Next up In The Driver's Seat--where we hear from the folks who keep the shells straight and the crews fast—-is coxswain Carly Legenzowski.
Carly currently coxes the 2V as a junior at the University of Texas, and is fresh off a win at the San Diego Crew Classic. As a sophomore, she raced in the Longhorns' 1V4 and her crew's third place at the 2022 NCAAs was part of Texas' second NCAA Championship in a row last year.
In high school, Carly, a former rower, coxed for Maritime Rowing Club/New Canaan Crew--winning the 2018 Youth Nats title in the Light Men's 4--before coxing for Greenwich Crew and then heading to Texas. She also holds the Head of the Charles course record for the Youth Men's Coxed Quad, which she and the New Canaan Crew set in 2017 during the first of their back-to-back wins in that event.
Let's hop In The Driver's Seat with Carly:
row2k - What do you see as the three most important things for being a successful coxswain?
Carly Legenzowski -
row2k - What is your favorite drill to run with your crews? Any tips on how to the drill well, for maximum effectiveness?
Carly Legenzowski - At Texas, the coaches usually run the drills. The best thing the coxswain can do when drilling is to listen. Keep the attention on the drill. If you start talking too much, it takes the focus away from the drill. Just let them row and feel the boat.
My favorite drill to run is catch placement. This is just going from finish to catch, placing the blades in but not driving. It’s a great drill to work on catches while the boat is being set up and not thinking about the rest of the stroke. I also like it because it is a great drill to keep the crew warm. I tend to do it while in the queue for races when we can't move but still have some time to kill before our race.
row2k - What's some of the best coaching advice you've received about your coxing?
Carly Legenzowski - The best coaching advice I have received is to take command. It's important to establish yourself as the leader of the boat and take control of the situation, especially during races. This means being assertive in your calls, making decisions quickly and confidently, and not being afraid to give constructive criticism to the rowers. It's also important that you are receptive to feedback and suggestions from your coach and rowers. Ultimately, being in command helps to build trust and respect between you and the rowers, which is critical for success on the water.
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?
Carly Legenzowski - One thing I've really grown to love about coxing is the creative side of things. Back in high school, I was pretty serious in the boat and didn't really allow myself to get too creative.
When I got to college, I realized that being creative with your calls can really help motivate the rowers and keep things interesting. Of course, you don't want to go overboard with the creativity--the most important thing is always to be clear and concise--but sometimes trying out a new call or approach can really make a difference.
One thing I really like to do during races is call seat by seat. It helps to keep things personal and focused on our boat, but it also gives us some information and motivation about where we are in relation to the other boats. For example, if I'm on another boat's stroke seat, I'll call out my stroke seat and say "I'm on YOUR seat," and then as we move down the boat, I'll call out to each seat in turn, keeping the energy high and the focus on our own boat. It makes it a lot of fun!
row2k - Can you tell us anything about what you've learned about how to call a good start?
Carly Legenzowski - The start of a race can be super stressful and overwhelming. But staying calm and intentional will help your rowers feel the same way. You don't want to add to the chaos and nerves. Focus on setting the tone for the start and the rest of the race. With practice, you'll get better at it. My biggest piece of advice is to keep it simple! I personally get nervous when we are all lined up at the start and that is totally normal. Take deep breaths and trust yourself. Keeping it simple helps you stay cool under pressure!
row2k - Tell us about the worst race/practice you've ever had?
Carly Legenzowski - Something I am working on this season is keeping the mentality that there are no bad practices or races. Things might not always go as planned and they might not always be good but that is where we get better. There is always something to learn.
row2k - How about the best race/practice you remember?
Carly Legenzowski - I’ve had a lot of good races and practices so it's very hard to choose but I think the race I enjoyed the most would have to be the finals of the 2022 NCAA Championships. The season was hard for me, and I was dealing with vocal cord issues, which did not help. I raced in the V4+ the whole season with many different people and combinations. Our semi-final the day before wasn't our best performance but it was the fire we needed for the finals.
As soon as we took off from the line I could tell it was going to be a good race. It was easily the best race we had as a boat. We finished third but honestly, it wasn't about the placement. What made the race so special was the people. We hadn't been rowing the boat for very long and there were a lot of ups and downs between all of us. But when it came down to it, all five of us had each other's backs and you could feel the trust in every stroke. That's what it is all about.
Thanks for riding along with Carly -- 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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