Next up In The Driver's Seat--where we hear from the folks who keep the crews fast and the steering on point--is coxswain Abby Bacci.
Abby walked on to the team at the University of Tennessee in the Fall of 2018, and learned everything she knows--so far--on the water on Knoxville. She just graduated this past May, and her highlights with the Lady Vols include coxing at the NCAAs in 2021, and steering the UT 2V to a 36-6 record and two Big 12 Boat of the Week awards in her final year last spring.
This fall, she will continue her coxing career as a graduate student at Oxford Brookes.
Let's hop In The Driver's Seat with Abby:
row2k - Give us your top three essentials for being ready on Race Day:
Abby Bacci - My top three race day essentials include hot tea--regardless of the weather--because it is just a comfort to hold; electrical tape, since you never know what might need emergency fixing once you are on the course (equipment or blister wise); and, lastly, all our race info (start time, lane #, etc.) written on the back of my hand next to my watch so I’ve got it with me in a clearly visible spot.
row2k - What is your favorite drill to run with your crews? Any tips on how to the drill well, for maximum effectiveness?
Abby Bacci - One of my favorite drills to run is full, 5-10 stroke starts at 50%, 75%, and 100% pressure and speed. This progression allows me and my crew to identify our weak spots in the starting sequence and iron out kinks with plenty of time and transition between strokes.
Tip: Although tedious, strive for near-perfection at 50% before moving onto 75%. Additionally, consider experimenting with 50% pressure and 75% speed and visa versa to find desired improvements.
row2k - What's some of the best coaching advice you've received about your coxing?
Abby Bacci - Prioritize your silence. There is so much to do and gain from the quiet moments in the boat. Use that silence to your advantage and pick up on something you would have otherwise missed.
Quiet moments can also always be used as safety check-in if needed, so do not shy away from utilizing those.
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?
Abby Bacci - Making a call to "win the SEC" in a triple against Alabama and Oklahoma. The SEC does not feature a collegiate rowing championship of its own, so this call was more of a dig at our rivalry with Alabama and it was an amazing motivator. The call really lit a spark in the boat because we all carry so much passion and pride in repping the 'Power T' on the water, and really wanted to put Tennessee on top of the SEC.
row2k - Can you tell us what you've learned about calling the start?
Abby Bacci - I learned through earnest practice to make the start completely second nature and instinctual. I did this by choosing concise words for each stroke of the start sequence that (ideally) correspond with each strokes' purpose. A "good start" is subjective and specific to each crew, so learning if they prefer counting of strokes or knowing about what the rest of the field is doing during the start is also important.
row2k - Tell us about the best race/practice you've ever had?
Abby Bacci - My best practice was our last row before Head of the Charles in 2022. It was a perfect, quintessential fall day and the type of practice that reminded us all why we love the sport. We executed beautiful rowing and a smooth last run on the course before race day. We got off the water feeling calm because we were prepared and had ironed out all our kinks, coupled with excitement because we wanted to get out there and race fast!
There is something incredibly special and blessed about being on a great course with just your crew, no coaches (sorry, WD!), and minimal traffic, getting to do what you love and enjoying every moment of it.
Thanks for riding along with Abby -- 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.