Question of the Day

Do you think it’s wrong to sometimes correct a novice cox while being a novice rower myself? I don’t usually do it but in situations where we’re almost hitting something and she’s making the wrong call I sometimes can’t help myself. I definitely don’t want to undermine her but I also don’t want us to hit the bank for example. She doesn’t seem to get pissed off about it and sometimes even thanks me. But should I just shut up and let us hit things anyway?

Let’s say you and a friend had just gotten your driver’s licenses and you were in the car with your friend when he starts driving erratically, swerving side to side, and at one point nearly side swipes a parked car. You know he’s not being safe, but do you just carry on your normal conversation or do you, at some point, say “slow down”, “stop”, or “watch out”? Your natural reaction is to say “stop”. If something were to happen, you’d be involved too and at some point someone will ask you “well, if you saw he was about to hit something, why didn’t you tell him to watch out?”. If your safety was in question, would you just shut up and let him hit a guardrail, a tree, a person, etc. simply because you’d both only had your licenses for a short period of time?

Related: How to steer an eight or four

You can probably answer your own question so I’ll just leave it at that but I get why you’re asking though. There’s definitely people out there that believe people on the same “level” as them shouldn’t be offering up suggestions or corrections, which to an extent I agree with and understand, but this is not one of those situations. There’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it though, and that’s what makes the difference. If you were rude, pompous, etc. about it or tried to act as though you weren’t a novice too, that’s one thing. If you were polite, normal, and making a general suggestion for safety, like you are, or said something like “When we did the pick drill earlier, I think you forgot to do arms and bodies after arms only…”, there’s nothing wrong with that. The problem comes in when you start flat out telling them how drills should be called, how to steer, etc. That’s not OK unless you’re a coxswain too. I know this pisses rowers off because it tends to come back to “if they can tell me how to row, why can’t I tell them how to cox?” but the difference is that their job is to tell you how to row (in the general sense) whereas your job is to just row.

Your coxswain doesn’t seem to be bothered by what you’re saying, which is good. Since she’s a novice too, it’s possible that she might not see when she’s about to run into something which is probably why she’s thanking you. (Granted, the shore is kind of obvious, but regardless…) To an extent you’ve got to give her the benefit of the doubt because it is a little disorienting when you first start coxing and have to steer a 60ft. long boat when you aren’t able to ever see what’s directly in front of you. If you see you’re about to hit something or are getting close to the shore, another boat, etc., there’s nothing wrong with yelling out “Hey, there’s a log off starboard” or “Katie, we’re getting close to shore”. Don’t be annoying about it – yell it out once, make sure she heard you, and be done with it.

Related: It was commented on yesterday that I was ‘too quiet’. I think part of it is because I’m still concentrating so hard on the steering in an 8 (it’s a work in progress) that I forget the speaking part. Also, I’m coxing a boat with people in it who helped teach me to row so I struggle with the idea of ‘correcting’ them! I need to find my ability to motivate them, steer, and not panic about other boats around me. How do you multi-task when coxing? Any advice?

At some point though – and it’s questionable for everyone when the right time to do this is – you’ve got to be quiet and let them deal with shit on their own. The other issue I have with rowers telling coxswains stuff like this is that coxswains start to rely on it too much and when they hit something and no one says anything prior to it happening the coxswain will say “Why didn’t anyone say anything?? Coach, nobody told me I was about to hit anything!” to which my response will be “It’s not their responsibility to tell you how to steer, where to go, etc.”.

Going back to your friend and the car analogy, the minor swerves, too shallow/wide turns, etc. all come with the territory of being a new driver. Eventually they’ll get the hang of it and things will go a lot smoother. Until then, unless you’re that person (and seriously, don’t be that person) who freaks out and says “HOLYSHITOMGWE’REGONNADIE” every time they make a tiny move of the wheel, you can most likely be quiet for the majority of your drive. When there’s the potential for a collision to occur or the safety of the driver is in question, that is when should speak up. You’ve got to judge each situation appropriately and know when those times are.

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