Question of the Day

Our team (high school varsity men) has two captains, me (the coxswain) and “Jim”, one of the fastest heavyweights. Our coach has a full-time job in addition to coaching us so a lot of the responsibility falls on the captains. I know that I was elected mostly based on my organizational abilities and so I expected to assume a lot of the work on that end, but Jim has barely done anything all year. I have to organize every captain’s practice and outside workout, even though I’m just a coxswain and honestly don’t know too much about weightlifting or whatever (Jim told me he would once but backed out at the last minute) and I’m always the one who has to manage everything at regattas, events, etc. The only exceptions are “fun” activities – gingerbread house, laser tag, team t-shirts are the only things he’s managed himself. His attendance is pretty mediocre too, which really undercuts the message our coach and I are trying to promote about good attendance and hard work at every practice.

I’m exhausted trying to juggle it all but I worry that if I don’t do everything myself it simply won’t get done. What could I say to him so that he’ll step up a little and take some of the pressure off? As far as I can tell he doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong.

Have you talked to Jim one-on-one at all? If you haven’t, I would do that as soon as you can and just tell him straight up that you guys were both elected as captains but it feels like you’ve been doing a lot of the work that should have been split between the two of you. I wouldn’t outright accuse him of not doing anything though because that’d probably end poorly. Instead just say that if he’s got a lot of stuff going on outside of crew that’s preventing him from helping you organize stuff then that’s totally understandable but he needs to tell you that so that you’re aware that he’s not just blowing you off. See if you can work something out where you equally divide up the things that need to be done so that you both have your own specific responsibilities. Write it down so that there’s no question later on in the season who’s in charge of what. That always works best for me. Also make it a rule/common courtesy that if one of you have to pull out of your commitment that you try and give at least 24-48hrs notice to the other person.

It’s possible that the reason why he’s not doing anything (and why he doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong) is because no one’s given him a specific responsibility and/or it’s not something the two of you have discussed. I’ve been in that position before and gotten screwed because I ended up looking lazy or disinterested when in reality I wasn’t aware that I needed to be doing anything. I don’t think people should always be expected to come ask/beg for some responsibilities so I wouldn’t necessarily hold this against him.

Related: I know coaches are always looking for “team leaders” but there’s this one girl on my team who TRIES to be a leader but is just ignorant & bossy. Inevitably, she only hurts herself by getting on her teammates & even coaches nerves. She’s leaving next year (along with a huge majority of my team) & I want to be an effective leader but I’m afraid of being annoying to underclassmen like this girl is to me. How do I lead w/o being bossy and making people want to straight up slap me in the face?

Plus, everyone has different strengths. He probably knows that you’re good with the organizational stuff and might think that everything that’s needed to be done so far falls under that category so naturally, you’ll handle it. I’ve done that before too – if there’s something that needs to be done that I don’t think fits with my specific skills set but looks like it might fit someone else’s, I just assume they’ll do it. Sometimes its plays out this way and they do it but other times it doesn’t get done at all because we never communicated about it. If you’re comfortable with the organizational stuff, you can be in charge of (for example) making sure everything is loaded on the trailers, dealing with team paperwork, and basic equipment upkeep. He can be in charge of talking with your coach about the workouts, setting up captain’s practices/outside workouts, and communicating the dates/times to the team, in addition to organizing team activities (which, since he’s been doing, might be something that he enjoys … or it’s easy to do but whatever, as long as it gets done).

It can be frustrating feeling like everything is falling on your shoulders but communication with the other involved parties is usually all it takes to balance the responsibility load. If you do that and still don’t see a change, try talking to your coach while avoiding completely throwing Jim under the bus. If he’s got mediocre attendance and your coach is aware of that, I’d bring that up. That isn’t throwing him under the bus, it’s more so just restating what your coach already knows. I’d even pose the question to Jim if he even wants to be team captain. Like, yea it’s cool to tell college coaches that you were team captain but if you didn’t actually do anything to back up the title, what’s the point? If things don’t seem to change after you talk to him, talk to your coach and say that, for whatever reason, it doesn’t seem like he’s embracing the role and that the things that you should both be doing you end up doing yourself and it’s getting on your nerves. Let your coach take it from there and deal with the situation.

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’d really encourage you to try to find a way to work with Jim though before you do this. Give it a month or so then proceed as necessary. If Jim does step up and start acting like a team captain, make sure you acknowledge it and say “hey man, thanks for all your help the last few weeks”. Little things like that can really motivate someone to continue helping you out. If he feels like he’s stepping up but not getting any recognition for it (whether it’s deserved or not), he might fall back into his previous routine of doing nothing.

I’ve touched on the “team captain” topic a couple times so you might read through some of those posts and see if they might give you some ideas on how to talk/work with Jim and be the best captain you can be for your team.

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