I started rowing about a year and a half ago, but I’m 4’11 so my coach had me cox 4-5 months after I had started rowing and instantly fell in love. I’m a varsity coxswain, but I always have trouble finding my voice during races. I’m not terribly confident because some of the girls in my boat criticize me, but it’s never constructive it’s really rude, but I stumble over my words and end up repeating myself. Do you have any tips on how I could improve my calls?
How many is “some”? Is it one, two, five … ? Regardless of how many people it is, you should talk to your coach and tell him/her what’s going on. Explain that constructive criticism is fine but that isn’t what you’re getting.
Something I’ve found is that when rowers start being rude like that, they don’t trust their coxswain for whatever reason, legitimate or not. If you haven’t yet, try talking to them before you talk with your coach. Tell them that their criticism isn’t helping because it comes off as being hostile and ask if you’ve done something in particular to make them not trust you as their coxswain. It might be awkward at first but as the leader of the boat it’s your responsibility to be assertive and figure out what the deal is. They also need to keep their feedback to themselves until you get OFF the water. Until then it just ends up being a distraction. You’ve got to work on not being nervous and not letting those few rowers get to you. Listen to what they say, eliminate the bitchiness, and see if you can see what they’re trying to convey. If they’re just being rude, ignore them.
As you become more confident in your abilities, your calls will come to you. When you make a call, be aggressive, assertive, concise, and direct. Don’t waver or let your voice give away that you don’t totally trust what you’re saying.
Something I always recommend to coxswains who are looking to improve their calls is to listen to the recordings of other coxswains. It can be helpful to hear what other people say so that you can then borrow, adapt, and modify their calls to fit your crew. Hearing the different tones of voice that other coxswains use can also help you find the most effective way to say things to your crew. Here is a list of coxswain recordings I’ve found online that should help with this.
Talk to your rowers, talk to your coach, work on your confidence, and you will be FINE. Don’t let your rowers walk all over you. Chances are that you haven’t done anything wrong, those few rowers have just sensed “weakness” and pounced on it. That’s just some people’s personality. When you’re in the boat though, you’re in charge and you should be the only one talking.