Communiation and Concentration

Coxswains often say, ‘keep your eyes and head in the boat.’ Rowers can take this both literally and figuratively. Rowers must focus and concentrate on their own rowing stroke at all times. Look straight ahead and focus on anticipating and matching the movements of the rower ahead – hands away, body forward, slide, catch, push with the legs, back swing, arm draw, finish, tap down. Repeat.


It is critical that rowers do not talk in the boat unless the coxswain asks a specific question or if there is an equipment issue. Rowers should not call out things like ‘it’s down on stroke side’ during practice, or encouraging remarks such as ‘come on, we can do it.’ Even though these comments seem positive, they can be distracting and will disrupt the rhythm in the boat. Rowers must trust that the entire crew is doing their best and that the coxswain will communicate as needed.

Rowers should focus on what he or she can do as an individual rower and should never comment on how another rower is rowing. Leave that up to the coxswain/coach.

Concentration & focus

Rowing is a team sport and requires that each team member reflect the movements of the stroke oar in all kinds of situations, such as:

  • changing wind and water conditions
  • an unbalanced boat
  • a race

Poor concentration, unfocused attention, and distracting mental thoughts often contribute to poor technique and poor boat performance. In order to improve the rowing stroke and minimize mistakes, rowers must be able to focus on what they are doing and block out everything else out – including other boats.

Rowers are often caught looking around, which is a sure sign of poor concentration. Other issues are harder to see – doubts about technique or conditioning; thoughts about work, school, and social events.

Coxswains will often remind rowers to concentrate but how do rowers do this? What do they focus on?

Focus on a perfect stroke

When practicing, rowers can focus on improving each aspect of the stroke so they get it perfect.

  1. Focus attention on the recovery sequence and following the rower in front of you
  2. Focus on establishing your forward body angle early in the recovery
  3. Move attention to the catch and focus on the unweighing the oar handle, timing of the hands and legs as they lock the blade into the water, and the boat’s reaction to the catch
  4. Focus on a good connection and a powerful drive that starts with the legs and a braced core
  5. Focus on a long, strong, finish and clean release of the blade from the water
  6. Finally, focus on on the run of the boat as you prepare for the next stroke

NOTE: It takes time to perfect the individual rowing stroke and team performance. Be patient and positive.

Focus on relaxation and confidence

It is important for rowers to relax and have confidence in what they are doing. Self-doubt and fear of failure are often the biggest distractions and can lead to the biggest mistakes. If a mistake is made on one stroke, forget about it and refocus on the next stroke. Practice rowing with confidence during every practice.

Focus on timing, balance, and power

Learning to concentrate on the right things is critical for rowing.

Timing. Rowers must concentrate on moving with the rower in front of them. This includes stroke rate, ratio, hand height, entry at the catch, and tap down at the finish. This is not easy and requires full concentration.

Good timing is critical to good balance. When the boat balance is poor, a high level of concentration is required to correct it.

Power is dependent on timing and balance – without them a rower cannot effectively apply power. The application of power must be consistent with timing and balance. Without timing and balance, power is wasted.

Focus on teamwork and support

It is important for rowers to support each other. Feeling like ‘everyone is looking at me’ in the boat can be very distracting. Focus on what you are doing on each and every stroke, leave the coaching to the coaches and the coxswain, and cast all negative thoughts aside.