Getting to the line and implementing the race plan
There have been many times that I've listened to an audio recording of my coxswain student's and have not heard a race plan. 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." Having a race plan is important, and it starts with the coaches. For a coxswain to execute a proper race plan, a coach needs to help them put it in place before the day of the race.
Executing a race plan on race day means it needs to be practiced, memorized, andto be a plan that all members believe in. 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 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.
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 how to get 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.
When you’re looking for your next race day coxswain, make sure it’s someone who will 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. 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.