At some point you’ve probably heard your coach say that “every race is an opportunity” or “every race is a learning experience.” When it comes to evaluating your performance as a coxswain, you won’t have many opportunities that are better learning experiences than the situations you encounter while racing which is why recording yourself is such an important part of your development.
Record yourself during a race or a race practice; once you’ve got your audio in hand, here are three areas to pay attention to:
Did you execute the race plan effectively and if you had to deviate from it, did you do so in a way that was easily understood by the crew?
Ideally, when it comes to your race plan, you’ll have a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C because you never know when you’re going to need to transition between them because the race is developing differently from what you’d originally planned. The better acquainted you and your crew are with the plan before launching for your race, the smoother the transition will be if you need to make that jump. Having to do this during a race is a good test of your composure, your ability to stay focused, and your awareness of how the race is developing around you. What you control is how you adapt to change.
Did you make technical corrections that contributed to an increase in boat speed?
An easy way to determine the effectiveness of a technical call is if the boat’s speed picks up within 3-5 strokes and is maintained for 5+ strokes. If you’ve got a SpeedCoach you can determine if your speed is improving by watching for a consistent improvement in splits that is maintained for five or more strokes. If you don’t have a SpeedCoach you can look to see if the boat is running out further between strokes, which is done by watching for an increase in the distance between your puddles. During a race it’s too late to be coaching a rower or crew’s technique but you can/should still make simple, targeted calls that address issues if and when they pop up.
Did you use your voice effectively by maximizing your tone, intonation, etc., to support your calls?
A monotonous, robotic coxswain is an ineffective one because there’s nothing to keep the rowers engaged throughout the piece. As you listen to your audio, take note of where you are in the race and if your tone, volume and intensity matches the situation. If you’re bowball to bowball, do you sound like you’re in a tight race or do you sound like you’re coxing a steady-state piece during practice? Clarity is also key here. As you listen to your calls, consider how easily understood they are, both in terms of their meaning and how clearly you’re speaking as you communicate with the crew.
To get the most out of reviewing your audio, you have to be able to identify your strengths and weaknesses–which requires objectivity on your part–without focusing too much on one or the other. Once you’ve picked out a few things to work on, record yourself again after a few practices and/or during your next race so you can re-evaluate your performance and see how you’re progressing.
ASK FOR Feedback
You should also ask for feedback on your audio from other people when possible. Your coach is a good resource but your stroke seat (or another rower) can also be a great person to have listen to it since they’re actually in the boat with you. Different ears pick up on different things so the more people you have listening, the more insight you’ll have to work with as you identify areas to improve going forward.
Think of recording yourself as the equivalent of doing extra steady-state workouts as a rower. Is it necessary to become a better athlete? No, but you’re leaving free speed on the table.