Anne Zettek-Sumner is known for helping her rowers find their rhythm and follow their stroke, even if it means letting things fall apart for a bit. A coxswain with almost a decade of experience, she coxes for the Quinsigamond Rowing Club in Worcester, Massachusetts. Although she coxes mostly for the women's program, she can be found in myriad race boats with her teammates.
On the Relationship Between the Cox and the Stroke
Anne's stroke seat in a race at Masters Nationals, Steve Lucht (the rower towering over Anne), says, "Anne and I have the same idea of what the perfect stroke looks like. Working together, we can take a boat that's never rowed together–something that happens alot at our club–and get them to blend. She and I communicate constantly, even if we're not talking. One day, Anne made a call for ratio and I said, 'Yes, I love ratio!'"
On the Importance of Ratio
Anne chimes in, "You don't often hear rowers thrilled about ratio, so I knew Steve was the guy to stroke that boat. And the great part is, even though he's a fairly new rower [Lucht has been rowing for two years], he doesn't get rattled by what's going on towards the bow. He just bears down and sticks with it. Eventually, the rowers find his rhythm and we get that feeling of swing."
Says Steve, "Every single stroke should be the best stroke you take, so if there's rush behind me on one stroke, my job is to make sure the next stroke is better. My job is rhythm. Anne helps me find that rhythm. She keeps it calm enough for us to come together as a boat."
On Finding Swing
Anne smiles when she talks about swing. "You know you're going to have a good row when you feel swing."
Steve jumps in, "If you're in a boat with good rhythm it's the sweetest feeling. That's what creates the feeling of swing, where the run is actually faster than the effort we're putting in."
On Connecting with Your Stroke Seat from the Cockpit of a Four
"Our connection works in an eight or a four," Anne says. "It's a different relationship–I don't make any different calls–but I trust the stroke pair to keep it steady and even. I'll say, 'Bow-six, watch stroke pair. When they lengthen, lengthen with them.' It's no different coxing in a bow-loader," she says, "I just trust my rowers more."
On Bringing a Boat Together
"I tend to be less aggressive than a lot of other coxswains," Anne says, "but hopefully just as effective, in a different way. Coxing Masters is about gathering these disparate groups of people–usually different ages and abilities and experience levels–and trying to blend them all together in a boat. I feel an aggressive approach wouldn't work as well. Jumping into a boat with people who haven't spent much time rowing together, it's just a different animal."