Question of the Day

Hello, I am a male HS senior coxswain who is 5’11”, 132lbs., and currently getting looks from several top level college coaches. Problem is, my HS coach says I am too heavy and I have been getting vibes that I may not be allowed to cox this spring due to my size. Compared to the other coxswains in my boathouse, I by far put my boat in the best position to win even despite my weight. I need to have a sit down conversation with the coaching staff to get things straight. I have a general idea of how to make my case to cox but I would like some more input. How would you suggest I approach this conversation? My boat is going to have our fastest season yet and I would like to spend my last HS year finishing what I started three years ago. Coxing is something I want to continue to do on a competitive level in college, so that makes things even more complicated. Also, as a collegiate coach yourself, and I don’t know if you can speak for the rest of the Cornell coaching staff, what is your philosophy about heavy coxswains? Any feedback would be appreciated. Thank you.

You are tall for a coxswain … is getting down to 120lbs even possible for you, let alone healthy? That should be what your coaches are asking you rather than giving you vibes like they’re not gonna let you race.

Truthfully, I don’t think you need to say anything other than what you just said. You and your crew are poised to have your fastest season yet (give reasons why you believe this, don’t just say “we’re gonna be fast!” – how do you know this, what are you basing it on, etc.), you want to finish what you started, you’re being looked at by multiple top collegiate programs, etc. and then list a couple reasons as to why YOU are the coxswain that puts this boat in the best position to win. Remember, it’s not about talking the other coxswains down, it’s about talking yourself up.

In addition to that, emphasize the fact that you’re being recruited by these collegiate programs and let them know how not coxing your last season in high school could hurt that. Obviously you’re going to know where you’re going to school before the season starts (presumably) but that’s beside the point. Getting that practice time, race experience, etc. are all huge factors here.

As frustrating as the whole situation is, try not to let your feelings towards it cloud your judgment when you talk to your coach(es). Listen to what they have to say, stay level-headed when presenting your case, and regardless of what the final decision is remember that you’re still a part of the team and it’s still your responsibility to contribute in whatever way you can. It might not be in the way that you’d hope but there is still a boat that you can help go fast or a coxswain you can mentor. Regardless of how things turn out, put it behind you, and move forward. You’re a senior which means everyone on the team is looking to you (whether you realize it or not) to set the example. Your actions and attitude following their final decision (in your favor or not) will play a huge part in communicating to your teammates what the “standard” is for people on your team. Do you hold yourself to a high enough standard that you can accept the decision and move on or are you going to be that person that bitches, complains, and badmouths the coaches weeks/months after the fact?

I definitely can’t speak for the other coaches but I don’t have a problem with “heavy” coxswains as long as they’re within a “common sense” range above the minimum. By “common sense” I mean just that – knowing that they are physically dead weight and therefore should be the lightest athlete in the boat, coxswains should use their common sense when looking at their weight in relation to their respective minimums if they aren’t naturally under them. 15lbs over it isn’t common sense but 5lbs is. For me, I ‘d say 7-8lbs over the minimum is the upper limit of that range. If you’re coxing lightweights I would say that range shrinks to 3-5lbs because … you’re coxing lightweights. The logic there should be obvious. If the coxswain was toeing the line, I’d casually mention it just to get an idea of what their plan is to get to weight (do they even have a plan?) and ensure that they’re being safe/responsible when it comes to nutrition, exercise, etc.

Related: What would you do if you were a lightweight with a coxswain that’s actually heavier than the rowers? I don’t want to be rude about weight or anything but the mentality of it is just hard because we’re not big ourselves so the stationary person shouldn’t be bigger. Or am I just being a bitch?

If a coxswain was over that I’d talk with them, explain my thought process, assess what weight they could reasonably be at relative to the racing minimum (because not everyone can easily be 110lbs or 125lbs), and then come up with a plan with them (and/or put them in contact with the strength coach/team nutritionist) to help them get there within a practical period of time.

Related: Defining the role of the coxswain: What coaches look for in a coxswain

When compared to more legitimate things like actual abilities, yes, it’s still a factor but their weight is at the very bottom of the list of things I look at when giving input on coxswains. If I can see that they’re taking it seriously, working out regularly, and putting the effort in it’s a complete non-issue for me. If they’re not putting the effort in or taking it seriously, then it becomes a bigger thing to consider, although still relatively minor in comparison to everything else.

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