The following article in the New York Times this past weekend should resonate with (and maybe slightly rattle) rowing coaches everywhere: Vocal Strain Poses Long-Term Risks for Coaches. Anyone Have a Lozenge?
The article outlines how basketball coaches who yell their way through 30 games and all the attendant practices per year face recurring problems with their voices, and may be causing longterm damage in the offing.
Rowing coaches may have it much worse. Admittedly, rowing coaches aren't yelling in giant basketball arenas with tens of thousands of fans blowing vuvuzelas – but the following probably more than make up for it:
- Yelling across multiple lanes and large patches of water to a few dozen athletes, all over the noise of outboard motors, oars thumping, water splashing, coxswains coxing
- Very little coaching in close quarters such as a sideline, bench, etc. – mostly projecting over distance
- Yelling in sometimes fairly extreme cold conditions
- A 9-10 month season, plus summer coaching
- Last but definitely not least - the erg room
The erg room is truly a special case - even the submissions so far (and in past years) for the best erg music support a fact we all know: that the erg room is brutal on vocal cords (and eardrums). Even coaches who weather the fall fairly well are wrecked after the first 2k of the year; after two or three flights of tests, their voices are done for, sometimes until well into summer.
The erg room is a special case
Coxswains arguably face many of the same issues, although in my experience the best coxswains use their PA systems well, and don't yell continuously at their boatmates up and down the lakes and rivers. Nonetheless, their jobs require a lot of talking, a lot of encouragement and exhortation, a lot of being heard above the din of sport, and yes even some yelling.
A quick scan of the comments area outlines the advisability of trusting your vocal cords to lozenges and Life Savers; it being a major newspaper, naturally licensed speech pathologists log on to offer some interesting advice.
Coaches and coxswains, what are you doing to preserve and protect your vocal cords from the demands of coaching rowing? Let us know in the comments, or if you have more expansive thoughts or experience with the subject, send an email.
'Coach's voice is shot, we gotta step in...'