Question of the Day

Hello! How do you get adjusted to a new team and location? I’m wondering because I am transferring schools and I’m really nervous about getting adjusted. I know that each team might have a different way of docking or calling different things. I’m coxing and I worried that if I don’t know those specific things because they are different that I won’t seem as authoritative.

The best – BEST – thing you can do, not only for yourself but your new teammates as well, is to talk to them. Talk to the other coxswains and ask them to give you a tour of the boathouse, show you where the cox boxes are, etc. and ask them to go over the calls they use because, like you said, everyone does things a little differently. Different doesn’t necessarily mean wrong but it is good to have a consistent language when telling people what to do or how to do things. I’ve never been “the new kid” anywhere so I can’t speak from personal experience but I’d suggest just going into it with an open mind, a friendly and confident attitude, and a flexible mindset. Things will inevitably be different so it’s important to not be 100% set or stuck in your old team’s ways. Adaptability at the beginning is going to be what the coaches look for in terms of how coachable you are. If you’re open to adjusting to the ways of your new team and not constantly saying “well, my old team did this” or “that’s not what my old team does”, things will work out a lot better for you, both in terms of making new friends and vying for the spot in the top boat.

Talk to your coaches too and figure out how they like to run their practices. We had an issue…well, not even an issue really, more so just lots of miscommunication…last week with a coxswain who was used to running practices on her own with the bare-minimum of input from her coach, whereas our coach likes to call the switches during warm-ups or tell her when to start/stop specific drills himself (as opposed to doing it for a certain number of strokes). At first, as a coxswain, this kind of bothered me but once I found out why he liked to do things like that it made a lot more sense (as a coach; as a coxswain, it still annoys me). The downside to this whole thing though was that it turned what should have been a good day on the water for this coxswain (on her first day back from Henley) into a stressful one that didn’t really leave the greatest of impressions on the other coach and I. Looking back on it, someone should have said “this is how I/we like to run practices, etc.” that way everyone would have been on the same page. His preference for how he liked to run things wasn’t something I knew either until the middle of practice when I asked but going forward I’ll know that that kind of stuff is something I need to go over with coxswains before going out.

Related: Hey. I’m just beginning as a coxswain on the men’s team at a D3 college and had a question about the relationship between the captain and the coxswain. They’re both supposed to be leading the team, so where do their jobs differ? I understand that in the boat, of course, the coxswain is in charge but I was wondering more how you handle your relationship with the captain leadership-wise during practices, on land, for team affairs, other leadership functions aside from specifically coxing the boat, etc. How much captain control is too much? I’ve heard that coxswains are supposed to run practices when the coach isn’t around and during the offseason but my captain has been doing that. I realize I’m new so it makes sense, but if I weren’t, theoretically, is that atypical? Thanks for all of posting all of these things. It’s been really helpful.

I can’t encourage you enough though to talk to them though and ask them how they do things. Do they like to do all or most of the talking during practice, do they prefer you to call everything on the warm-ups, how much input from you do they want on the water, etc. Ideally you and your coach would have a collaborative and openly communicative relationship but far too often that’s not the case. It’s always best to find that out before you get on the water though and not in the middle of practice.

As far as not sounding authoritative, that goes along with being confident. Talk to the coxswains, figure out their language, and then run that shit like you’ve been there since Day 1. If you sound unsure of yourself the first time you go out with them, the first impression you’re giving is that you’re that coxswain who doesn’t trust herself or her teammates. Don’t be that person! If you make a mistake, who cares. Brush it off and move on. You’ll get a bit of leeway during the first week (hopefully) but after that everyone will expect you to have everything down. Use the first couple of practices to get acquainted with everyone and everything but do that with an air of confidence. Just because you’re going to a new team doesn’t mean that you’re completely resetting the “coxswain” part of your brain. 1% of everything you know might change. Do what you already know how to do and adjust if/when necessary.

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