Ned DelGuercio

Ned DelGuercio Shares How to Fix Poor Rhythm

“It is very difficult to fix rhythm by calling direct changes to the rhythm. Instead, work on connection, suspension, and power calls. The rhythm tends to correct itself when you have those elements of the stroke working properly.” – Ned DelGuercio

What would you do to regain rhythm and control in the middle of a race when a boat is rushing the recovery severely and not responding to any of the usual “in two” calls? (Alternatively: what can you do when a boat stops responding to you in the middle of a race?)
Is it better to just let a crew confidently attack a race with poor rhythm, or is it better to try to make rhythm calls early in the race, possibly undermining their confidence, but also possibly helping them row more efficiently? (artificial tradeoff, I know)
– Anonymous

This is a specific technical question that I will do my best to answer. First, let’s look at how you make transitions on the water. You described the usual “in two” calls not working. I never use “in two” calls, because they take too much time to execute, and they are not specific enough to describe at which point in the stroke I want the change to occur. I prefer to use “on this one” for most transitions, and sometimes simply “here” to show exactly where I want the change to happen within the stroke cycle. Your crew has to know what is coming, so you should describe what is about to happen first, and then make the transition a stroke later.
In a race situation, you obviously don’t have the luxury of using drills to work on rhythm. While there are calls to adjust rhythm, there are certainly no easy fix calls for “rushing the recovery severely and not responding to calls.” Rhythm comes from connection and power. We use the idea of “drive the rhythm from the stern” here at PTC. It reminds us that there really is no such thing as a “flow” guy. If the stroke pair aren’t bending the shaft and suspending, neither are the rowers behind them.

With that in mind, to develop a rhythm you can help your crew find its connection and suspension. Work on catch timing first. Help them find each other at the front end by calling the point of entry. Develop the area around the catch for a while and then include length focus calls. Make sure they are using maximum compression on the slide as they place the blade. A solid catch is a prerequisite for strong rhythm.

Once the catches are more uniform and there is less missed water, you can start to talk about suspension. Talk about pushing the legs. Talk about getting the knees moving with the speed of the boat. Try and get the crew to spend more time driving. Longer arc in the water leads to more acceleration. This also allows the rowers to suspend their body weight off the seat and on the oar handle. If your crew is suspending, rhythm is automatic.

“It is very difficult to fix rhythm by calling direct changes to the rhythm. Instead, work on connection, suspension, and power calls. The rhythm tends to correct itself when you have those elements of the stroke working properly.” – Ned DelGuercio Click to Tweet
As long as you are working around the areas I described here, there should be nothing in there that would undermine your crew’s confidence. It is better to work on the rhythm early in the race, than to let your crew go nuts and have nothing left in the tank to make adjustments. Efficiency is as important as raw power for a 2k race. Finding the right balance between being aggressive in the start, and having energy left to finish the job will certainly be an ongoing challenge for any crew. You should discuss this with your coach regularly.

To summarize; it is very difficult to fix rhythm by calling direct changes to the rhythm. Instead, work on connection, suspension, and power calls. The rhythm tends to correct itself when you have those elements of the stroke working properly.

– Ned DelGuercio

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Ned DelGuercio
Ned DelGuercio, known as one of the toughest coxswains around, came to the team in 2005. His career highlights include gold medal wins at the World Rowing Championships in the M4+ in 2007 and the LM8+ in 2008, as well as a gold medal from the 2007 Pan American Games in the M8+.

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