Next up In The Driver's Seat-row2k's column that sits down with the folks in our sport who keep the shells straight and add that extra something to the teamwork of a crew-is coxswain Hudson Forster.
Hudson got his start coxing on the junior team at Channel Islands Rowing Club just outside Los Angeles, California.
He also started the "For Stars" podcast, where he sits down with junior rowers, rowing legends, and fellow coxswains in the hopes of learning more and inspiring other athletes. You find out all about Hudson's podcast and his roster of guests at this link.
Let's hop In The Driver's Seat with Hudson:
row2k - What are the three most important things to being a successful coxswain?
Hudson Forster - To be a successful coxswain is not as easy as one may think; however, if you steer straight, lead with example, and plan ahead of time, you can flourish.
On race day, I meet with my crew and review our race plan to make sure we are all on the same page and mindset going into the race. I find that this is a way to demonstrate the willingness to succeed as one, with one purpose in mind, which is to go out there and do our very best.
row2k - What is your favorite drill to run with your crews? Any tips on how to do the drill well, for maximum effectiveness?
Hudson Forster - My favorite drill to do with my crew are Builders. I love acceleration, and find that honing in on swinging together, matching slide speeds, and more, can be effective on race day if I make a call to increase the stroke rate or "lengthen" to walk on another crew.
row2k - What's some of the best coaching advice you've received about your coxing?
Hudson Forster - Some of the most imperative coaching advice I have received is to be a sponge and soak up all of the information, critiques, and suggestions from your coaches. If a coxswain is content with their progress, and not eager to improve each and every day before they leave the water, then they haven't accomplished anything.
I also learned that less is more. It is important to not just critique everything wrong in the boat at once, but just take everything a day at a time, and focus on one specific part of the rowing stroke for that session.
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?
Hudson Forster - A mid-race call that I made was when we were side-by-side with another boat during a dual race. I called for a "Cowabunga 5" where you take the hardest five strokes you can, and we concluded the day doing just that! We started to walk on the other boat, and gapped them to end the day of race.
row2k - Can you tell us anything about how you learned to cox a land practice or erg tests?
Hudson Forster - I spent a whole summer going into my Junior year rowing with my team on both land and water. I was able to learn the rowing stroke and to become more mindful of what a rower goes through in the boat. I learned how to be patient, and to have more empathy for them.
A coxswain can get so much out of coxing a rower on land, and see what call motivates or sticks with each individual. It is a great way for trial and error, in a sense, so that once you get back in the boat, you can reference certain technical flaws with each person or bring their spirit up. The majority of all my rowers found that extrinsic motivation from me on their 2k tests, as well as prep for their erg tests, kept them on a steady track to achieve their goals and PR.
row2k - Best race/practice you've ever had?
Hudson Forster - My best race experience was when my club scrimmaged another Southern California team in the Men's Varsity 4+ in 2021. We did a 3x2k and won all of them! The lineup was made the day of the scrimmage, and coming from a small sculling club, it was a great opportunity to race in a sweeping shell with some of my closest friends/teammates at the time.
Thanks to the crew we raced against, my club was fortunate enough to compete in their Empacher shells, which was absolutely amazing. Coming off almost a full year without racing, it was great to get out onto the water and cox the guys before they headed off to race a Men's Varsity 4x at the 2021 Youth Nationals.
row2k - Worst race/practice you've ever had?
Hudson Forster - The 2019 Long Beach Christmas Regatta: it was my second race of the day, and my coach had me jump in to cox one of the Women's 4x's. We were in the lead for the entirety of the race, until my stroke seat caught a brutal crab with about 200 meters left to go. The oar ended up snapping in half when we arrived back on land. I will never forget both those races.
Thanks for riding along with Hudson and remember, this column is open to all "drivers" out there, so if you are an experienced coxswain at any level--from juniors to masters--and would be willing to invite row2k to join you in your ride, just contact us here. We'd love to hear from you about what see from the Driver's Seat.