Question of the Day

Hi, I’m on a novice crew team and I’ve enjoyed it, but I want to quit. My team will have enough girls to fill an 8 but how do I let my coach know? I’m an engineering student and my schedule is too demanding for this sport. I know I’ll miss it but I need to focus on my schoolwork. Any advice?

I’ve been in a similar position before so I understand where you’re coming from. School does come first so it’s good that you’re recognizing where you need to focus your time. If you have a good coach hopefully he/she will understand although I won’t make any guarantees about them, at the very least, not being annoyed. As long as you tell them sooner rather than later, you won’t be leaving them high and dry which will make it a lot easier on you since you won’t have to face the ire of your entire team.

Related: I’m debating with myself whether or not to quit coxing (at the end of the year of course, I would never quit midseason) and I was wondering if you could listen to my reasons and offer some advice?

When you talk to your coach, I would sit down with them in their office and explain that while you’ve really enjoyed being on the team, you’ve realized over the past semester that the amount of time you were spending with crew was taking away from what you should have been spending on school. Knowing that your schedule is only going to get more intense from here has led you to the decision to remove yourself from the team so that all of your focus can be on your classes. Thank them for the opportunity to be a part of the team and throw in something in particular that you really enjoyed. Coaches always like to know that even if you can’t stick with the team, you at least got something out of it during the time you were with it.

Question of the Day

So I’m a novice coxswain and I am very self conscious. I am constantly asking my rowers what they want to hear and asking others for advice. In a race we did well at, I was really proud of myself but then one of the girls in the boat told me that they did all the work and I didn’t really do anything. And then when we do bad in a race, I feel like its all my fault. I don’t really know what to do…

That is so rude of that girl. I really can’t stand rowers that have that attitude towards coxswains. If you think that they are such unimportant additions to the boat, go scull or row a pair. They’re there for a reason whether you like it or not.

Related: 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?

If you do poorly in a race, it’s never one person’s fault. Yea, if you’re steering all over the place that’s probably going to make a significant difference and you deserve to have the rowers pissed at you for that. Otherwise, there isn’t much you can do to effect the outcome of the race other than call a good piece. Know your strategy and how to execute it. When you do execute it, do it confidently so that the rowers will feel your commitment and respond in kind.

Related: I’ve always been that insecure person but according to my rowers and coach, I’m a “good coxswain.” Problem is that I always find fault in whatever I’m doing. I’m positive towards my rowers but negative towards myself. Any tips on how to be more self confident?

Like I said to the person in the post linked above, sometimes you have to remove yourself from the situation and look at it from a neutral perspective. What actually happened in your race? What could you have done differently in terms of calling the race or where you made a certain call? How well did the rowers respond to your calls? What worked, what didn’t? What was the competition like? Are they known for being an insanely fast team who wins everything or are they a team you should have easily beaten? What were the weather conditions? How did that effect the water? How prepared was your crew for the race? Were they excited for it or was it “just another race”? All of those things have an effect on how well you do in a race, outside of the actual rowing. It’s never “all your fault”.

Question of the Day

I’ve always been that insecure person but according to my rowers and coach, I’m a “good coxswain.” Problem is that I always find fault in whatever I’m doing. I’m positive towards my rowers but negative towards myself. Any tips on how to be more self confident?

Most people are really surprised when I say this but I’m the same exact way. I’ve been told I’m a good coxswain and a great coxswain but I will never fail to find fault with at least 10 things I did during practice. When my rowers or coach ask me about it and I tell them whatever is bugging me they basically tell me I’m insane because I’m the only person that notices stuff like that and it’s not even anything that has any effect on the boat. I get very OCD about my coxing, how I call things, etc. and after we finish a piece I’ll think of something to say and get so annoyed at myself for not thinking of it earlier. I wonder if that could have been the call that resonated with the rowers or if waiting another 50 meters to call a burst would have made the difference in the end. It’s stupid, trivial stuff but I really do beat myself up over it. There have been times where we’ll have had a great practice but I’ll leave furious because I feel like I did terribly, even though I know deep down that I didn’t.

I think you just have to accept the fact that you ARE in fact, a good coxswain, and if you ever do mess up to the point where someone other than yourself notices, they’ll say something. I try and make it a point to be as routinely perfect as possible so that when I do make a mistake or someone asks me to adjust how I call something, I know they’re calling me out because what I did was out of the norm, not because I actually am terrible at coxing. I don’t know if that makes sense (it does in my head – everything always makes sense there) but it really has helped me to be less hard on myself.

After Head of the Charles I was beating myself up for days about the race because so many things went wrong but it finally took one of the women in my boat sitting me down and drilling it into me that the unpredictability of it all is unavoidable. Shit was BOUND to happen and it just so happened to occur during our race. I did everything right and that showed when I was the only coxswain to not be penalized during said mishaps. You have to realize that there are things you have control over and things you don’t. Focus on what you do have control over and let everything else go. The stuff you do focus on, focus on it the necessary amount…if you feel yourself getting really wound up over something, take a deep breath, look at the situation neutrally, and ask yourself if this is REALLY something you need to concern yourself with or are you just being overly-sensitive to the issue?

I’m a perfectionist at heart when it comes to rowing and coxing so not having things be “perfect” can really drive me nuts. I started to realize though that all my over-thinking was making me miserable, which obviously is not something you want to be as a coxswain. I’d already gone through the period of hating rowing and I didn’t want to do it again, so I decided one day that the next practice was going to be different…better. Instead of beating myself up over something I didn’t do or could have done differently, I made a serious effort to do whatever it was on the next stroke or the next piece. It wasn’t anything that anyone but myself noticed but it made SUCH a huge difference. Letting the anger of not doing something fuel you to actually do it is a wicked good stress reliever.

Don’t ever let anything get in the way of you enjoying being in the boat. I’ve been there and I’ve done that and trust me, it’s not worth it. Whatever you’re finding fault in, instead of letting it bother you, do something to fix it. Even if it’s something only you will notice, it does make a difference. Ultimately you can either CHOOSE to keep being hard on yourself or you can CHOOSE to make yourself better, but whatever option you go with, in the end it’s always your choice.

Question of the Day

Hi! I’m a junior in HS and I have a few colleges I’m interested in and I’m thinking of emailing the coaches. As a coxswain, what should I say? I also don’t have an SAT score yet so I’m not sure what to do. Can I just ask them what the requirement would be for SAT/GPA? Am I even allowed to email coaches yet?

Check out the “contacting coaches” tag – there’s lots of info in there about how to reach out to coaches, what to say, etc.

There are rules and such surrounding communication between coaches and prospective student-athletes but they pertain more to when the coach can contact YOU, not the other way around. Getting in touch with them now as a junior is fine (they can reply to your emails and stuff) but they can’t reach out to you directly until after July 1st of your senior year.

Related: Hey, I’m a senior in high school. I’m a coxswain and my coach said that I should email coaches to let them know that I’m interested in joining the team, do you have any advice as to what I should do/say in the emails?

Not having your SAT scores yet shouldn’t be a big deal, especially since you’re a junior. Assuming you’ve already taken the test or are scheduled to take it sometime in the next few months, you can include that information in your email – something along the lines of “I recently took the SAT in December 2012 and am currently awaiting the scores. When they arrive, I will forward them on to you.” Simple and sweet. Not only does it tell them that you’re on top of this stuff but it also gives you the opportunity for follow-up communication in a month or two. In my opinion, I think the follow-up is more important than the initial contact. Anyone can make the initial contact but only the really interested people follow up.

I wouldn’t ask the coach what the SAT/GPA requirements are simply because you can find that stuff out on your own by looking at the admissions website. You can ask them in comparison to the admission standards where do the athletes usually fall but the basic parameters are all laid out pretty clearly online.

Basic gear for novice coxswains

I’ve talked a lot about how coxswains should have a bag they carry with them when they’re on the water but as a novice you don’t really need all of the same stuff that experienced coxswains carry. There are definitely things I could add but this is just a “bare bones” list for when you’re just starting out. To see more tools frequently used by coxswains, check out the “tools” tag.

Sunglasses + hat

A good hat and pair of sunglasses can work wonders for a coxswain because they’ll help keep rain, wind, glare from the water, and (obviously) the sun out of your eyes. The less time you spend squinting the more time you can spend paying attention to everything that’s happening around you.

Wrenches

Besides your cox box, a wrench is probably the second most important tool that a novice coxswain should have. Being able to quickly run through the nuts & bolts before you go out and tighten them up ensures that you won’t lose any loose parts while you’re rowing. If you do have something come loose on the water though, having it on hand can be the difference between a quick stop and having to cut practice short. Just make sure you label them with electrical tape or nail polish so they don’t get lost. The type you’ll need will depend on the brand of boat you have – some use 10mm, others use 7/16in – so make sure you know what size you need before you pick one up.

Notebook

There shouldn’t be a practice that goes by where you haven’t written something down in your notebook, especially as a novice coxswain. You can use it to keep track of lineups, practice plans, questions you have, warmups, drills, erg results, calls, observations from the launch, feedback from the rowers/coaches, etc. Any small pocket-sized notebook will work fine but one that has waterproof paper will ensure that it holds up against the elements if your bag gets wet or you’re using it in the rain.

Pen + sharpie

These go hand in hand with your notebook. Having a sharpie on hand is also great if you need to label something, like where the center line on the steering cables is or which riggers go with which boat.

Recorder

This is a tool you should be using on a regular basis (alongside your notebook) to help you develop your tone, calls, and overall presence in the boat. A good recorder shouldn’t cost more than $30-$50 either, which is much more affordable than the cost of replacing your phone should it get wet while you’re on the water.

Waterproof bag

Regardless of what kind of bag you have, it should always be waterproof. A small bag like this that you can throw over your shoulder or wear around your waist is perfect for the few things you’ll need to carry with you because it keeps them dry and organized … but most importantly, dry.