Next up In The Driver's Seat—where we hear from the folks who keep the shells straight—is coxswain Gabriela Rivera.
Gabriela, a junior on the Notre Dame Men's team, walked onto the team--and into the Driver's Seat--as a freshman. The ND stroke seat, Michael Bektas, nominated her because she has gone "from a novice to steering a perfect line at HOCR and is now leading us in ND's best season in history."
At last month's SIRA Championship, Gabi coxed the Irish 1V to the top ACRA school finish in the Grand Final, edging out Virginia at the line.
Let's take a ride with Gabi, In The Driver's Seat:
row2k - What are the three most important things to being a successful coxswain?
Gabriela Rivera - 1. Steering: You have to be able to maneuver the boat for efficient practices and successful races. Not only is it a safety thing, but when you are spot on with your steering, rowers have more trust in your calls.
2. Cadence: When it’s the last 500 of a race and the guys are dying, they probably won’t process the exact words you are saying, but they will feed off of your energy and the way you are saying it. Molding your voice to match your calls will allow your crew to get to the point where you use a certain tone and they immediately know what to do.
3. Knowing the strength and weaknesses of each rower: Individual calls are arguably the most effective. Understanding each guy so you know how to selectively motivate them and make them perform to the best of their ability will win you races.
row2k - What is your favorite drill to run with your crews? Any tips on how to do the drill well, for maximum effectiveness?
Gabriela Rivera - This changes every week depending on what the crew needs to work on technically, but right now my favorite is the 3 part recovery pause: arms away, bodies over, half slide.
It is very effective for focusing the crew on body composure and connection during the recovery. To run the drill well, allow enough time at each pause to reflect on boat feel, give them feedback in between strokes to improve the connection and, remember, set is important.
row2k - What's some of the best coaching advice you've received about your coxing?
Gabriela Rivera - Don’t have a plan.
To be a great coxswain, you need to be a reactive one. Coxing is situational. Every race is different. There are so many variables out of your control that you must be able to take in all that information in real-time, and respond with the most effective game plan that will get you through the line first.
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?
Gabriela Rivera - We were down 3 seats down after high strokes. Immediately, I said we were going to break them with base pace. I focused on finding the rhythm of a powerful base until we were even. I then called on each rower, giving them one thing to focus on to take their seat back. With that, we walked through and it was definitely the most exhilarating and effective call I have ever had.
row2k - Can you tell us anything about learning how to call a good start?
Gabriela Rivera - Starts need to be clear and controlled.
The nerves are already so high at the start line, no one needs more chaos. Once you get into high strokes and things are going well, then you can bring the hype. But in the beginning, possess the confidence and composure that you want your rowers to have.
row2k - Worst race/practice you've ever had?
Gabriela Rivera - With the winters that we have in South Bend, practices can get miserable. The worst would have to be when I was in a four and it was snowing, and bow pair was way too splashy. I got out of the boat, and this shell of ice just fell off my body and shattered on the dock. Took me a good four hours to warm up after that.
row2k - Best race/practice you've ever had?
Gabriela Rivera - Regarding the best race, even though the outcome was a wake up call for our team, HOCR was definitely a favorite race of mine. You have so much autonomy as coxswain to show off your skills at the Charles. Good steering and coxing can make or break this race, and when you have the best line of your life, it is a very rewarding experience.