What should a cox say during a long (15 minute) race to keep the rowers motivated, without sounding repetitive?
A long race is a challenge. Happily there’s a great solution.
Plan the race beforehand
Take a look at the landmarks (bridges, bends etc), know where the straights are and how long they are, decide where your starting and finishing sprints begin and end.
Also know your crew – what are the technique things which they need to be reminded of to keep their pattern of rowing efficient and effective? Discuss this with the coach.
What you need to do is to divide the race into segments. Think quarters. Then overlay the landmarks and write it out like a list. Something like this
Tight bend to RHS
Then you insert into these the quarters of the race. It may help to have distance markers aligned with the quarters and the landmarks as well.
Long straight – first 500m
Half way point
Long straight – second 500m
You get the idea. Now you have landmarks and distance markers.
And the next part is to overlay some pre-prepared tactics.
These are designed to help keep the average boat speed up – keep the technique optimal and give the crew something to focus on.
So you will have some power pushes. How many strokes? What does the crew do to prepare for the power push? (do you sit up 3 strokes prior, or check the boat is level etc); What happens after the power push ends? – how do you prevent the boat speed dropping down?
The technique points you get from your coach and these should be planned as 10 – 20 stroke focuses. … You can tell the crew HOW to do the focus so calling “Next ten focus on catches by squaring early” or “next ten accelerating the finish by drawing the inside hand in the last quarter of the power phase”.
All these technique focuses need to be practiced so the crew is REALLY GOOD at doing them.
Join these two together
Your job as cox now is to take the list of race features and plan your pushes and your technique around the features. So you insert a sequence in every time you know you are going to have to steer by doing a power ten push on the last bit of straight before you have to steer (this increases the boat speed before you slow it down by steering) and then you can push for another 10 after you have stopped steering. Another thing is to push into and out of bridges and also through the distance markers.
Each focus needs advance preparation (mentally getting the athletes ready by telling them you’re about to do it, how to approach it) and then you do the thing itself. Minimum is 10 strokes for each one.
If you have a Coxmate GPS you can see average boat speed and telling the crew what this is can be helpful so they know how efficient each move and push has been.
So write this out in full in your document adding in the pushes, technique around the framework of the landmarks and distance markers.
YOUR RACE PLAN
Start (sequence of strokes)
Focus on long strokes for 20
Power push into bridge
Power push out of bridge
Technique onto the catches
Power push as steering ends and we move into the straight
Long straight – first 500m
Power push for 20 through the 500m mark
you get the idea…..
This is the BASE RACE PLAN. Print it out, put int a plastic wallet and tape it to your thigh so you can look down and see it during the race as a reminder. Use highlighter pen if you need for key points not to be missed.
On the day, what happens can be very, very different.
Say there’s a giant head wind – you need to revise the technique to be very focused on techniques to take advantage of a head wind. Say there are crews to be overtaken – how to throw in extra moves to overtake and then get clear water. if you are being overtaken, have the crew hold off the other guys.
There will be plenty to say without being repetitive.
A skilful coxswain also judges distances and tells the crew how far to another crew or a landmark so they can focus on just that one marker and mentally tick it off as being passed.
Overlay all this with periods of QUIET. While the crew is pushing for 10, you don’t need to say anything as long as they are being effective. But come stroke 8/9/10 you may focus them on maintaining the boat speed after the push by removing extraneous movement in their body, by telling them the boat speed and telling then to transition off the push and into the main race pace rhythm.
The key is to practice everything beforehand. Know HOW to do each move and have the crew know what you MEAN by everything you say and WHAT they have to do and HOW to do it.
Have a great race!