In the Driver’s Seat, with Caroline Ricksen – Rowing Stories, Features & Interviews | row2k.com – row2k.com | Region & Cash

next up In the driver’s seat is helmsman Caroline Ricksen.

Caroline, who earned a driver’s seat on the 2022 U23 team in the Women’s Four, is a helmsman at Stanford during the school year. She led the Cardinal 1V to the Pac-12 championship in 2022 and finished second in the NCAA’s Stanfords Top-8, tying her team for the points championship and sealing her second place overall in the NCAA.

She and her U23 crew from the USA – Katherine Kelly, Elena Collier-Hezel, Greta Filor and Angela Szabo – are in Varese, Italy for the U23 World Championships where they will compete with the callsign ‘Rooster’ against a grenade. ..starting with a pre-run on Tuesday 26th July.

let’s jump In the driver’s seat with Caroline:


row2k – What are your top three requirements for being ready on race day?
Caroline Ricksen Everyone has their pre-race ritual: the playlist, a special breakfast, using a face mask the night before. I used to believe in it, but I don’t have a ritual anymore.

Instead, I keep it simple: I remind myself that I’m ready to race — it’s the fun part. The three things I do are make myself feel great physically and mentally, make my crew feel the same, and have a moment of mindfulness.

First I make sure I’m ready to go: if I don’t take care of myself I won’t be able to assist my boat. This includes making sure I can be active in some way (it helps me mentally prepare), clear my head and have all my essentials (Cox box, notebook, etc.) ready for race day.

Second, I make sure everyone else is ready to rock. This means that everyone is on the same page with the race plan, has all the nutrients they need, all questions are answered and I communicate all needs to my coaches.

Finally, it’s important that I remember why I’m doing this: I love my team, I love this sport and I enjoy it. At the end of the day, racing is fun, so why not keep that in mind before we start?


row2k – What is your favorite exercise to do with your crews? Any tips on how to drill well for maximum effectiveness?
Caroline Ricksen I’m a firm believer that leg propulsion builds rhythm. Without them, what you do during recovery doesn’t have much impact on core speed. It gets rocky, touchy and inconsistent when there isn’t a solid leg impression creating the run.

That’s why I like to do the leg-only exercise. My favorite method is to get it from 4s to 6s to all 8. This allows the device to play around with the load. Star 4 may determine and set the leg rhythm; 3 and 4 get into a solid rhythm and increase leg speed. When you’ve gotten all 8, the boat coasts down nicely and the leg rhythm is established.

Sometimes on race day when it’s feeling bad or I want to send the crew into an epic ten, I do this drill into a rate 10. Breathtaking leg speed makes for a nice run and stability on recovery.


row2k – What is one of the best coaching tips you have received about your coxing?
Caroline Ricksen I am someone who is always trying to get better at what I do. When it’s running, I want a faster mileage. When it comes to writing, I want it to be longer or more poetic. Something in my brain is hardwired that way. This drive for constant improvement is a great trait because it has gotten me so far in life and in this sport, but at times it has the potential to shake my confidence.

Early in my college career, I prepared excessively for races and tried to think about every possible situation that might arise. This left little to no room for my true skill to shine through. My coach, Derek Byrnes, told me to remember to “trust my gut and just let things happen – my experience, my skill and my instincts will respond in the way they need to.”

I do this every day, so nothing else has to happen on race day. The situations you face on race day are hardly something to prepare for, so you need to hone your skills, take a deep breath and be ready to react. Not only has this impacted how I can be my full self in the boat, but it also helps me outside of athletics.

OH ALSO: Have fun! I used to be so serious in the boat. Yes we are in charge of security and the only ones with a microphone – this is serious business. However, there are moments of ease that bind the unit together, changing the trajectory of an exercise and ultimately leading to boat speed. Lean into these moments as a helmsman and enjoy what you do.


row2k – What is one mid-race call or move you made that you will remember for the rest of your life? If so, what is it and what did you call it?
Caroline Ricksen Pac-12’s 2022 was pretty crazy. Washington had won the Team Trophy for the past several years, so they had a winning streak.

We went into the weekend excited but undoubtedly nervous and with no idea how the regatta was going to go. We hadn’t competed alongside UW or Cal this season due to COVID complications. I remember getting off the line feeling confused and like we’re hacking it.

I said to my crew, “Just breathe. Eyes in. Let it flow out.” Simple, easy, but so effective. We took about 5 places in ten shots. It gave them the confidence to take a second, get into the rhythm and trust exactly what they could. It didn’t have to be more complicated.


[Ed. note: Stanford won the race.]


row2k – Can you tell us a bit about how you learned to call the sprint?
Caroline Ricksen At this point in the race, you’re doing something wrong if you don’t go flat out and shift into the next gear. Of course, there’s always a new level of courage or a crazy burst of energy, but I think you need to tell your crew HOW to sprint: with catches, with legs, with posture.

Rate is a byproduct of speed, so the crew needs to increase boat speed and focus on that instead of just rate. If you just tell them to increase the rate, it gets whirly and short, which is just plain slow.

As the helmsman, we need to tell our crew how and when to increase boat speed. After the execution, let them know if they did it — if they did, get really excited. That’s great. Continue this swing to the end.


row2k – Best race/training or worst race/training you’ve ever had?
Caroline Ricksen I don’t think there is a world where I could call a practice or a race the best or the worst. They’re all just different; I learned something from everyone.

The wins have been fun, but most of the time you learn the most when things don’t go as planned. I’m eternally grateful for every time I’ve gone from bowball to bowball with a different crew. At Stanford, we do this every day that we have practice. We often say that racing with our teammates prepares us to race against others. There is no best or worst, but they all retain unique specific memories in my brain and are associated with a learning moment for me. What is most important is to reflect on that learning moment and adapt to the next opportunity you have to race.


Thanks for riding with Caroline – you can follow her and the rest of the USA U23 and U19 teams throughout the week right here on row2k.

You can also catch up on all of them In the driver’s seat Former races in Varese here:


This column is open to all “drivers” out there, so if you are an experienced helmsman at any level – from juniors to masters – and would be willing to invite row2k to join you your drive, just contact us here. We’d love to hear what you can see from the driver’s seat.

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