Whip's Tips

Welcome to all things rowing and coxing related.  It's my wish to inspire leadership and community for our sport.  I'll post blogs, videos, and answers to your questions to encourage coxswains and rowers to be stronger leaders and dependable teammates.  So I hope you enjoy this space because you have influence over what you want to see and read!  

Steer Straight!, 

Coaching Coxswains Version 1.2

Getting to the line and implementing the race plan

There have been so many times that I've listened to an audio recording of my coxswain student's and have not heard a race plan.  Then after listening to their recording, I ask, "What was your race plan?" I bet you can see where this is going...because the answer is usually, "We don't have one."

Executing a race plan on race day needs to be practiced, memorized, and it needs to be a plan that all members believe in.  So before sending your crew off to race take the time during practice to let your coxswain run the warm-up and execute the race plan.  

The Warm-up

The best thing about practicing the warm-up is that it helps the coxswain become aware of how long a full warm-up takes.  In a perfect world, your crew will launch with enough time and have enough space to execute exactly what they have practice for their warm-up.  Let's face it, not all race day timelines go according to plan.  

During practice... 

  • Give your coxswain a logistical challenge by cutting the warm-up down by 10 minutes and stress that they must be lined up ready to "race" two minutes before your established "race time" 
    • Pay attention to what your coxswain changed within the warm-up.  Did they remove important builders or did they shorten the time that they needed to row by 6's? After practice review their choices and recommend what to cut out and what absolutely needs to stay.  
    • Having a discussion with your coxswain is key.  It allows them to think through their decision making process and it allows you to start getting to know their decision making habits.  Knowing how and why your coxswain makes decisions will make coaching and mentoring your coxswain that much easier.  
  • Give them a "race day" traffic pattern 
    • Having to spin multiple times adds time to the warm-up schedule.
    • Coxswains can start to learn how much water they need to fit in a start or their last builder before spinning. 
  • Talk with your whole crew to decide what works best for the warm-up that gets everyone ready to go full speed by the time they need to line up two minutes before. 
    • Not only does this get everyone on the same page, it also helps your rowers build trust in their coxswain when you affirm that the coxswain knows how to handle the warm-up and getting everyone to the line absolutely ready. 
  • Try not to micro manage your coxswain while they are practicing managing the warm-up.  
    • This is their time to make mistakes.  Let the mistake play out (within reason) so they can learn.  
  • *Bonus Point: Please, please, please set time aside during practice to have your coxswain and rowers review how to "Scull it around" and back into a stake boat. Everyone is filled with so much adrenaline that getting into the starting blocks should be routine and drama free.


Implementing the Race Plan

Teams need to believe that their race plan is going to make them go as fast as possible.  Yes, we race 6-boats across but at the end of the day, crews who focus on their own boat speed will get to the line AFAP.  As-Fast-As-Possible.  I loved it when my team would meet with my coach to go over the race plan.  I took notes, drew out the plan in a timeline format, and I started to memorize it.  For a coxswain, the race plan is the outline to what they are going to say over the 2000m course. (*Hint* this is foreshadowing the blog post about motivation being prioritized the least in selection. Link to come after I write it.) The race plan also keeps everyone focused within their own lane and boat.  

So when looking for your next race day coxswain, make sure they implement the race plan that everyone believes in and has practiced.  Take the time to listen to your coxswain's racing audio to make sure they deliver the race plan correctly and that they don't waste an opportunity to maximize boat speed by they way they deliver the plan.  

Information is motivation and your coxswain must inform their teammates of when the next element of the race plan needs to be executed and why.  The "Why" is very important and a whole other topic to get into.  Above all, coxswains who implement a race plan are going to grow into very valuable boat movers.  Foster this skill and demand this skill from your coxswain and rowers and boat speed will grow over the whole race season.  


Steer Straight!


Race Plan: Coaching the Coxswain

Race Plan: Coaching the Coxswain

Coaching Coxswains Version 1.1

Does/Can/Will the coxswain steer straight? 

I've heard from a lot of coaches that they don't know how to coach a coxswain to steer straight.  Well, I say that you can.. and.. that you can't.  First, let's explore 'the can't.'  I recently was talking with a coach whom I really respect and admire about one of their coxswains who is a well respected senior, team leader, but can't steer.  So I rolled up my sleeves and put on my coxswain coaching hat and went through my 'go-to' tips for steering.  The coach kept saying, yes, already tried that, it didn't help.  At first I was at a loss and bummed because I couldn't have the mind blowing answer. I took a moment and then came to the conclusion that maybe this coxswain simply can't steer straight.  I mean, how many bad drivers do you know out on the road right now?  I put a coxswain who can't steer in the same category as a rower who can't get their catch in on time.  Both will make their boats move down the course, just not as fast and efficiently as athletes who steer straight and row more direct and longer.  

With that said, there has to be hope.  Coxswains just have to be coached and mentored the same amount of time as your rower with the big P word, potential.  

Boat Maneuverability

Not teaching coxswains to maneuver their boats forward, backwards, sideways, and together within the first weeks of practice is a coaching mistake. Taking the time to lay a solid foundation of how to maneuver efficiently with other boats and on your water way will only increase the efficiency of practice.   Next time you are on the water, give your coxswains a boat maneuvering challenge. As the season progresses, keep giving them challenges. 

Ex: Give your coxswains a location of a start line.  Give them lane assignments and a time to meet. Then observe how long it took for them to maneuver their boats into their lanes with enough distance between each other and behind the line.  Take notes and then discuss either right then and there or off of the water on how well they handled the wind, other crews and timing.  
Ex: Have your coxswains back into a stake boat. It can be your dock or your coaching launch or a buoy on the water.
Ex: Video their course from behind then review it with them on land.  
Ex: Critique how they executed the traffic pattern, where they are physically on the water and where they need to be. 
Ex: Have them dock multiple times in a row on both sides of the dock. 


Now think back to this season's or last season's first week of practice.  I bet no one will remember what drills you worked on, what the coxswains said, what you said, or how well/bad everyone rowed.  Take this time to coach the coxswains on where they need to physically be on the water, how the traffic pattern should be executed, and where the meeting points should be during practice.  Building awareness of steering the traffic pattern and where to physically be on the body of water will help train the coxswains awareness and ability to maneuver their boats.  As a coach, you need to stress the importance of maneuvering and steering well and that it will help the coxswain build trust and credibility amongst the team.  As a coach, remove the coxswain's pressure of speaking to fix technique and have them speak to communicate what they need from their rowers to maneuver their boats on the water and into the dock. I hope you are realizing that a coach needs to dedicate skill and drill time for coxswains in the same way they design skill and drills for rowers.  I also hope you realize that you have to train your rowers expectation of their coxswains.  The most important thing a coach can do when giving coxswains opportunity to perfect their boat maneuvering skills is to validate when they have done a steering skill right.  Not only will you give them confidence, you will give the rowers confidence in their coxswains as well.  

Is there a conclusion? 

My opinion is still out as to whether you can teach a coxswain to steer straight.  I do believe you can make time within your practice to teach them order of importance to their coxswain seat craft and build awareness.  Steering, or rather, boat maneuverability needs to be at the top of the list for coxswains to prioritize.  Their rank amongst the team needs to reflect this importance.  More importantly, the team and rowers need to know that a coxswain's number one priority is to maneuver their boat and prioritize their decision of what to say towards steering their boat correctly down the race course and on their home body of water. Empower coxswains to feel pride and to take ownership of how they maneuver their boats. Reward coxswains who take pride in staying aware of where they are and where they need to be on the water.  Stay diligent in your expectation, reminders, and quality of boat maneuverability.  


Steer Straight!, 


Road to Rio

I'll rise up!  I don't know about you but I'm getting pumped for Rio.  This video gave me goosebumps and not gonna lie, it got me a little misty eyed.  Plus, rowing made the cut!  The London women's eight has a cameo in the video.  Go USA! 




New Year New You

Hello and welcome to the new and improved The 9th Seat's website.  I get a lot of questions regarding respect and how to earn your seat in the boat you want.  I also get a lot of comments from coxswains who feel like they are labeled and will never rid themselves of this label.  My advice to any coxswain or rower who feels this way is to just let it go.  Meaning, you have no control over what coaches or teammates think of you. You do however, have absolute control over how you participate within our sport.  You have control over your steering. You have control over your boat feel. You have control over your situational awareness. You have control over your character and determination.  So as 2015 comes to a close and winter training sets in, you have control over your development over the next few months.  Let's set our sights toward spring racing and help each other get the seat we've been working hard for all winter.  


Steer Straight!,