Racing Tips for Aspiring Coxswains
New to coxing? Need some pointers on how to handle race day? No worries! Olympic coxswain Michael Toon has outlined his approach to race day, racing and provides insight as to what it takes to cox at Olymipc level. A must read for all aspiring coxswains out there!
On Race Day
In this series of discussions I hope to outline my approach to racing, both in terms of practical considerations and a broader philosophy behind coxing on these occasions, starting with arriving at the Regatta.
The end goal for competitive coxing, like most team endeavors, is to impact positively on the outcome of your race. This starts from the minute you arrive and is a useful thought to consider during all your activities at a regatta venue.
This positive impact will manifest itself in one of two ways. Either something you say or do, an active initiative on your behalf, can prove a decisive factor in the outcome. More commonly however, the inconspicuous and unheralded performance of your tasks meticulously can allow your crew to row to their potential and succeed in a way that may have been inhibited but for your presence.
Thinking about this latter point and consistently facilitating your crew’s finest abilities is vital to long-term success as an elite coxswain.
I often tell other coxes, and I learnt this from my own failed attempts to impose myself in situations, that you should think of yourself as the roadie at a band performance and let the rowers be the rockstars, even though you are the one with the microphone. Far from being an unsung hero, your consistent attention to more mundane tasks and pride in details will, in the long run, be recognized for the indispensable role it plays and in no small way earn you the most vital of all coxing attributes, respect and authority.
Your preparation actually begins the night before, especially with the common occurrence of early starts on a Saturday in the dark drive to far away courses. Check your bag, that your coxmate is on charge (I charge it IN the bag so I don’t grab the bag and leave the coxmate) and you have your racing uniform, hat, tools, wet weather gear, and a change of clothes. Lastly, set 2 alarms, away from the bedside.
Always try to arrive at a Regatta venue first, or better yet, arrange a lift with your coach so you can’t be late and can have some uninterrupted time to discuss the race. Make your first task to ensure that the boat and other equipment has arrived safely and that a plan is in place to rig and ready the ship. The next thing I do is to take a walk around the judge’s tower and see if the regatta is on time (or expected to start on time) and to check the conditions. Check the traffic pattern, especially in unfamiliar venues. A glance down the course and a check of any flags will alert you early to any prevailing winds that may influence your approach and preparation for the day. Adjusting the inboard on the oars to suit the conditions is better done before the early warm-up row as you are putting the boat on the water to race. I usually say Hi to the judges at the tower and ask them nicely if there are any concerns or delays for the day. Apart from the information you may receive they may recognize you later as a sensible, polite and diligent coxswain that deserves a break in the event of a ruling they have to make against your crew in unforeseen circumstances…
Report back to the coach at this stage and advise them of the conditions and check the plan for the day. Rounding up the athletes is next and reiterating with them the plan from the coach.
Approaching Race Time
As the race time approaches, touching base with key members of the crew provides you with an opportunity to ascertain their thoughts and feelings. Often I am asked how to motivate the crew and I find asking explicitly to a crewmember what they like to hear to get them rowing hard helps. These moments are ideal for fleshing out words, phrases and approaches that will motivate your crewmate for the upcoming effort. Discussing other crews with the rowers now is useful as on the water attention towards your competitors is obviously discouraged and counterproductive. Allow the rowers time to relax and once again ask them if there is anything you can do to facilitate this such as checking their rig or cleaning their oar handle.
You need downtime of your own, so I usually take these required moments to myself during my weigh-in. Usually this is an accepted requirement for you between 1-2 hours prior to a race. I usually have to get down to weight so like to weigh in as soon as I am able and allow a bit of food and drink afterwards. After informing the coach, I keep my date with the scales and then grab a few moments by myself to eat and relax and go over the warm-up plan and race plan and any other issues on my mind. During the latter stages of my career I warmed up my voice as well using techniques learnt from an acting coach, a routine best performed away from eye and earshot.
An hour before race time I would complete one last housekeeping check, ensuring that we had a bownumber (secured with tape or a small nut and bolt), the oars were adjusted and at the waterside that all the nuts on the riggers and footstretchers were tight. Make sure you check your rudder wire is secure and not frayed as well and that the speakers and ratemeter work. It is embarrassing and costly to overlook your own equipment having checked everyone else’s.
I then reconvene with the crew and give them a regular timing countdown and gentle reminders to get themselves ready (toilet, sunscreen, waterbottles) at this stage. As the crew has ample time for thoughts and reflection and usually a formal meeting with the coach before boating I keep quiet from here until launch so later discussions have more impact and not too much emotional energy is spent.
What you say between launching and the starters gun is often the most important, so using your words and dispensing your thoughts carefully and sparingly is vital now.
AUSTRALIAN MADE FOR THE WORLDCoxmate Pty Ltd ® 59 First Avenue, St Peters, South Australia 5069
Phone: +618 8132 1360 Fax: +618 8132 1393 Email: email@example.com ABN: 98 109 876 397
Privacy | Delivery and Shipping Costs, Warranty and Returns