row2k Features
row2k Coxswains Corner
In the Driver's Seat, with Lincoln Hill
July 25, 2023
John FX Flynn, row2k

Hill, with trophy, and the 2023 JV Eight from St. Ignatius at SRAAs

Next up In The Driver's Seat--where we hear from the folks who keep the shells straight and the crews fast--is coxswain Lincoln Hill.

Lincoln coxes for St. Ignatius Cleveland and steered the Wildcats JV eight to gold at SRAAs this past spring. He is also a big fan of the Driver's Seat series, and we are glad we could get him involved.

Celebrating at the finish at the 2023 SRAAs
Celebrating at the finish at the 2023 SRAAs

Let's hop In The Driver's Seat with Lincoln:

row2k - Give us your top three essentials for being ready on Race Day:
Lincoln Hill - My top 3 things for becoming a successful coxswain are: team-building, tone/adaptability, and leadership.

Team-building is essential to having a fun and fast crew. On off days (Sundays) and over the summer, I often contact the boys in my lineup to go out. Whether it be to see a movie, bowling, etc., it helps a lot when it comes to boat chemistry. In the same way, doing team ergs and lifting with everyone makes you a respectable cox; if you know what they are going through, the people in your boat will most certainly listen to you. "We only get faster with training," one of my crew members told me.

Tone or adaptability in how I call things is just as important to success. I can't be screaming at my crew like it's their 2k PR when they are doing steady-state; likewise, during race day, there's no place for solely focusing on form unless it is a warmup. Your tone needs to change depending on the situation at hand.

My final trait to being successful is being a good leader. I recently read a book called "Extreme Ownership" and it changed my view of the crew a lot. The book talks about how a leader takes responsibility for every action, and I agree: there is no room for blame. The crew follows suit when it comes to your personality; just as you can't be a nervous wreck before racing, you need to take responsibility for faults.

Off the line in the heats of the JV 8 at the 2023 SRAAs
Off the line in the heats of the JV 8 at the 2023 SRAAs

row2k - What is your favorite drill to run with your crews? Any tips on how to the drill well, for maximum effectiveness?
Lincoln Hill - My personal favorite is quite simple: Arms and body over pause. This is one of the only drills I do during a race warmup because it fixes everything: timing, body-prep, etc.

My crew in the 2023 spring season specifically needed to learn to swing together, and since this drill is focused on pausing at the swing, it helped a lot. One tip I have to run this drill well is to make sure your crew does not make adjustments on the pause; have them make adjustments on the drive.

row2k - What's some of the best coaching advice you've received about your coxing?
Lincoln Hill - My team recently gained a new head coach: Dominic Santora. He was a cox throughout high school and college, even coxing one of our national teams [the 2017 US U23 M8+, eds.].

Being a cox himself, Coach Santora has helped me a lot with my shortcomings, but the most useful advice came last year when I was often on a launch: "Bring a notebook!" he told me.

If you've never tried it, I would highly recommend bringing a notebook. Many people may not make a lineup and end up in a launch, but personally this has been some of the most useful time I've had on the water because you can ask questions while the rowing is taking place, and the notebook gives you a chance to record your own observations and helps to remember them. You might even be lucky enough to drive once in a while.

Hill with his coaches (photo courtesy of L. Hill)
Hill with his coaches (photo courtesy of L. Hill)

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?
Lincoln Hill - During my freshman year I made a move in a four during our last race of the year:

A crew had cut into our lane which gives a great opportunity to push your crew as hard as they can, so you can then make the crew that had cut you off move over. That makes the other crew row a further distance and any experienced cox knows that even adding 10 more meters to your crew's race length has a sizeable impact.

Unlike a traditional freshman four move, I called something along the lines of, "Let's bring it up 4 beats to a 40." Most varsity fours don't hit a 40 stroke rate, but after coming back from a 2 boat length deficit, we managed to win by a margin of less than a tenth of a second.

Racing the semi at SRAAs
Racing the semi at SRAAs

row2k - Can you tell us anything about how you learned to steer straight?
Lincoln Hill - Short and simple: the best way to steer straight during a race is take a buoy line and stay right next to it. If there are no buoys (scrimmage or practice) just pick a point on the horizon and try to hold your bow on it.

row2k - Tell us about the worst race/practice you've ever had?
Lincoln Hill - My worst race had to be the Midwest Championships this year. We came in third, just 1.2 seconds out of first. For many teams that would be a fine placement, but my crew stayed almost the exact same throughout our fall and spring season and we had won virtually every race during that length of time.

On the dock back home in Cleveland (photo courtesy of L. Hill)
On the dock back home in Cleveland (photo courtesy of L. Hill)

At one point during the race there was a moment where I got content with being 2 seats down off the start and made a call: "They can't hold their pace." Well, 750 meters later, it seemed that my call was pretty wrong. Two crews now had about half a boat on us and I had made my crew conserve too much energy during the beginning of our piece. Even with a great sprint, there was no coming back.

It was still a valuable lesson for all of us. though: you can go much harder than your mind thinks you can.

Calling moves in the SRAA semi-final
Calling moves in the SRAA semi-final

Thanks for riding along with Lincoln -- 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.

If you enjoy and rely on row2k, we need your help to be able to keep doing all this. Though row2k sometimes looks like a big, outside-funded operation, it mainly runs on enthusiasm and grit. Help us keep it coming, thank you! Learn more.


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