Any words of advice for making the transition from coxing at the high school level to coxing in university? I had my first practice this week (the uni has a club program in the summer) and it’s safe to say that the practice was a little … rocky. Is this normal for the first practice? My coach was really great about it all, saying I have the whole summer to get up to speed and I made sure to take full responsibility for any errors or spotty bits in my communication so as not to start off poorly with the rowers (I’m a girl coxing the men’s team, by the way). But I guess I’m just worried about all the usual things … gaining respect, executing the workout and drills properly, meeting the rowers’ and coach’s expectations, etc. I could rant all day to you about this but I suppose it just comes down to: do I have too high expectations of myself in wanting things to go smoothly right off the bat? How long do you think it will take to get in the swing of things? Sorry if this question isn’t quite coherent.
It is normal I think because you’re coxing people that you don’t know (that well) and haven’t ever coxed before. There’s going to be that initial period in the beginning where things will be a little “off” because they’re getting used to your style, which is probably different than the way their previous coxswain did things, and you’re trying to figure out eight new people in addition to how to manage practice with a different coach. I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Once you get to know them and vice versa things will be fine. It’s great that your team has this summer program because, like your coach said, you’ve got all summer to hone your skills and get up to speed which means in the fall you’ll be 100% on top of your game.
Gaining respect comes with time. It can’t always be earned on the first day but it can definitely be lost there. Treat your rowers like you want to be treated, carry out your responsibilities appropriately, effectively, and diligently, own up to your mistakes when necessary, and remember that there are people around who are always willing to help you – all you have to do is ask.
If you’re worried about the workouts or drills, see if you can meet up with one of your coaches one day to go over the drills they like to do. This would be great to do for two reasons – one, you find out what the drills are, how to do ones that you aren’t familiar with, and can get some basic insight on what the coach is specifically looking for with each one and two, it shows your coach you’re committed to the team, you want to be the best coxswain you can be for your boat, and that you’re willing to put the time and effort in off the water to get better on the water. I feel like people are afraid that something like this would make them look like a kiss-ass but from a coach’s perspective, my respect and level of trust in him/her would skyrocket.
Related: Do coaches generally like it when novice coxes go into their office asking questions about last practice/tips on what they could have done better coxing wise, etc? Or does it make the novice, look like a nervous, needy, annoying cox? That’s what I’m always worried about going into coach’s office. Thanks! I love that you’re a cox/coach and you answer all our questions!
In terms of expectations, wanting to meet the expectations of the rowers and coaches isn’t a bad thing. Just know that right off the bat, they have little to no expectations because they don’t know you. The coaches know you from recruiting (if you went through that process) so they have expectations based off what they’ve seen on paper but that’s all. In the fall, yea, they’ll have some that are more established but I don’t think it’s something you need to seriously concern yourself with right now. I don’t think wanting things to go right immediately means you have expectations that are too high but just remember that the expectations you consider to be reasonable may be considered too high by others. Your expectation of the boat has to be a combination of fifty other minor expectations, which I don’t think is something most coxswains realize. For now, you should have one expectation and that’s of yourself to go out each day and execute practice well. If you can get off the water saying that today was a good day, consider your expectations met. If you can’t say that, don’t necessarily chalk one up in the loss column right away. Instead think about why they weren’t met, what happened, what you can do differently, and then apply your realizations to tomorrow’s practice.
Depending on how often you’re practicing, I’d say give it a week or two. It’s not like you’re a novice learning how to cox for the first time – you already know how to do that. What you’re doing is getting used to coxing a new group of people while being coached by a new group of coaches. That takes time but it sounds like your coaches are really encouraging and I would assume willing to help you should you need it. For now, don’t stress yourself out over anything. The summer is supposed to be relaxing, regardless of what you’re doing. And crew, hard as you might/should be working, should always be enjoyable. Don’t ruin it by over-thinking things. Been there, done that, was 10x more miserable. Use this time to get to know your rowers and don’t be intimidated by them. Like I said earlier, treat them like you want to be treated, be friendly and approachable, spend time with them outside of practice, etc.