Question of the Day

I know you’re an amazing cox but have you ever been put into a situation where you’ve been bumped down a boat? Everybody said I was doing well and improving but my friend got switched from rower to cox yesterday and she’s so good she coxed varsity seat racing. I’m not trying to be mean, she’s my friend, but I guess I’m just bitter that she’s such a quick learner and varsity likes her better for it, I feel. I guess I just don’t know what to do…

Oh yea. When I was a junior in high school I coxed the lightweight 8+ … we went to nationals, finished 10th overall … it was a great year. Despite it being a great boat there were some people in it that I didn’t get along with at all. I mean, it’s high school – take the normal high school drama and then throw on eight girls trying to make weight every week. Luckily, when we were in the boat and practicing we were fine and never had any problems but off the water we definitely weren’t hanging out together or anything.

Senior year it was assumed that I’d be with the lightweights again. Something happened before going out for our first race (a combination of boat problems, coach problems, etc.) and I lost it on them. I was so over the over-talking and back-talking to one another, the drama, etc. and I basically told them to shut up, fuck off, and let’s just go out and race. I’d already maintained in my head that I didn’t think I wanted to cox them that year but the only other boat left was the novice eight, which on principle I wasn’t keen on because … they’re novices.

When we got back to the boathouse that week, they told our coach that they wanted another girl (someone who was actually friends with them) to be their coxswain, which really didn’t bother me that much but he went about making the switch entirely the wrong way. He put me with the novice eight but the way he explained it, it was more of a punishment than anything else. I was pissed … not really pissed, more so offended I think because I’m about to go to college to cox and you’re punishing me for not getting along with two or three people by putting me with a group of people who literally don’t even know how to row? Awesome. If I was furious with anything it wasn’t so much the situation, it was the decision in general because I was a senior coxing novices and he tried to make it out like the reason that happened was solely because I was a terrible coxswain when everyone, even the lightweight girls, knew that wasn’t the case.

Related: I am in my 3rd year coxing and I’m fighting for the JV boat with another girl who is in the same grade as me. I was really, really bad my novice year and wasn’t really good until now. I really want to beat her so I asked some rowers what I could do better and they said that people respect her more, and that she is more authoritative. But the thing is when I try to be authoritative people just think I’m a bitch because I’m normally really friendly and nice. How do I earn their respect?

Luckily, we had another coach who took us under his wing and pretty much exclusively coached us that year. He had issues with the head coach as well and spent many hours after practice and throughout the season calming us down after this coach would purposely do things to piss us/me off. He wasn’t shy about making it known either that he didn’t like our boat. What I know, for a fact, was that he didn’t anticipate this novice 8+ being as good as we were. They still are the best boat I’ve ever coxed – I’ve never seen a better women’s eight, even when I coxed in college. The one race we lost was the BEST race I have ever had in a boat. It was at the Midwest Championships and we lost by less than a bow ball after being in a dead heat with the winning crew for all but the last 5-10 meters.

Looking back on it, coxing that boat was hands down the best “punishment” I’ve ever had. We all got along, I never questioned their commitment, they worked harder than any crew I’ve ever had, and they wanted it. Some of the other crews on the team, I felt like they knew they were going to win so they started to get a little complacent about things. This crew, even when they were winning race after race after race (and setting course records while doing so) never had that attitude.

My coach also told me that one of the reasons why we were as good as we were was because of what I brought to the boat – they benefited from my three years of previous experience, my passion, and my get-shit-done attitude. I knew when to push them but most importantly I knew how to push them. There were times when I felt like I was slave-driving them but no one ever said they didn’t want that and that, I think, made all the difference. I wouldn’t necessarily say that bumping me down gave me a reality check, because I don’t think that I was ever complacent or anything about my spot in the boat beforehand to the point where I needed a reality check, but it did open my eyes to a lot of things and I am 1000% a better coxswain for it.

I wouldn’t be bitter about your situation. I was bitter for awhile but I quickly realized, unbeknownst to the head coach, that I was in a much better position now with this boat than I was with any of the varsity boats I’d coxed before (and I’d been coxing varsity since I was a novice). Yea, it sucks being moved around, especially when you think that someone who has less experience than you has the potential to be better than you are, but you’ve got to find something positive about being switched and use that to fuel you.

Related: This is probably going to sound really stuck up but I promise you I am not intending it to be that way. I’m the only coxswain my team has. I’ve coxed them through every race and I love coxing so much and I love my team, but one of my rowers now says she wants to be a coxswain and there’s only enough girls for one boat. I’m honestly terrified she’s going to try and take my spot and I want it way more than she does, to be quite honest. I’m just really worried and idk what to do.

Instead of using your energy to be upset that your friend got moved up, channel it and your coxing skills towards making your new boat the fastest boat on the team. Shock the hell out of everyone. Trust me, there really is nothing like racing with your boat and looking over to where your teammates are on shore and seeing stunned looks on their faces because they had no idea you were this good.


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