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Coaches and Coxswains Meeting

After the euphoria of your selection as Chief Referee for a regatta wanes, regardless of the event or venue, you slowly come back to reality and realize you are now in charge. With the job comes the honor and responsibility of ensuring the regatta takes place safely and in accordance with the Rules of Rowing. I have found, regardless of the pre-regatta registration and information packages, a meeting(s) must take place between the Chief Referee, coaches and coxswains. This meeting is important to clarify procedures and requirements to provide for a safe, fair, and on-time regatta.

For the first step, I write down questions. Examples: If I were competing at this regatta, what would I want to know? How is the course laid out? Stake boats, platform, or floating? Weather patterns and their effects on the course? Race centers and distance to the start? Start commands? Buoyed course? Etc, etc, etc. After talking with the Local Organizing Committee (LOC), a number of my questions with regard to the course, facilities, services provided, race schedule and support staff are answered. During my discussion with the LOC, I find out the when and where for the coaches and coxswains meeting(s).

As my second step, I center on the level of competition, number of competitors, number of referees and the race schedule with a review of the progression rules. I also ask for clarification of any local rules, traditions, customs or procedures provided by the LOC. My concern in this area is the consistent application of the Rules of Rowing across all skill levels with regard to control commission, starting commands, on-water officiating and finish line procedures. I believe the competitors should expect to see the same process and procedures, as defined in the rules, whether participating in a local event or a national standard or championship regatta.

My third step is to prepare my notes for the coaches and coxswains meeting. I also make one final check of the course and marshaling areas. I make any last-minute additions for areas of specific emphasis during my discussions with the coaches and coxswains. I have seen combined coaches and coxswains meetings or one following right after the other. I also have seen where the meetings are separated by an evening or hours in a day. Regardless of the schedule, I try to make sure I cover the same safety requirements, control commission procedures, and starting commands/issues with each group. I conclude both meetings with regatta time as a final emphasis for keeping to the schedule and running the regatta on time.

I contact/talk to each of the assigned referees for the regatta and I emphasize the importance of these meetings, as well as suggest they arrive in sufficient time to attend both meetings. In the coaches meeting, comments and questions raised provide an insight into what is important for the particular coach and what their concerns are for the regatta. Questions may cover a number of topics from type of start and commands, progression, repair area on the course, emergency procedures due to changing weather systems, schedule changes, and hot-seating. Knowing what was stated during the meeting enables all of the referees to provide a consistent approach to the regatta. I conclude the coaches’ meeting with a comment on the shared responsibility for a safe and fair regatta. I also add, that without their assistance and participation to comply with the safety rules, their crews may not be ready to perform. Finally, a quick thank you to the coaches for their effort and support of rowing.

The coxswains meeting takes on a slightly different tone in that I share with them my desire that the referees are present to make sure they have a safe and fair regatta. I remind the coxswains they are the spokesperson for their crews. They are the ones that present the boat to the control commission; they are the ones who have their crew locked on at two minutes; they are the ones whose hand is recognized at the conclusion of a race; and if necessary, they are the ones who speak for their crew at a jury. In addition, I acknowledge they are the person who is responsible for the crew’s behavior and performance and following their coach’s race plan. I also tell the coxswains, that it is my responsibility to make sure the referees do their part to afford each crew an equal opportunity to compete in a safe and fair race. I follow a pretty standard presentation of the major parameters for the regatta from the weigh-in and control commission, start and alignment procedures, likely commands during the race and the expected actions, and finish line procedures. I describe the different types of penalties that could be assessed and finally the protest procedure. As with the coaches meeting, I encourage referees to attend the coxswains meeting to hear concerns about the racecourse and procedures in effect for the regatta. I have found as topics are discussed at the coxswain meeting, referees get a chance to review the specific topic in the Rules of Rowing or go over their required action for the situation discussed. I conclude my comments to the coxswains with a positive approach for the upcoming races and state regatta time.

In my final discussion with the referees prior to them manning their assignments, I highlight any particular topic to make sure we present a consistent approach from the coaches and coxswains meeting to crossing the finish line. I find this has helped in resolving many issues wherever a hand goes up on the racecourse.

Written by Ray Duff | Oct 01, 2005

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