Question of the Day

Hey there! Basically, my team lost all of their coxswains for the fall season, so I got bamboozled into coxing the Varsity A boat at the Charles with only 2.5 weeks of experience. So now winter training is in full swing and the novice team found a coxswain who coxed all four years of high school. The varsity guys are thinking about “stealing” her as their coxswain instead. On one hand, I want the boys in my boat to win and if they could do better with her as their coxswain then I want what’s best for them. But on the other, I don’t want to lose them! 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?

I’d talk to them and your coach (either separately or together) and state your case. Why should you be the coxswain that gets to cox this boat? What about you makes you the better choice? I can definitely understand them wanting to have a more experienced coxswain – that’s pretty natural. It sounds like you have a good relationship with your boat though so I doubt their intentions are malicious. Like you said, they want what’s best for the boat and what’s going to help them win. There are some serious advantages to having an experienced coxswain in your boat but that’s not to say that the research you’ve been doing the last few months hasn’t upped your skill level.

Talk to the guys in your boat and ask them what about this other coxswain is more enticing to them. Don’t approach the subject like “why do you want her instead of me” because that’ll just give them a reason to not want you. Instead, approach it as “if she’s doing something well then I want to learn how to do it too so I can incorporate it into my coxing and get better”. Also talk with your coach and see what his criteria is for choosing coxswains for his boats. Again, state your case as to why your name should be in the mix. Hopefully your coach will see your enthusiasm and recognize the efforts you’ve been putting in during the off-season and keep you on his short list for coxing that boat. This could also be a good opportunity to do a coxswain evaluation so you can keep everyone’s feedback organized.

Related: How are coxswain evaluations conducted?

During the indoor months, show up to every practice, be on time (which means early), help take erg scores down, cox the guys on the erg when they need it, volunteer to run circuits, help clean the ergs down after practice (gross, but necessary), take lots of notes, assist the coach with anything he might need help with … in short, be engaged. If you tell your coach you want to be considered for this spot in the boat, you’ve gotta work for it. Part of working for it involves not being a wallflower during the winter. Assuming you’re not on the water yet, you have to display a different skill set to demonstrate what makes you a good coxswain. (Granted, this is stuff you should do after you’re assigned a boat too, not just during the process of getting one.) Stuff like this can earn you a lot of respect from the rowers, which is one of the most crucial parts of coxing.

Related: At the moment I have been doing quite well within my squad, I have been in the A boat (quad). I row for school and next term part way through the season we have a new rower joining us as one left. She is really tall and said her older brothers were quite good rowers. Today was her first time in a boat and she has never been on an erg. Is it possible that she could take “my” spot? This is my second season rowing and I am not very tall, 5’3. I am really worried she will!!

Ultimately though, the decision will most likely be up to the coach and whatever that decision is, you’ve got to respect it. If you don’t get to cox this boat, wish the other coxswain good luck, tell her what a great group of guys she has, and then throw your focus into your new boat. Approach them with the same enthusiasm as you would had you gotten to cox your other boat. Don’t make them feel like they’re your second choice – that’s a terrible way to start off the season and won’t do much for you in terms of gaining respect from the rowers.

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