October 08, 2012

5 Tips for Success in Collegiate Rowing: Coxswains

Our blog feature this week is "5 Tips for Success in Collegiate Rowing" from Oklahoma City Training Center athletes. Each weekday, our athletes will give pointers on how to get the most out of your collegiate rowing experience. If you have any specific categories of interest, tweet your ideas to @RowOKC_HP !

Today's tips, for coxswains, are from Stephen Young. Stephen is a coxswain for the Oklahoma City National High Performance Center.

Stephen is a two time Senior National Team member and 2009 graduate of MIT. In 2010, he was the coxswain for the Lightweight Men's Eight and Men's Coxed Pair at the World Rowing Championships in Lake Karapiro, New Zealand. He was also a member of the Men's Coxed Pair at the 2012 World Rowing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. You can follow Stephen on twitter at @stephen_f_young

5 Tips for Success in Collegiate Rowing: Coxswains
1. Don't talk over the coach
As coxswains, the majority of our job consists of talking and communicating to our crew. When the coach is talking, that is our cue to be quiet and listen. It is difficult sometimes to be completely silent in the boat but we can use silence as a tool to improve rhythm, focus on steering, and observe what is happening in the boat.
2. Record/take notes regularly
If you don't have an audio recorder, get one. Some coxswains only record races or not at all and are wasting a valuable resource. Recording a practice at least once a month enables us to pick apart what we are saying in the boat on a regular basis and eliminate unnecessary or ineffective calls. Another side of this is to take notes regularly. In a program with multiple coxswains, you should expect to ride in the launch every once and a while. This is your most valuable learning opportunity because it enables you to get a better vantage on what is happening in the boat and to hear exactly what the coach sees and is trying to improve.
3. Know your lineup by name
I cannot stress this one enough because not knowing your lineup by name is ultimately a sign of laziness or apathy. On a very basic level, you will be a more effective coxswain just by calling someone by name before giving them a command. You will also begin to remember individuals' habits by linking their name to technical calls that you find yourself making regularly. As lineups change day to day, especially in the fall or during selection, an easy way to remember who is sitting where is to write your lineup on a piece of athletic tape and stick it somewhere visible so you can refer to it during practice.
4. Be at weight/in shape
One of my biggest pet peeves as both a coxswain and a coach is hearing coxswains say "It's OK if I'm a little overweight, I always race at weight." There is no excuse for being overweight (more than 5 lbs over min) anytime you are boated and nobody wants to haul around a fat, lazy coxswain. The closer you are to race weight throughout the year, the more your crew will respect you for showing commitment and dedication to your position and the better they will be prepared to race with you at the same weight. Something that tends to go hand in hand with weight is being in shape. This doesn't mean you have to run marathons or pull a big erg, just that you should be able to exercise with the group and maintain good overall fitness. Exercising regularly will keep you mentally sharp and help you earn the respect of your coach and crew.
5. Work and communicate well with other coxswains
This is especially true for coxswains in large programs with multiple boats on the water at the same time. The majority of success as a collegiate coxswain comes from making the coach's life as easy as possible. Cooperating with other coxswains is a much better way to earn the top boat than pitting yourself against the other coxswains in a constant battle for the top seat. If you can lead by example and work with the other coxswains to keep the crews together during steady state rows and to get lined up accurately, quickly, and promptly for pieces, the rowers and coaches will definitely take notice.

I hope everyone finds these tips useful and best of luck!

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