Hi! I love your blog, it’s really helpful! I’m a novice coxswain and our team integrates varsity and novices for the spring. Combined, there are 2 varsity coxes and 3 novices including me. We’re all competing to make one of the 3 cox spots for the spring travel team. Being on the west coast, we’re able to be out on the water once a week during winter. The problem is, I’m the least experienced cox. I’ve coxed for total 2 1/2 weeks before our last head race in the fall. Do you have any advice?
As a coach, right off the bat there are three things that I observe with coxswains: how you interact with your teammates, how interested/focused are you on learning (everything there is to learn) and what efforts are you making to practice what you’ve learned, and what kind of leader you are. One thing you do NOT want to do is to get in an obvious competition with the other coxswains to the point where there’s just an abundance of negative energy in the atmosphere. Competitiveness for a spot is fine to an extent – I touched on that briefly in this post.
Focus on improving yourself and not what the other coxswains are doing. Take inventory of the two and a half weeks you’ve spent as a coxswain so far. What are the most GLARINGLY obvious things that you need to work on? (You should have plenty of stuff to choose from.) Was there anything you picked up quickly? How assertive were you with your crew and teammates? Would you consider yourself a leader? How can you continue to improve your leadership skills? In observing the varsity coxswains, what did you notice about how they did things?
Give yourself goals of things to work on so that you’re not just showing up every day and going through the motions. Be enthusiastic about being there and make sure everyone else is excited as well. They don’t have to like what they’ll be doing that day but they need to come at it with a certain level of “pep” if they want to do well. If the coach asks “who wants to run circuits”, volunteer. If he says “who wants to take down erg times”, volunteer. Don’t be that coxswain that slinks to the back and never steps up. Get to know everyone on your team, even the people you know and don’t like. Your role on the team is to be objective, so personal relationships don’t matter when you’re in the boat.
Related: I feel like I’ve improved so much over just one season and I’ve been doing tons and tons of research these past few months off the water to prepare for the spring. I don’t know what I can do to keep my spot at their coxswain. What are your thoughts?
Also spend time learning about technique, what calls to make, steering, etc. When you’re taking the boat out, take your time, especially if you haven’t had much actual experience with the boat (more on that here) – better safe than sorry. Talk with your coach beforehand and see what the plan is for when you’re on the water. If you’re not comfortable yet with steering, spend a practice or two figuring it out and getting comfortable navigating around your waterway before you start trying to talk to the rowers. Learn the calls you’ll make with your crew, what the warm ups are, how to transition, etc.
Basically, make an effort to show that you are just as committed as the other people on the team. Don’t skip practice or assume that your presence isn’t necessary. The respect you gain from your rowers is like currency … the more you have, the better off you are. It doesn’t mean you should work any less hard but it does put you in a much better overall position.