“I have been a coxswain for one year now and the Head of the Ohio was my first regatta in which I rowed a race and coxed a race. It’s a lot of fun!
My tips for coxswaining are simple!
Know the course!
Be at the Coaches and Coxswain meeting at the designated time before each race. These are usually very early, so know the time.
Always wear a watch.
Know the warm up, race pace (rate) and how many power tens your coach wants for your specific race. They are all different.
Have knowledge and always be aware of your surroundings…. Is your boat rigged? Are your rowers warmed up?
It’s very important to wear a coxswain bag and have it filled with appropriate tools.
— because we de-rig and rig the boats when we travel, parts of the boat may be loose and may cause a race to end short if things are not tightened.
It’s your job to make sure the rowers check their boat before and during the warm up.
While your stern pair/four is warming up with their pick drill, make sure bow pair/four are checking their equipment and the other way around.
Also, be aware of what they need to check for. Ask coxswains or a coach for this answer and we will show you!
For the race:
Know the course!
Confidence is key.
If there is a slight question in your voice, you are not trusting yourself, therefore there is no reason your rowers will trust you.
You are not only steering the boat, you are motivating your rowers to stay strong and finish their race from beginning to end with full pressure and confidence.
When steering, you never pull the string or push the lever more than an inch. Pressure should be given by specified rowers, starboards or ports to turn a boat. Please keep this in mind.
What should you say?
Well, what would you want to hear? Also, ask your rowers what fires them up. It’s important to create relationships with them because they will trust you and you will learn what helps them as a rower.
Say things that are encouraging and helpful.
Avoid words like, “DONT and STOP.” What comes out of your mouth should sound positive and nothing nasty or negative.
If the set needs to be fixed, tell your rowers. If you feel the boat is leaning port side or starboard side, know what to say!!
Port lean = Ports raise your handle heights, starboards lower them.
Starboard lean = Starboards raise your handle heights, ports lower them.
Pressure in the boat.
Does the boat feel like it’s moving? What is your rate at? If the boat feels slow, and your rowers are going through the motions, you need to bring the pressure up! This is when you say, “in two, power ten. 1 – 2, power ten here!” You should say each number according to the stroke. In between, make strong comments encouraging the power throughout 1-10. Please ask if you have any questions.
Youtube is great for researching what other coxswains say and I recommend doing so. I am not adding links because these are just my personal suggestions.
I suggest a small notebook that can be carried in your own coxswain bag. Here you can have race details, words of encouragement written to remind you new things to say, and always have them with you in the boat.
A few things I say
I remind my rowers of posture. “Tall backs, chins up.”
I remind my rowers of the set. “Lean in to your riggers.”
It’s great to speak in rhythm with the boat. “Drive” “Catch” Push” are words I say at the exact second their oar catches water. It encourages them to push through it.
I know the women like to hear descriptive things like, “blast off with your heels.”
Coaches strive on rowers getting their hands away quickly. “fast hands” or “quick hands” or “fast hands away” are some things I add to remind the rowers to keep it up.
Motivating words have to come from within you.
I will say things to remind rowers of the hard work they have put in, the mornings they have sacrificed, the time and the energy they have endured. They should be in pain and giving it everything. We are rowing for CSU. We are a team, we row as one. One catch, one click with the oar lock. One splash. Keep the blades off of the water.
Know how to recover when a rower catches a crab. Have the pair weigh-enough and you may have to have four weigh-enough. You want the boat to keep moving while the rower pulls in their oar and gets readjusted. If the boat must come to a complete stop, have the boat build up in five strokes to the appropriate stroke rate. They are building up, so tell them where they are. ” In five we bulid to a ’28’ – 1 (we’re at an 18) 2 (we’re at 22) 3 -(24 keep buidling) 4 (we’re at a 26, get to a 28) – 5 (we’re at a 28, keep the rate here!)”
KNOW THE COURSE
Since you know the course like the back of your hand, you know where half-way is and you know where the last 500, and 200 meters are. Tell your rowers. I know the thing I need to work on the most is visuals. Rowers are not allowed to turn their head whatsoever. When a rower moves their heads, the boat leans! “heads in the boat” “look forward”
It is your job as the coxswain to give your rowers the heads up where you are at in the race. It helps them stay strong and gives them a picture of what is left.
When there are boats nearby, your rowers should know. “We have a shell two boat lengths away! Let’s close the gap!” Tell you rowers a game plan. “In two, let’s gain some ground, and catch em’ – 1 – 2 Close the gap! give me some pressure. We’re on their 6 seat, we’re on their 3 seat, I want their bow ball now!” After you pass the shell, make sure you break away, you don’t want your rowers to lose that high pressure just yet. Keep them at that rate until you break away and keep it there. Tell your boat how tired or weak the other team is, and how strong we are!!!
After the race
Once that power ten or twenty has been pushed through at the finish, an air horn will blow and make sure it is your boat that has crossed the finished line. Bring the boat to a paddle. Your rowers are tired. Congratulate your rowers, and keep it positive. Once you have docked and put the boat in slings or on the trailer, make sure you meet with the coach for a team meeting. All of your rowers should be present and you will discuss the event with your coach.
Last but not least, have fun! We’re competitive, but we have fun too. There is a lot of competition out there and we work just as hard to cross that finish line! Cheer on your team mates in the other races! ”