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row2k Coxswains Corner
In the Driver's Seat, with Margaux Hart
March 26, 2024
John FX Flynn, row2k

UCSB's Hart got her start at OCC, and raced the ACRA Grand Final in 2022 in the Novice Women's Eight

Next up In The Driver's Seat--where we hear from the folks who add that extra something to the teamwork of a crew—-is coxswain Margaux Hart.

Margaux currently coxes the 1V on the UC Santa Barbara men’s rowing team, but got her start with the Giant Killers of Orange Coast College, where she coxed both the men’s and women’s teams. She is in her senior year at UC Santa Barbara, and also coaches at Santa Barbara Community Rowing.

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

row2k - Give us your top three essentials for being ready on Race Day:
Margaux Hart - Being prepared is incredibly important, not only because you don’t want to leave any room for error, but it will also set the tone for the day. When you’ve controlled everything that you have power over, the only thing you have to worry about is the race. The 3 essentials I associate with this preparedness are double-checking your equipment, reviewing your race plan, and being energized.

Double-Check the Equipment - Before races, you should not only make sure your crew has checked their seats, top nuts, etc but you should also double-check what they claim to have tightened. The night before I always make sure to double-check that my CoxBox and SpeedCoach are charging, even if I think they are fully charged.

With the UCSB 1V and the Sundquist Cup (photo courtesy of UCSB Rowing)
With the UCSB 1V and the Sundquist Cup (photo courtesy of UCSB Rowing)

Review the Race Plan - While most sprint races tend to follow the same general race plan, running through the race plan with my boat allows me to make sure everyone is on the same page. It also allows me to hear what each rower wants to be reminded about during the piece. I take note of these on my plan, as well as all the important race information. Even though this information stays internalized, it is reassuring to know I have a physical copy of it just in case.

Be Energized - Energy is incredibly important. It is important to be well rested (if possible) before racing, but in all honesty, I don’t usually get a great night’s rest before a race. This is typically due to travel and nerves. To combat this, part of my pre-race routine is making pre-workout coffee and drinking it on the way to the race course. While everyone reacts differently to caffeine, it's a non-negotiable for me.

row2k - What is your favorite drill to run with your crews? Any tips on how to the drill well, for maximum effectiveness?
Margaux Hart - My favorite drill to do at practice is the coxswain catch drill, where they have to catch on my call. It's really good for emphasizing a quick, deliberate catch and for keeping the crew engaged. To execute the drill well, it is important to not call the catch unreasonably early and to make sure to add just enough variation in your timing as to keep the boat focused during the entire drill.

Racing at The Head Of The Charles in 2023
Racing at The Head Of The Charles in 2023

row2k - What's some of the best coaching advice you've received about your coxing?
Margaux Hart - The best coaching advice I ever received about coxing was from my novice year coach/boatman, Steve Guentz.

When I started coxing, I was really struggling with finding confidence & figuring everything out as I was quite intimidated by the sport. Steve told me that the coxswains which he had seen improve the most over the years were the ones who consistently asked how they could do better and took notes on everything in a notebook. From then on, I started asking for critique/comments and taking notes after every practice. This helped me improve as a beginner but it is still something I still do regularly. Having a log of each practice and the feedback I received has been great for tracking my progress.

With her crew at WIRAs in 2023 (photo courtesy of Sean Loranger)
With her crew at WIRAs in 2023 (photo courtesy of Sean Loranger)

row2k - Can you tell us anything about what you've learned about how to make motivating calls?
Margaux Hart - When it comes to motivational calls there isn't just a “magic word” that will make the boat move faster. You have to know your rowers and what makes them go.

I have found from coxing men and coxing women that what kinds of motivational calls work varies. Something that holds true regardless of who is in your boat, though, is the importance of how you say something, not just what you say. One of my best friends -- the 7 Seat of my N8+ -- told me something that changed my perspective on how I make these calls: you cannot just ask the boat to do something, you have to demand it.

Living the coxswain life at the 2023 WIRA
Living the coxswain life at the 2023 WIRA

row2k - Tell us about the best race/practice, worst race/practice you've ever had?
Margaux Hart - My best and worst race experiences are actually the same event: the Head of the Charles. That is my favorite race of all time. It’s so much fun to be in Boston and to be surrounded by such a huge rowing community. With its many bridges and turns, the HOCR course is a great opportunity to demonstrate your skills as a coxswain.

Last year was my second time going down the course in the Men’s 4+, and since 2022 left some things to be desired, I put everything into my preparation for HOCR 2023. Our practice row went wonderfully and I was so stoked for the race. Unfortunately, I got sick the night before and just making it to the course was a challenge. While it was probably the worst I had ever felt on a race course, I was still able to execute my race plan and managed to shave a few hundred meters off the course! While we didn’t get the result we wanted, I was still quite content with my performance.

Hart with UCSB's 2023 HOCR 4+ (photo courtesy of Julie Hart)
Hart with UCSB's 2023 HOCR 4+ (photo courtesy of Julie Hart)

Thanks for riding along with Margaux -- 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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