Next up In The Driver's Seat--where we hear from the folks who keep the shells straight and the crews on target--is coxswain Victoria Grieder.
Victoria, a second year varsity coxswain at Rutgers, began coxing in middle school at OARS in Orlando and before arriving on the banks of the Raritan, she won a U19 World Championship in 2021 for the USA in the Women's Coxed Four.
In her first year with the Scarlet Knights, Victoria raced at the NCAA Championship in the 2V, and just this past weekend, row2k spotted her starting her sophomore season at the helm of the Rutgers 1V at the Big 10-Ivy Double Dual.
Let's hop In The Driver's Seat and head 'Upstream'--as they say at Rutgers--with Victoria:
row2k - What do you see as the three most important things for being a successful coxswain?
Victoria Grieder - Successful coxswains are adaptable, coachable, and leaders.
Adaptability means being flexible and "in the moment," whether it be keeping a calm and confident tone in logistical adjustments or having the adaptability in your calls to respond to the crew's needs. Being coachable, able to apply feedback, and being a student of the sport will elevate your level of coxing. Making mistakes is normal, but learning from them, instead of sweeping them under the rug, will direct you toward mastering the basics. A successful coxswain can lead by example as a great teammate and assist in uniting the team on and off the water. As leaders, we can create something special in the boat.
row2k - What is your favorite drill to run with your crews? Any tips on how to the drill well, for maximum effectiveness?
Victoria Grieder - At Rutgers, we focus on mastering the basics during drills. With this focus, I enjoy executing a leg progression drill of some legs only pause finish, legs and swing, and then full strokes. When the initiation of the leg drive is simultaneous, it builds to an ideal feeling of accelerating the shell together. '
For maximum effectiveness, it is important to listen to how the coach explains the drill to execute their technical focuses. As coxswains, we can provide feedback on timing, blade work, and technical focuses, which are helpful to reference during continuous rowing.
row2k - What's some of the best coaching advice you've received about your coxing?
Victoria Grieder - In my first semester at Rutgers, my head coach, Justin Price, introduced me to the concept of being a "catalyst" in the boat. In the coxswain seat, this means driving a standard of excellence while creating a positive vibe. We have the potential to bring the best out of our teammates. To be a catalyst, it is helpful to have a "this boat is going to be fast because I am in it" mentality. Throughout college, I have been in pursuit of how to keep developing myself to be as much of a "boat mover" as I can in the coxswain seat.
Another valuable piece of coaching my head coach instilled is bringing the best attitude toward training. Approaching training in a "this is going to be rough" vs. a "let's rock and roll" mindset are entirely different mentalities that can affect how the training session will go. Not only is bringing a good attitude beneficial to training, but it also applies to how you approach every area of life; this is an inspiring element about how skills learned through rowing are transferable.
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?
Victoria Grieder - I love racing and embrace similar situations in training. Racing moments that come to mind are not necessarily the call itself but when the crew powerfully responds.
At the 2021 Junior World Championships in the Women's 4+, we had been down on Italy until about 450m to go. When the bow balls came level, we executed a building 5-stroke move that put our bow half a length up; then, rather boldly, I called that we had the Gold medal. With the rhythm we built, I knew we would continue acquiring traction and momentum, and we ended by winning with open water.
row2k - Can you tell us anything about what you've learned about how to call the sprint?
Victoria Grieder - In middle school, I used to believe that screaming "SPRINT" would be the best way to get my crew to "empty the tank." Fast forward to the present day, I have learned that it is necessary to be on the same page with the boat, before the race, regarding what will be said and how we will respond to specific calls. Along with being clear on how we will respond, it is helpful to discuss how we want the sprint to feel and execute what was talked about. However, going back to being adaptable, coxswains have to assess the situation during the race and feel confident to deviate from the plan if it is best for the crew at that moment, especially with the sprint.
Information is motivating; clearly communicate to your crew the margin on the nearest boat to execute opening the margin if ahead or closing the margin if behind. Another piece of information to communicate is split. Whenever boat speed is picking up, let the rowers know to advance the momentum.
On my own time, some of my workouts include sprinting on the treadmill or the erg. It is helpful to pick up on what I am saying to myself in those moments I am maxing out, as saying similar words or phrases often translate well to the crew.
row2k - Tell us about the best race/practice and the worst race/practice you've ever had?
Victoria Grieder - I love training at Rutgers. We have a lot of fun, whether on the water, in the weight room, or during erg sessions. On the water, it is awesome when two boats are trading bow balls as we push ourselves and our teammates at the highest level. It is the best training with my teammates as we feed off each other's energy. One time last year, I was coxing a boat through an "add a pair" drill and the energy from the crew was so loud, I was unsure if they could hear me, and that was a lot of fun. On the collegiate level, there is a lot more time spent training throughout the year than racing, so I am grateful to have committed to a program with people I enjoy being with daily.
I hold a myself to a standard of perfection in all areas of my life. My worst training sessions are when I am so hard on myself for not achieving my highest potential that I lose sight of remembering that I am a part of rowing because it is so much fun, and forget to appreciate the opportunity I have in the coxswain seat. A teammate once told me, "don't let the highs get too high and the lows be too low."
Thanks for riding along with Victoria -- 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.
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