Winter training tips for Coxswains and Coaches

So it’s getting colder and darker here in the Southern Hemisphere and we can’t get onto the water as often so indoor training is the norm.

What can the Coxswain do?

Coxmate has researched a bundle of tips for you.  

The Ready All Row blog advises improving your coaching skill.  Can you spot when athlete are making technical faults?  Not just when on the rowing machine, also when lifting weights, doing body circuits or running.  Fine-tune your calling while the crew are on the rowing machines.  The great part of this is that you can focus wholly on the calls and don’t need to worry about steering.  So get the tone, timing and delivery perfect. 

The coxswain who is a coach, Yasmin Farooq of Stamford, advocates getting coxes to run the training sessions on land in the winter in this article.  And she has some great advice on how to improve your calling style including

  • This is a great time to ensure you’re doing a solid job of calling “transitions” efficiently. When changing ratings and intensities, make sure you’re consistent in your building calls and lengthening calls. Are the transition calls you’re using ones that can easily be used during racing? Keep these simple and clean.
  • Make sure your calls support the technical direction of the coach. Reinforce those calls with “Rhythmspeak.” If the coach tells the team s/he wants quicker leg drive for example, make sure you call “legs!” right when the legs go down. Also, take this time to get creative with your calls. Look for themes and mental imagery that the crew can use and that specifically support what your coach is teaching. “Knees down,” “Press,” “Jump,” “Push,” and “Blast off!” are some other leg drive calls that come to mind. Rhythmspeak calls should also reflect the intensity and stroke rate that you’re using at the time.

Third bit of advice is in regard to coaching on the ergo from the Believers in the Stern blog

  • The wise coach creates a role for the coxswain during the erg practices – in fact you can use it as part of your coxswain selection criteria.
  • Many rowers do not want to be coxed on the erg (and may threaten to punch your head in if you try). Erging can be a very personal battle of self against machine with no room for a third person; you don't want to get between that particular hammer and anvil.
  • However, a few rowers find being coxed helpful under certain circumstances. Let your rowers know you are glad to cox erg pieces for them as a service on request, but do not force it. Some rowers prefer to be coxed by other rowers. If one of your rowers does request it, talk through the piece ahead of time so that you know exactly what is wanted. Be wary of trying to cox technique on the erg unless you are very sure you know exactly what you are doing; mistaken advice can lead to bad habits. That said, reminders of slide control are usually helpful because the mechanics of the erg tempt slide rush even in people who otherwise would never do it.

Mary Whipple’s 9th Seat blog advises you to be very knowledgable about the goals of the ergo workout and not to be afraid of joining in on the machines if you aren’t needed in another role.  Doing the workout yourself builds respect from the crew. 

  • Know the workout and what the goal of the workout is
  • Learn the rowers who want to receive encouragement and those who do not
  • Learn how to set the drag factor on an erg, how to set the monitor for the workout, how to recall the memory to record the workout
  • Know how your coach wants you to record the scores, know if you need to record the average split, time, meters, heart rate or wattage
  •  If there are too many coxswains to record then don’t be afraid to jump right in for the workout

Lastly if you’re feeling in need of a good read

How to survive Winter Training for Rowers and for Coxswains.



Need new coxing equipment before the event?  

We have stock and can ship quickly or deliver to you at the regatta.  Please get in touch 

We got this delightful email from Tania Christie - a returning coxie from Canada who is enjoying our email training programme Andy Probert's Top Tips for Coxswains and the Advanced Racing Tips for Aspiring Coxswains by Michael Toon

I don't know if people tend to respond to your email (I believe it's the 3rd email sent out in the set?) but I figured I'd send you one.


I'm a fairly new coxswain,and this is my first season as a competitive coxswain. Before this I was a rower, training 50-60 hours a week when I injured my back. Being the stubborn rower I was, I pushed through it for about 10 months before I was finally forced to stop. Not wanting to leave crew, I decided to continue as a coxswain. Being 5'6" and roughly 125, it wasn't too much of a struggle.


I was terrified coming back this season as a coxswain- definitely the least experienced of the 4 coxswains my program has, I stuck to the group of girls I'd been training with the season before and became one of their two coxswains. I was trying to find any way possible to learn more about coxing, to extend my knowledge and develop on my own. Through this, I found your page and it's been a great help and a major starting point in my training. 


Though my crews use cox-boxes (It's not common to find coxmate in Canada), the information I've been able to find through you guys has been immensely helpful. About 3 months in to training with the girls, I was competing for the varsity coxswain position against the other coxswain in our program, who had three years of experience on me, but I decided to help out our boys crew, who was lacking a coxswain. Over the past few months I've slowly lost interest in the girls (though I feel terrible saying it) and the boys crew has become my brother and my family. More recently, I handed in my letter of intent to transfer entirely from the girls program to the boys. A major step, and one that came a lot easier than expected. Seeing as I'd already been coxing the boys for a few months, I didn't think much of it, however I came across your article on coxing the opposite sex. I thought it's be amusing to read it, but I actually learned so much from such a short piece of writing. 


I've been receiving both of the coxing tip sets of emails, and they've also been incredibly insightful- it's amazing how much I can learn, and how much I have yet to learn. These small things have sent me back in to re-directing my passion from rowing, to coxing. Not to say I don't miss the water, but coxing is a lot less painful than I expected. I've been inspired to reach out to other members in the rowing community- and I'm blessed to be surrounded by some amazing people. I train out of the same boat bays as Canada's national team, and the local university. I've been in touch with both university, national and olympic level coxswains and had the chance to have one-on-one talks, listen to voice recordings, and get racing and practice tips from them. I've even had the chance to cox a woman's 4+ to gold at a university regattas (but shh, don't tell- I kept my name off the roster for eligibility purposes, but I still carry the pride). 


After learning how to fix just about anything in a boat, I've now taken the role of "caretaker" of the coxing supplies. I'm just now being able to really take a look at our coxing materials, to pick them apart and learn how to build, clean and repair them. I'm fortunate enough to have a highly experienced (and well decorated) coxswain as our head coach, who's taken me under his wing over the past year. 


I don't mean to toot my own horn, but I've done some pretty stellar things and coxed to some impressive placings over the past year, and one week away from the (2nd) biggest regatta of the year for my crews, I've been re-reading emails I've gotten from coxmate, and reading through old blog entries, articles and such. You and your guys have inspired me in so many ways and I'd like to thank you- you've played a part in helping me be where I am. If I come back from next weekend with gold around my neck, my boys and I will be thanking you for giving me a jumpstart into the wonderful world of coxing. Fingers crossed, come June I'll be in a boat with my boys headed for one of the biggest regattas North America offers- Royal Canadian Henley. 


To answer the question asked; I am enjoying my coxmate coxswain training tips email newsletter, and I find it helpful, short, an easy read, and definitely easy to practice in my own coxing. 


Thanks for the help, even though it's not directed specifically at me, it's helped me personally and I'm sure a lot of other great young coxswains who started off just like me- lost, terrified, and not willing to ask for help. You're a huge help for coxswains around the world- just like this one from the far west of Canada. 


Best Wishes, 

Tanya Christie

Rowing rigger spacer clip

We get asked about the most basic gear a cox should have with her in the boat and so here’s our short list and a longer list and a special list.

For beginner coxswains

  • Lifejacket – it’s the law
  • A Coxmate Amplifier (obviously)
  • Hat – a cap, a or waterproof depending on the weather
  • Spanner or wrench – Metric or imperial depending on your boat.  Tie it to your lifejacket.  

What not to take in the boat

  • Keys – no, just don’t do it. 
  • Mobile phone – ditto.  Even in a waterproof bag.  Unless it’s tied down stuff can get wet or fall into the river.

Stuff for special rowing outings

In the dark

  • Take a torch flashlight – extra lights for boats or little ‘frog lights’ that loop onto your rigger.  I saw a cox once with a flashing light on the back strap of her cap which was really visible
  • Backlit Coxmate – turn it on before leaving the boathouse (check our Coxmate manuals)


There’s a special set of stuff you need when racing

  • The bow number
  • Marshalling instructions
  • Race plan – especially for head races when the course is long or unfamiliar
  • Tape – yep, electrical tape can be used to fix up a whole load of stuff
  • Spare rigger nut and height spacers – the clip-on Spacers are best

Now what have we forgotten?

Tough subject but necessary.  How to pick the right coxswain for your crew.

There are two parts to this

  1. training and improving the skills of your coxes
  2. selecting a crew including the cox

All coaches should be doing 1 through the year.  Every cox needs coaching and up-skilling along with the rest of the crew.  

I try to pick out the cox for specific coaching during each outing.  Often this is done when the crew is at rest because it's easier to have a quiet word.  Many coxes do not accurately follow the coaching instructions and this frustrates me - I like a cox to use the SAME words I use.  So if we're teaching a technical point, that gets reinforced through the exact same wording by the cox later in the outing.

The challenge for improving coxes' skills is that most coaches have not been coxswains (me too).  Best for you to learn where coaches fall down by reading Coaching the Coxswain by Chelsea Dommert.  The only book written by a cox about the failings of the coaches who trained her.

This book and its companions Coaching the cox on tough stuff and Coaching the cox using audio recordings need to be on your digital bookshelf.  Buy a copy and share it around your colleagues - they're pdfs so you can endlessly share them.

Evaluations are another thing.  We all test our rowers using 2k tests and skill appraisals in the boat but not the coxes.  Happily Kayleigh Durm has written a comprehensive (complex?) spreadsheet which she used for her programme. 

it includes sections on Safety, Steering, Motivation/Calls, Race Situations and allows for multiple coxes to be reviewed.  Check the tabs at the bottom of the page.

Ultimately, the crew should also be included in the coxswain selection - remember crew bonding is an important part of making fast crews.  Workmates prize amiability over ability (Loveable Fool versus the Competent Jerk).  And so when coaching I always ask the crew as well - sometimes using an anonymous vote to back-up my own views.