Question of the Day

Hi, I’m a novice coxswain for a men’s collegiate team. We have 3 8+’s and 4 coxswains so one person always has to sit out. During one of our races, the other novice coxswain got to cox 2 races while I had one. I don’t understand why the coaches picked her over me. She shows up to practice hungover, misses at least one practice a week, and has crashed the boat 5 times. The coaches keep commenting on how impressed they are with me but she always gets the better positions. Do I confront her? My coaches? Or should I shut my mouth and deal with it?

I wouldn’t confront her directly about it but I wouldn’t stay quiet about it either. If all those things have really happened your coaches have to at least have an idea about it – there’s no way they can’t tell when she’s showing up hungover or haven’t seen/heard about her crashing the boat.

Related: What’s your opinion on rowers smoking/drinking? Do you think there can ever be a balance or should athletes just avoid it?

This is a tricky situation because it’s hard to confront your coaches about a decision they made regarding a teammate without sounding petty. I would find time to sit down with them just to talk about your progress so far. What have they seen you doing well, what would they like you to keep working on, what have you been working on, what your goals are for the season, etc. Talk about your race and casually ask them what went into the decisions on who was boated where or why some coxswains got to race more than once. It’s vague enough that you aren’t saying “why was she in that boat?” but it’ll also give you the opportunity to hear their rationale for why which coxswains were in which lineups. You can also ask if the coxswains will rotate in the future between who does two races and who done one should a situation like this arise again.

If they ask you why you’re asking, you can bring up that when you look at yourself vs. the other coxswains and take into account what the coaches are telling you about your performance, you’re confused because the boats/races you’re being put in don’t seem to measure up to the feedback you’re getting. Hopefully this will initiate a conversation and give them a chance to tell you why you are where you are.

I have to imagine that they’d want to know about this other coxswain showing up hungover, crashing boats, etc. if they somehow don’t already because it’s a safety issue at the very least. The issue is finding the right time to bring it up, which there hardly ever is one until it’s too late and then it comes to “well, if you knew, why didn’t you say something?”.

Do the varsity coxswains know about these issues? One thing you could do is talk to them first and then they can talk to her from an upperclassmen/team leader/fellow-but-more-experienced coxswain standpoint. If they feel it’s necessary to go to the coach, you can go with them or you can have them come with you, whichever makes you comfortable. That way you can say that you weren’t sure how to handle it because you know it’s not your place to do so so you wanted to talk to someone with higher standing first but they thought it’d be best to go  directly to the you, the head coach. From there you can let them deal with it.

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