Next up In The Driver's Seat--where we hear from the folks who add that extra something to the teamwork of a crew--is US Women's Eight coxswain Hannah Broadland, fresh from the Racice Worlds.
Hannah got her start in the stern with Capital Crew in California, then coxed at San Diego State University. She was a member of the team when the SDSU Athletic Department decided to cut Women's Rowing, and, among many other efforts to reinstate the program, she organized this protest at the 2022 San Diego Crew Classic:
Her first taste of international racing came in 2018, where she raced to a bronze medal with the USA women in the eight, and she coxed the 2021 U23 Women's Four. 2022 was her first senior national team, and her crew won the preliminary race, before taking fourth in the final.
She also won the Champ Four at the 2021 Head of the Charles with a US Training Center crew.
Let's hop In The Driver's Seat of the US Women's Eight with Hannah:
row2k - What would you say are the top three most important things for becoming a successful coxswain?
Hannah Broadland -The 3 most important things to being a successful coxswain are confidence, communication skills, and a bank of metaphors. Confidence is important because if you don't believe in what you're saying, then nobody in the boat will either!
Next comes communication skills, vital both on and off the water. A great coxswain has a clear understanding of their coach's vision and knows how to best communicate it with their team. You can get there through the power of observation and by not being afraid to ask questions.
Lastly, the bank of metaphors: having multiple different ways of explaining certain rowing concepts helps ensure that every athlete in your boat reaches the same level of understanding. A coach once recommended that I write out all the different calls I could make for each part of the rowing stroke (the catch, the front end, the body swing, etc). This was a few years ago and I still add to this document whenever I think of, or hear, something new. Not only does this prevent my coxing from getting repetitive, but it also means I have multiple ways of illustrating a concept if somebody in our boat is having difficulty making technical changes.
row2k - What is your favorite drill to run with your crews? Any tips on how to the drill well, for maximum effectiveness?
Hannah Broadland - My favorite drill would have to be the pick drill, where you're building from arms only to a full length stroke.
This helps break down the stroke and reminds us of the importance of applying pressure on the footboards throughout the entire stroke. When running this drill, I like to stick to 10-15 strokes per portion (depending on how well we're executing it) and stay relatively quiet so the rowers can focus on their boat feel.
row2k - What's the biggest difference between practicing with the National Team compared to going out with a college crew?
Hannah Broadland - I'd say the biggest difference would be the independence we had with certain training choices.
Pre-launching land warmups, race day boat warms ups, and when to complete erg/weights workouts were often up to us to decide, instead of being assigned like they were in college.
row2k - What's some of the best coaching advice you've received about your coxing?
Hannah Broadland - Some of the best coaching advice I've received about my coxing would have to be when Mara Allen told me, "boat momentum can't change in one stroke," something she learned during her time coaching at University of Texas, Austin.
Hearing this reminded me how important it is to stick with my calls and maintain the boat's focus on them for long enough to reap the benefits.
row2k - What is a mid-race call or move that you've made that you'll remember for the rest of your life? If so, what did it involve and how did you call it?
Hannah Broadland - My senior year of high school was my first time racing at the Head of the Lake. Leading up to the last turn, which almost takes you in a full 180, the coxswain of a boat we were gaining speed on didn't yield for us. I remember making a call to the boat about getting angry: framing the motivation on getting revenge and channeling the energy into executing a fierce leg drive. We all went full throttle.
We were able to fully walk through the other boat while on the outside of turn, then I zipped in and finished the turn off nice and tight. It was a really awesome race for our crew and we got 2nd place overall, only placing behind our own team's 1V8+.
By the way: I wasn't the top boat coxswain for a majority of my senior year of high school...and I got cut from the U23 team in 2019. Don't let boat rankings affect your confidence or your ability to chase your dreams! Instead, use these challenges/unmet desires as motivation to learn and improve.
row2k - Can you tell us anything about how you learned to steer straight?
Hannah Broadland - My novice coach taught me to "triangulate," meaning to center your point in the middle of two stagnant objects in the horizon of the direction you're going.
This way, if you continue to stay in the middle, you'll know you're going straight without having to look at your line behind you or needing to be on buoyed course.
row2k - Tell us about the best race/practice you've ever had?
Hannah Broadland - My best race is still the same as my last Row2k interview, which you can read here.
That will always be my most special race because it taught me the power of passion and trusting your boat.
Thanks for riding along with Hannah -- 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 you see from the Driver's Seat.