row2k Features
row2k Coxswains Corner
In the Driver's Seat, with Hannah E. Rose
May 15, 2024

Photo credit: Anthony Edward Kilbridge

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

Hannah learned to cox with the Heavyweight Men at MIT, where she is now a junior. In her first year of coxing, she went all the way from a walk-on knowing little about the sport to racing in the MIT 2V at the 2022 IRA National Championship Regatta.

Racing the 2022 IRA
Racing the 2022 IRA

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

row2k - What do you see as the three most important things for being a successful coxswain?
Hannah E. Rose - I would say composure is definitely one of the most important things to have as a coxswain. There have been so many days, especially on the Charles, where the weather is unpredictable or another boat comes into your lane; it’s really important to stay focused and keep everyone’s heads in the boat.

It’s also really important to keep a positive outlook, especially when the race isn't going the way you expected. As the only person in the boat who can see what’s in front of us, it can be really easy to lose motivation if other boats are pulling ahead. However, by keeping a positive attitude, your crew can stay focused on the goal and keep the energy up and make a big move.

The last thing is a good tool set. I can’t even count on both hands how many times we have started a practice or launched before a race and someone in my boat realized a rigger was loose or that they needed a new spacer. By having solutions on-hand in my tool bag, I’ve been able to save us a ton of time and stress by being able to fix issues on the water as soon as they emerge.

Photo credit: Anthony Edward Kilbridge
Photo credit: Anthony Edward Kilbridge

row2k - What is your favorite drill to run with your crews? Any tips on how to do the drill well, for maximum effectiveness?
Hannah E. Rose - My personal favorite drill, and one that I’ve been running a lot lately, is Cut-the-Cake.

It’s a movement drill where the rowers take a full stroke and finish with the feather, then draw the oar into their bodies, push it straight away, and pull it back before resuming the stroke and going back to the catch (basically, they just repeat the top quarter on each stroke).

It’s great for balance, as everyone is really focused on drawing into their targets and keeping their hands together coming out of bow. I’ve noticed that it also really helps my boat with top quarter rush, as everyone has to slow down and breathe before getting back to the catch to take that next stroke.

Photo credit: Anthony Edward Kilbridge
Photo credit: Anthony Edward Kilbridge

row2k - What's some of the best coaching advice you've received about your coxing?
Hannah E. Rose - One of the best pieces of advice that I received was that staying calm and collected can be as effective (if not more so) than being loud.

I remember as a brand-new walk-on, the only experience that I had with coxing was watching the boats race in the Olympics once when I was younger. I just assumed that you were supposed to scream for the entire race, but after sending one of my recordings to my coach, he told me to try lowering my voice and focus more on keeping a steady rhythm when talking. Once I heard this advice, I noticed that, not only was my boat doing better and staying more focused, but I wasn’t getting as winded (or completely losing my voice after every race!) anymore.

row2k - What is a mid-race call or move that you've made that you'll remember for the rest of your life?
Hannah E. Rose - I think one of my favorite calls was actually one that I made earlier this season. We were ahead of a few other boats, but I was neck-and-neck with the crew on my starboard side. I heard their coxswain call for "twenty to walk on them," and knew that we had to dig in or get walked on.

I waited about five strokes for them to get a bit ahead, then called for "twenty to get them back." We caught up to them within the first five strokes of the move, and then picked up speed for the last fifteen. That boat had such good energy and really moved like one unit, and to be able to watch the other boat fade away as we moved through the 1000 meter mark was such a rush.

Photo credit: Anthony Edward Kilbridge
Photo credit: Anthony Edward Kilbridge

row2k - What was the hardest thing to learn as a walk-on/novice coxswain, and how did you figure it out?
Hannah E. Rose - The hardest thing to figure out was definitely how to focus on so many things at once.

I remember my first week on the water, I was given a cox-box and told, "just steer and read the stroke rate off of this." Even that felt overwhelming. As soon as I learned how to do that, they gave me a speed coach and told me to watch the splits as well. Then, within what felt like a day, my rowers started asking for the time that a piece took, how their strokes looked, for more ten and twenty stroke calls, etc.

Unfortunately, I think this is just one of the elements that becomes easier with time, but I definitely learned faster because of the help from the upperclassmen coxswain. She would help call times loud enough that I could hear them, and was great about communicating by say things like, "ok, I’m doing a five stroke build for this next piece, do you want to do the same and I can call it for you?." Now I am able to keep my eye on everything, but I am so thankful for her kindness and helpfulness in those first few hectic weeks.

Photo credit: Anthony Edward Kilbridge
Photo credit: Anthony Edward Kilbridge

row2k - Can you tell us anything about what you've learned about how to make motivating calls?
Hannah E. Rose - The most important elements to a good start are staying relaxed and rowing as a team.

My coaches were adamant about teaching this early on. During our pre-race meetings, they would say, "Ok, we know it will be hectic, we know the wind will be crazy, but it’s your job to keep everyone calm, collected, and together. Get there early, get locked on, and keep the heads in the boat until that flag goes down."

I think this is one of the easiest places in the race to get frantic and to let the nerves and excitement translate into rough rowing, but our team has become really good at focusing up, passing back a fist-bump, and tuning out everything except for the race officials and the start flag. Honestly, the starts have become one of my favorite parts of the race because of how well our team has learned to execute them.

row2k - Tell us about the best race/practice and the worst race/practice you've ever had?
Hannah E. Rose - My best race was definitely my first-ever race: Head of the Charles 2021. Joining this famous regatta as a novice coxswain was definitely terrifying, but I will never forget the feeling of coming out of the BU bridge and seeing the Cambridge shore filled with people.

Photo credit: Anthony Edward Kilbridge
Photo credit: Anthony Edward Kilbridge

My first practice ever was a team head race on the Charles course, so it was crazy to get that feeling of deja vu plus the thousands and thousands of voices cheering, people applauding, and faces smiling that we went past. I remember holding my breath around every turn (and my boat yelling every time we made it around one without crashing, haha), calling big moves at the straightaways, and putting everything we had left in the tank into the water through the finish line. That race was one of the main reasons that I fell in love with this sport.

Thanks for riding along with Hannah -- 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.


Log in to comment
There are no Comments yet

Get our Newsletter!

Support row2k!

Tremendous thanks to our
row2k supporters!

Get Social with row2k!
Like row2k on Facebook Follow row2k on Twitter Follow row2k on Instagram Follow row2k on Youtube Connect with row2k on LinkedIn

Get the row2k app!

row2k rowing store!

Get our Newsletter!
Enter your email address to receive our weekly newsletter.

Support row2k!

Advertiser Index
Advertise on row2k