Question of the Day

I had been rowing for a club for a few years and am now coxing due to a chronic illness. Right now, in winter, that means that I am still erging all workouts but I just can’t go at a rate higher than a 24. Even with this, I am still the third fastest girl on my team. My coach is in her first year and pretty much came in to overhaul our program and make it really good in 4 years (She has told us that she much prefers to work with novice freshmen).

When I was first diagnosed, she got really pissed at me, which was fine I guess, but now she refuses to help me learn how to cox or to even acknowledge me. I have come to every day of non-mandatory winter practice, I work my ass off and I am simultaneously trying to teach myself to cox whereas the rest of our coxswains are in 8th grade and either don’t show up or don’t try. She has now started putting me in a workout group with all of our eighth graders (whom she refers to as the slow ones), even though I still hold a top split for our team, even if I have to slightly modify workouts to, you know, stay alive.

I now have the option to tryout for another club, but they are 1 1/2 hours away (nearest club) and are our rival club. I really want to get better and they would definitely give me more opportunities, but I feel like I have put in so much energy to this team (which I loved before this coach and my diagnoses) that I would feel like I was betraying my team. What do you suggest? Should I stay with my club, quit, or switch clubs? And if I switch clubs, how can I prepare for a coxswain tryout since I haven’t ever really had anyone care to teach me? Thanks.

“When I was first diagnosed, she got really pissed at me, which was fine I guess…” Uh, what world do you live in where it’s OK for an adult to get pissed at a teenager for a medical condition that’s completely out of their control? Does it maybe mess with their plans a little bit, yea, but that’s no excuse to actively project their annoyance at them, let alone disregard them completely.

Have you talked to your coach directly about this? In most other situations I’d say that if a coach did this it’s probably not intentional, they’re just trying to keep their focus on the “healthy” athletes while you do whatever you’ve gotta do as far as modified workouts, rehab, etc. goes but to completely ignore you, that’s questionable to me. I’d try talking to her privately and say that you understand that having to switch to coxing isn’t ideal but since that happened you feel like there’s been a lack of communication between the two of you and you wanted to have a conversation so that you could figure out where you stand on the team, how she’s thinking of using you once you get on the water, etc.

Hear what she has to say and then maybe discuss the situation with your parents. A 90 minute drive to and from practice every day is a lot of time to spend in the car. Take that three hours on top of a two hour practice and, assuming you have practice at 4pm, it’d be 7:30pm at the earliest that you’d get home every night. When you consider the amount of time you need to spend doing homework, eating, showering, and sleeping, driving that far for practice doesn’t seem worth it to me, no matter how good the opportunity might be. That’s your call though.

As far as learning how to cox, if you’ve been rowing for a few years already then it’s likely that you already know the basic drills and calls. If she doesn’t seem willing or able to help you with the other stuff that goes into coxing, go to the experienced coxswains and ask them for some help with the things you don’t know/understand yet. Coaching you is part of her job though and if she doesn’t make an effort to do that like she does with the other people on the team then I’d maybe consider if being a part of the team is the best use of your time (and money, since I’m assuming you/your parents are paying a couple hundred dollars in fees each season).

If you do decide to switch teams then presumably you wouldn’t need to try out, unless the definition of a tryout has changed in recent years. I consider a tryout to be where you show off your skills to the coaches before the season starts and they either say “yay you made the team” or “sorry kid, maybe next year”. It seems like something that’d be pretty hard to do with a novice coxswain but if I had to guess I’d say they’d probably just put you in a boat (don’t read anything into what boat they put you into to start with, it literally means nothing), see how you do during practice with steering, giving commands, etc., and then give you some feedback afterwards.

What determines the boat you end up with is how well you respond to the feedback and make an effort to improve on the areas they said you were a little weak in. It doesn’t hurt to let them know beforehand that you haven’t had much experience with coxing, although I would avoid throwing your coach under the bus and saying that she refused to teach you because that doesn’t make you look very good.

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