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row2k Coxswains Corner
In the Driver's Seat, with Lucy Herrick
March 19, 2024
John FX Flynn, row2k

Herrick, in the Driver's Seat of the USA U19 W4+ in 2023

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

Lucy coxed the USA U19 Women's Four to a gold medal on the Olympic race course at Vaires-sur-Marne last summer. While that was her first year on the national team, the USA had a two year win streak going in the event which Lucy and her crew extended to three with a great race in the final.

During the rest of the year, Lucy coxes with Chicago Rowing Foundation, where she was in the Varsity Women's eight as a junior last year.

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

row2k - What do you see as the three most important things for being a successful coxswain?
Lucy Herrick - The most important thing for a successful coxswain is to know what makes your rowers go. As a coxswain, your job is to push your rowers to their max potential and then ask them to give even more. In order to be effective in motivating them to do this, you have to understand why they are doing it. It is imperative to create relationships and communicate with your rowers, so when it comes to the moment in a race or a practice piece where your boat needs new energy, you know exactly what call to make to reenergize the crew. Some rowers are more technically motivated, others prefer informational calls, and some just want to feel hyped up. The more aware you are of what kind of boat you are coxing, the faster you'll be able to make that boat go.

Racing to the line in first place
Racing to the line in first place

Next, learn from others but create your own voice - When I was learning how to cox and make calls, I probably found and listened to every cox recording that exists on the internet. I was flooded with styles and calls from so many different coxswains that I would then go to practice and try to use. It made for a very disjointed and chaotic coxing and therefore very disjointed and chaotic rowing. You have to create your own style and trust yourself and your voice. If you can be confident in who you are as coxswain, your rowers will have confidence in you.

Lastly, be adaptable to any situation - On race day or even in practices absolutely anything can happen and oftentimes what you predict will happen doesn't. One of the most important things is to expect the unexpected and be prepared to manage it in a calm and effective manner. If you get stressed or thrown off guard in a race or a piece because the other boats blasted off the line, your rowers will be able to sense that. Being prepared to make an adjustment or a quick gutsy call can make or break your racing.

On a practice day at Vaires-sur-Marne
On a practice day at Vaires-sur-Marne

row2k - What is your favorite drill to run with your crews? Any tips on how to the drill well, for maximum effectiveness?
Lucy Herrick - My favorite drill to run is pair add in. In this drill, you start with one pair rowing continuously and then after ten strokes the next pair adds in; you continue to add pairs until you are all eight continuous. I love this drill because it's a great opportunity to find collective connection as a boat and to feel one pick up on the front end. If executed correctly once everyone is continuous, the boat should be surging right off the catch.

To run this drill effectively keep the focus on what they should be feeling during the add-ins. In order to benefit from this drill there has to be a high level of focus and precision, so I like to prepare each pair for their add-in. Tell them what they should feel and how they can accomplish that so once you call them to add in, the transition is seamless. If you have done the work to prepare them, then you can simply make rhythm calls such as "hook, send" to make sure that all eight are moving as one.

With her Chicago crew at Youths in June 2023
With her Chicago crew at Youths in June 2023

row2k - What's some of the best coaching advice you've received about your coxing?
Lucy Herrick - Some of the best coaching advice I have ever received as a coxswain is to ask yourself "how" and "why." It can become very easy in coxing to just go through the motions and fall into habit. Once you reach a certain level and you have an assortment of calls and drills, you can sometimes turn on autopilot.

This summer on the U19 team, I was challenged by my coach to have intention behind my choices. I would go through a race plan with him and, rather than just letting me give him the basics, he would interrupt at every stage and ask me, "Well why are we doing that?" If we were able to determine a purpose, then he would ask "Well, how are you going to execute it?"

These conversations completely shifted the way I approach coxing. It has now become so important to me to take a moment to stop and think about what it is that I am doing. This has also helped me to become more present and engaged in the moment. When I am more thoughtful with what it is that I am saying, it translates to a more unified crew which works with purpose towards a common goal.

Fully prepared at the start
Fully prepared at the start

row2k - What is a mid-race call or move that you've made that you'll remember for the rest of your life?
Lucy Herrick - A call that I'll remember for the rest of my life was during the final of the 2023 U19 World Championships. The entire summer leading up to the race, we had made sure to prepare ourselves for any situation and any outcome during the race. We made sure to never fall into an overconfident mindset and we emphasized that fact a race is not won until your bow ball crosses the line first.

Despite this fact, the call that will always stick with me was when we were roughly 70 meters from the finish line and I made the call, "This is over, we have this." In that moment, I knew that it was our race to win with the way the boat was surging and the way we had responded to Italy's sprint. I've never had a moment like that before where I was so sure of something in my gut and I had waves of joy and energy washing over me. Even when we crossed the line as world champions, it couldn't compare to the moment that I knew it was ours. It was electric and something that I will never forget.

The only other moment that stuck with me from this summer was being able to see my coaches after that race. My coach from this summer poured so much work into making our boat what it was, and being able to win not only for ourselves but for him was such a bright moment for me. He took none of the spotlight once we won because he wanted it to all be about us, but feeling his presence and being able to share that win with him was an exceptional feeling that I will never forget. In addition to my coach from this summer, I was lucky enough to have my home coach with me in Paris as well. It was such a special experience to share with him and so fulfilling to earn his pride. Knowing that he was there was extremely comforting and always gave me a touch more confidence. It took me forever to find him after the race but when I did, it was so rewarding to be able to celebrate with him.

On her way to the podium
On her way to the podium

row2k - Your four had a pretty epic middle 1000 at U19s against the Italians and Australians to win the gold, as we reported on in our coverage at the time. Can you tell us how that part of the race unfolded and what you said to the crew?
Lucy Herrick - Calling the middle 1k of our race at Worlds was one of the most pivotal and impactful moments in my career as a coxswain. The middle 1000 of any 2k is what sets apart good crews from great crews. The first and last 500s are all about adrenaline but the middle 1k is about grit and determination.

In our final, we got off the line quick and were leading going into the second 500, but as the course opened up and the wind hit us we started to lose some of our momentum and Italy and Australia were starting to inch back up on us. Despite this, I had confidence in our middle move and our stamina going into the third 500. We put the focus back on our rhythm, to establish a firm foundation so we could take our move for speed. We made sure that we moved with purpose and intention and began our walk again. Italy and Australia were definitely not easy crews to walk away from, but we relied on everything we had learned over the summer and turned our piece around. It was a total shift of momentum that was the defining moment of our race.

Getting some good, pre-medal air here
Getting some good, pre-medal air here

row2k - Tell us about the best race/practice you've ever had?
Lucy Herrick - The best practice I've ever had was our practice the day before our final at Worlds. The focus and precision in that practice was unmatched. Every stroke, every movement came together in a way that it never had before. We understood that we needed to set our standard for our upcoming race. Everything just fell into place because we had that urgency and that attention to detail. There was nothing physically about that practice that should have set it apart, but it was our mindset that made the difference.

With her crew at U19 Worlds
With her crew at U19 Worlds

row2k - How about the worst race/practice you've ever had?
Lucy Herrick - I don't think that I could ever characterize a practice or a race as being the worst one ever, just because I think you can gain something every time you're on the water. Even in the most disappointing or frustrating moments I have had in the boat, I feel like I have walked away with a valuable lesson or experience. What you learn from a bad piece can be applied to all your future choices. It may be cliche but if you go through this sport never facing failure or being challenged, you're never going to grow.

Thanks for riding along with Lucy, 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.

With gold for the USA
With gold for the USA

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