Yesterday a friend of mine told me “You’re definitely a men’s coxswain. That’s where I see you. That’s your coxing style.” I agree with her (good thing, because I AM a men’s coxswain!) but I’m not sure how to articulate what it is about my style that makes it more geared toward men. What do you think makes that distinction? What makes someone’s style better for men or women?
I’ve never really given much thought as to what made the distinction between men’s and women’s coxswains. Even though I coxed women all through high school and when I was in college, I always knew that I was better suited for guys just based on my personality. A lot of people have told me that too. I talked about this the other day with someone – I think the reason why I enjoy coaching and coxing guys is because the way I push people resonates better with them than it does with women. With women, as this person said, they have a natural tendency to take that and internalize it too much and ultimately end up getting offended, upset, or insecure about themselves or their rowing. I truthfully just don’t have the patience for that, not because I dislike the person or am insensitive to what they feel but because I don’t know how to react or deal with it because I’m the complete opposite. This is a huge reason why I like guys because, for the most part, they don’t do that.
Like I’ve said before, this isn’t saying that women can’t be pushed or that they are somehow weaker compared to men. That’s not it at all. My boat senior year was one of the most driven, laser focused, no-nonsense boats I’ve ever coxed and they were women. They learned quickly how I coxed and learned to accept the criticism, intensity, etc. and know that it was all coming from a good place.
Related: I’m a guy who almost exclusively coxes women at the moment. However, I rowed for an entire year up to this October and I’m pretty naturally athletic. I still run and cycle pretty quickly. When we do land training, I feel like if I got on an erg and joined in I wouldn’t be helping as I’d be faster than most of them – and your cox being quicker than you would be pretty demoralizing. The only time I’ve joined in was when we did a 5k run and I agreed to be a backmarker and make sure nobody got left behind the pack by encouraging them to keep running and not give up. Do you think I’m right that it would be demoralizing for the girls if I joined in or do you think joining in would have a “leading from the front” aspect which would be beneficial for the squad?
How women are motivated though is different and that’s where coxswains have to make that distinction themselves. Everyone I’ve known that has coxed men have all been extremely confident (borderline cocky), ferociously outgoing, brazen people who don’t take shit from anyone. I think that’s an unspoken requirement for coxing guys, especially if you’re a girl. You’ve got to be able to take their shit at times and be able to throw it right back without blinking.
Everyone I’ve known who has coxed women has been equal in skill when compared with the guys’ coxswains but their personalities are calmer and their focus is more based around praise and reassurance. Guys can take the “your rowing is shit right now” call, make a change, and then think nothing of it two strokes later, whereas girls, in my experience, internalize it and start overthinking things, which can cause their rowing to get worse instead of better. When I cox women I’ve always found myself holding back just a little bit because I know saying “are you kidding me right now with these splits?” would cause a huge problem whereas with guys, I can say that and they instantly go at it harder and keep it there.
There’s definitely a psychological thing that goes along with it too. Sometimes people are just naturally better at coxing one sex or the other and it can’t be explained. Some people know why they’re better with one than the other and can easily pinpoint why. Other times, some coxswains just aren’t comfortable coxing certain people. Girls might have a hard time coxing fellow girls but find they’re great at coxing guys or they might be uncomfortable coxing guys and prefer to stick with the girls because it’s less intimidating. It changes from person to person.
Related: Advice from a coxes perspective would be great. I’ve been lucky enough to have the same cox for 2 years & he used to be amazing. Recently, it’s felt very much like he’s lost interest. He’s just in the boat, not part of the crew. He’s going through the motions. It makes it very hard to stay motivated, given everything else that’s crappy. He’s also coxing the elite men, maybe he sees them as his chance to win & we’re just the disorganized cranky old women he coxes sometimes. Should I call him on the change?
Regardless of who you’re coxing you obviously can’t be a dick about how you’re communicating. There’s a fine line between calling the rowers out and saying “this feels like shit, we need to fix XYZ now” but doing so in a positive way that communicates a sense of urgency and focus and doing the same thing but in a negative way that just brings down the mood of the boat. Some people will get in a boat with guys and think they have to be super macho or tough or whatever and the latter is what ends up happening. Regardless of who you’re coxing, your style, etc. your singular focus has to be on unifying the crew with whatever you’re doing.