row2k’s newest feature offers a chance to hop in the driver’s seat with the folks who keep the shells straight and add that extra something to the teamwork of a crew: the coxswains.
This week, we ride with Adam Casler, the coxswain from Newport Aquatic Center who led the USA Junior Men’s eight to its first gold medal in 11 years in 2021.
If you are an experienced coxswain at any level--from juniors to masters—interested in inviting row2k to join you in your ride, just contact us here to be interviewed for an upcoming installment of In the Driver’s Seat.
row2k - What are your Top 3 most important things to being a successful coxswain?
Adam Casler - The 3 most important things to being a successful coxswain are awareness, confidence, and poise. Always be aware and vigilant of your crew's attitude and external obstacles. What is happening outside of the boat is just as important as what is happening inside the boat. As for confidence, this is essential. Being confident both on and off the water will help establish yourself as a coxswain that can be respected and taken seriously. When it comes to poise, it is the ability to execute your game plan with a calm mind.
row2k - What is your favorite drill to run with your crews? Any tips on how to do the drill well, for maximum effectiveness?
Adam Casler - My favorite drill to run is what my club coach calls "DDRs" -- 30 strokes, shifting the rate each 10 (e.g. 34-38-34). The focus is to establish your base length and power in the first 10 strokes, then drive the split down and look for an instantaneous change in speed with quickness and impulse in the next 10 strokes, and then hold that change in boat speed as you shift back down with maximum length and power as allowed at that base cadence for the last 10 strokes.
row2k - What's some of the best coaching advice you've received about your coxing?
Adam Casler - Be an operator. That is the best coaching advice I have received about my coxing. Learning to be in a stressful environment, and remain unstressed. Remain focused. Being in control of your situation and your deviation even when everything else around you seems unstable. Being an operator, you can stay in control of how you approach others and how you make critical decisions. This advice is something that I use both in coxing and in life.
row2k - What is a mid-race call or move that you've made that you'll remember for the rest of your life? What did it involve and how did you call it?
Adam Casler - A mid-race call that I have made that I will remember for the rest of my life is unsurprisingly from the A Final at the World Rowing Junior Championships when we won the gold in the M8+. The call was "storm the beach" and I get chills every time I listen back to it. This call was something that the 9 of us actually came up with together back in July when the boat was named. We decided that I would not make the call until the last 250 meters of that final in Plovdiv. This is what made it so much more impactful than any other call I have made to this point; we had to earn it. We had to earn the opportunity to be in that position and execute. Everything we worked for that summer was for that moment. That moment to finish the job. That moment to end the 11-year drought for the United States in the JM8+.
row2k - Can you tell us a bit about how you learned how to call a sprint?
Adam Casler - For me, I learned through trial and error. Seeing what your rowers respond to the best, how you get the most out of them, how to keep their minds in between the gunnels, etc., are all crucial to executing a race, but especially the sprint. At this point in the race, with the lactic acid continuing to build up, there is very little left in the tank for your crew, so you need to know what will get them to go. Calling a sprint is very dependent on the type of crew you are a part of and the situation of the race. In general terms though, I always make it known to my guys when and how we are bringing the cadence up well in advance from when we actually do it. Having a full race plan already in place that the entire boat has bought into is key to a successful sprint. I tend to use established, quick keywords that are specific to the crew I am a part of which allows for interpretation of what I want from them at that moment. From there, it is all about holding as much boat speed as possible and keeping them internal.
row2k - Best race/practice you've ever had?
Adam Casler - Best race so far has to be the JM8+ at the 2021 World Rowing Junior Championships. It was one of the most exhilarating races I have been in and was an accumulation of all the work the 9 of us put in that summer. After watching the U23 Men's 8+ miss out on gold by 0.21 of second and the Olympic Men's 8+ place 4th earlier that summer, we weren't going to let our opportunity slip. Going through our third 500 was where we got open water on the Germans and I knew we had it. We won the gold and broke the 5-year silver medal streak the U.S. had in the JM8+.
row2k - Worst race/practice you've ever had?
Adam Casler - Worst race had to have been my freshman year in the heat at San Diego Crew Classic when I was in my first year on varsity. I was in the 3V and we were entered in the JV event as the "B" entry. Being a B entry, we were all the way out in lane 8 for our heat. For those who have raced at this regatta, they know how much of a disadvantage a crew in lane 7 or 8 of this course has over the rest of the field when the strong winds pick up in the afternoon. Right off the blocks, I was being pushed nearly all the way into the starboard side of my lane by the heavy crosswind. It felt as if we were in a different race than the boats that were in lanes 1 through 4. We ended up missing out on qualifying for the A final by less than a second. I felt like I had no control over how we went through that race and that was a mental challenge to get past. However, getting a chance to race in lane 1 the next day in the B final gave me a great perspective on how just being in a different lane on a certain course can affect so much. Both races showed me how much lane positioning and conditions can completely change how you need to approach a race.
Thanks for riding along with Adam and remember, this column is open to all experienced "drivers" out there, and row2k would love to hear from you, even if you haven’t won a Worlds medal (yet).
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