Question of the Day

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.

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2 thoughts on “Question of the Day

  1. Anonymous says:

    That was the best advice ever! It’s always bow, 2 and 3, screaming during practice and races no matter what I say. I’m going to go to my coach since I’ve tried to talk to them to no avail. One of them is a “part time” coxswain so maybe it’s an inferiority thing for her. Who knows! I’m in high school and want to continue through my college years so I’ll definitely be taking your advice. Thank you so much for the list of recordings, I’ve been having trouble finding good ones!

    • beantownkmd says:

      What the hell, they’re in bow 4?? Nobody can hear them in the front of the boat anyways … what a waste of energy on their part.

      I had that happen in one of my boats in high school once and it eventually got to the point where I went off on them while we were on the water. Lots of expletives were used. It’s not something I necessarily advocate doing because it is inappropriate but after that I didn’t have to worry about any more backseat coxswains.

      Part-time coxswains are a terrible idea for this exact reason. The only thing you can really do is take her aside before or after practice one day and explain that you understand she’s a coxswain too but that when you’re in the boat, you are the one coxing and she needs to respect that. If she has suggestions or advice for you, then you’d appreciate it if she could talk to you about it after practice, not while you’re on the water. With the other two rowers, tell them the same thing. Backseat coxing doesn’t work and they need to stop. If they’re yelling during races, they’re clearly not putting everything they have into rowing, which should really piss off the other five rowers in your boat. Tell them to STFU and focus on their jobs and let you do yours.

      If this continues, you need to find some way to get your coaches attention and make them aware that this is a problem and is affecting your ability to cox. Explain that you’ve tried to talk to the rowers in question and nothing you’ve said has gotten through to them. State your case but be an adult about it. Do not stoop to the level of petty drama. Be mature.

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