effectively. 

3. Stay cool, calm, and collected

Don't Yell! If you're yelling your rowers can't focus in what they are doing but instead are trying to focus on what you are saying. This can really throw them and the rhythm of the crew off. Additionally, usually when you're yelling, you're telling them what not to do. Again, this is bad. Telling someone NOT to sky their blade is not helpful. It forces them to think about what they have to do in order not to sky their blade. But the inverse, like saying, "keep the hands up at the catch," is a directed focus where they don't have to think at all and can stay focused on the task in front of them. If you're yelling and all over the place, you only become a distraction.