Fitness for Coxswains

By Marcus McElhenney | January 24, 2013

Coxwains Off the Water

Unlike rowers who get to work out, stay in shape, and tweak their skills on ergs and tanks, coxswains really do not get a chance to improve over the winter.  But worse than that, they actually can suffer from a little coxswain atrophy.  And no matter how good you are, months or even weeks off the water will soften your skill set.

I was recently asked a question which I often get this time of year.  “What is the best way to get back into the swing of things as quickly as possible after spending so much time off the water?”  The answer is fairly simple…shut up.  No seriously, stop talking.

Now I say this a lot to my coxswains and they never believe that I am serious, but after a while…they realize I am.  Why?  Well, if you are like most coxswains, as soon as you jump into a boat for the first time after a long break you try to do too much or everything at once.  Most coxswains then muddle through a bunch of practices where they are ineffective and actually doing damage to their reps.  They are missing calls, not seeing things, rushing, steering poorly, etc.  This is compounded by the fact that they feel as if they have to establish their dominance immediately over the rowers and other coxswains.  Essentially they are doing too much, too fast, and all at once.

Quit Being Rusty by Being Quiet

Now that we are aware that we will either be rusty, or messy, we can prepare for handling it and how to improve.  This is where we quiet down.  From the moment we walk into the boathouse until we leave after the row.  By being quiet we can pay attention more closely to the things going on around us.  We will be able to focus in on what the coaches are saying and the athletes are doing.  We ‘warm up’ by raising our general awareness so that we can perform better on the water.  Then before we even call the athletes to lay hands on the boat, we mentally go through what we are going to say and how we are going to say it.  Better safe than sorry.  Then once we hit the water, we continue with our silence as much as possible.  And how ever much we are talking, it is still probably too much.

But again, why?  We are on the water, should we not strut our stuff?  Nope, not yet.  Again we want to be quiet, so we can focus on our steering.  By being quiet, we can focus on how the boat is handling and how we are making adjustments.  Having been quiet, we will also be more aware of the effect of the currents, winds, and athletes on the boat and on our steering.  We are getting back to the basics and mastering them again.  Because we are taking such a compartmental approach, we will be improving our skill set at a rapid rate to get us back to where we were before the end of last season.  We also will not be making other mistakes, because we cannot muddle an unnecessary call if it is not needed in the first place and we are being quiet and simply don’t say it.  By remaining silent, we actually killed two birds with one stone.  Then once we get comfortable with our steering, we can focus on the technique and rowers.  After that we then start working on our calls.  Because no coxswains should be criticizing rowers and making calls unless they have their steering down and an eye for good rowing.

If you ever spoke to me about coxing before, the answer boils down to the same thing…less is more.  So as the ice thaws and we start hitting the water again, don’t be afraid to quiet down a bit and focus on you.  You will see some fast improvements.   Good luck and steer straight!


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