How do you deal with losing, especially if it was a big race? As my boat’s coxswain I feel like I’m taking it way harder than everyone in my boat. We did really well and my rowers gave it their all but I’m just very upset that we didn’t do as well as we wanted. I’ve been crying and while I am SO PROUD of my girls (and of myself) I just feel like I let my boat down. Please help?
My senior year we finished second at Midwest and initially I was pissed because we lost by a bow ball. Like, are you kidding? All of those months of practice and it comes down to two inches? I was so angry. I kept going over in my head every single stroke we took, every single call I made, would the outcome have been different if I’d waited ten meters to call the sprint or if I’d done this instead of that.
I realized later though that there was nothing I’d change about that race. If I had to do it over again I’d do everything the exact same, even if meant losing by a bow ball again. I was that confident in our race plan, our rowing, and my coxing. That’s all you can be is confident and steadfast in the thought that you did and gave everything you could in your race. Losing doesn’t mean someone did something wrong or that someone let someone else down. The beauty of rowing is that no one individual can let the boat down because it’s a team sport. Nine people have to work together to go from Point A to Point B and those nine people are collectively responsible for the boat’s successes and failures.
As a coxswain you will take it harder than everyone else. It’s natural to feel like that because from the time the official says “go” to when we cross the finish line, every decision that’s made is ours and regardless of the outcome, but most especially if we lose, we’re going to scrutinize every call we made. Instead of doing that, which only makes you feel worse, get together with your boat (and coach, if you want) and talk about the race from beginning to end. Don’t over-analyze it, just talk about it. Beginning being the moment you called “hands on” to take the boat down to the dock and the end being when the boat was derigged and on the trailer. Before you went out, was everyone’s head in the game? How confident did you feel in yourselves and in your race plan? During the race, what happened? What did you call? Where did you make your move? Why? Why there? What were you seeing? How did the boat feel? What did it look like? Could you see/feel the improvements you’ve made the last few weeks at practice or did it feel like you reverted back to some bad habits?
Most likely what you’re going to notice is that overall, everyone is proud of how they did, how you did, etc. You can have a good, even great, race and still have a shitty outcome. It happens and it sucks but the only thing – the only thing – you can do is reflect on it, learn from it, and go out at your next practice with the expressed intent of doing things harder, better, faster, and stronger. Expectations of how well you want to do are something you should have but you shouldn’t put all your eggs in that basket. Not meeting them this week shouldn’t do anything to your psyche other than motivate you to work harder so you can meet/exceed them at your next race.