It is important to note that the rudder will not start to act the instant you move the wires it takes a couple of strokes to work. This delay time is dependent on the speed at which you are moving as well as the size and make of the boat. If the boat is moving slowly you will find that steering with the rudder has very little effect. Therefore if you are moving very slowly (or are stationary) you will have to steer using the crew. It is also important to remember that the rudder will take a corresponding length of time to stop acting so there will be a delay between the rudder being set to the off position and it ceasing to act. In light of this, until you are very familiar with the responsiveness of a boat, you should use the rudder before it seems necessary. This anticipation can be difficult at first but will quickly become second nature. A common error is only to take the rudder off when you are pointing where you want to go. This can cause you to over-steer because of the delay in the reaction of the boat, resulting in a zigzag course.
There are two schools of thought on how to take corners most efficiently. One option is to use the rudder. The other option is to get one side of the boat to pull harder. Most of the time the former will be the more appropriate. When going round sharp corners particularly during a race you might want to get one side to pull harder as well as using the rudder. Some people will tell you that you should only apply the rudder during the drive phase. This has its merits on a straight course but is insufficient on bendy courses and quite difficult to do well. The best approach is to apply the rudder gently, to leave the rudder on for as long as necessary and then gently to take it off again. Try not to ‘pulse steer’, where you steer a little bit on every stroke. This usually results in a snaking pattern, where you steer, over-correct, over-correct, over-correct, etc. It is worth noting that it is the stern which is moved sideways when you apply the rudder, not the bow. Most of the time the difference is unimportant. However, if you are close to a bank and steering away from it, be aware that your stern will move closer to the bank. If this is the case you will have to apply the rudder gently until you have put adequate space between the boat and the bank. It is important to remember that only little movements of the string are necessary to adjust your course. Anything more and you risk setting off balance as well as over-steering.
You must be encouraging but also critical.
If you feel someone is not putting in as much power as you have instructed then you must tell them.
Sometimes the crew will be trying as hard as they can but are being ineffective because they are too tense. If this is the case then being aggressive makes matters worse.
Sometimes it is more important to calm a crew down and relax them rather than try to get them to work harder.
A few general tips when coxing:
- You should be succinct. Use only as many words as are necessary to be clear.
- Do not bombard the crew with information. Say only what you need to say.
- Make sure your speech is clear and audible.
- You are giving instructions not requests speak with authority.
- Do not interrupt the coach except where necessary to manoeuvre the boat.
- Vary your tone of voice to keep the rowers concentrating. Monotone is dull.
- Speak in time with the stroke. It reinforces the rhythm.
- Always remain positive and enthusiastic.
- Do not be afraid of silence. Allow the crew time to think about your instructions. Just because you have a microphone it does not mean you have to speak constantly. If you do, the crew will end up regarding you as background noise and their concentration will wander.
- Try not to move around too much in the boat. Despite being small, you can throw off the balance of the boat and upset the crew’s rhythm.
- Next time you feel the urge to call a Power 10 during a practice piece, make sure you give your rowers a reason. The reason can be to increase acceleration, speed, to stabilize your competitor’s boat, to execute a part of your race plan…etc. Ex: “In two we’re taking a power10 to move through the JV. One, two, on this one.
- Know your audience. Tailor your motivational phrases to what your rowers need to hear. Sometimes it not a motivational phrase but rather information of what it is going to take to win to make your rowers go harder then they think they can. (Find more in depth explanation on my blog.)
- When locked in to the stake boat be proactive with your point and plan ahead by reviewing what rower will have to scull whose oar to move your bow to port or starboard. By thinking about it on land it will make your decision come faster on the water.
- When approaching the dock, your starting position and angle will be the difference of a botched dock job or a successful dock job. Choose wisely and approach safely. There is no shame in backing down and trying again when dealing with a very expensive boat.
- When coxing side by side with another boat, communication with the other coxswain is very important to executing the workout. Don’t be afraid to talk to each other while the boats are rowing along.
- To prevent yourself from over-steering, try to absorb check from the boat in your feet by pressing firm into the footboard. Sudden jerks often make coxswains move the rudder without knowing it.
- Lead your team by example, get your sweat on and workout with your team. The next time you ask them to work harder or push harder they’ll know that you really mean it and know how it feels.
www.coxie.com (especially their coxing resources)