Question of the Day

Hey! So I keep getting put in boats that I don’t think I belong in at races/practices, even though the boats that I should be on request me and I’m sure I’m better than the coxswain in those boats. When talking to my coach, he tells me that because we lost a race to a technically slower boat, it is literally all my fault and no one else’s fault even though my boat doesn’t blame me at all, so I shouldn’t be on the faster boats.

I’m so frustrated and just thinking of quitting but I need a reason to not quit because I will regret it if I do. I love this sport yet getting the blame being put entirely on me by my coach unfairly really bothers me. I’m just confused and don’t know what to do anymore. Another note on losing to the slower boat, we lost due to many reasons, most being technique issues in the boat and the other coxswain didn’t even have a cox box so it wasn’t that boat’s coxswain’s calls. Thank you so much. Sorry for the long question, I’m just really frustrated.

Have you tried talking to your coach about this? Blaming coxswains for every single thing that goes wrong in the boat is something that irritates me so much (and not just because I’m a coxswain either). My theory is that unless someone catches a massive crab that completely eliminates you from contention, losing a race is on everyone in the boat, not just one specific person or a couple  specific people. There’s always things that everyone can do better and to put the blame solely on a coxswain not making the right calls or whatever is BS.

Coxswains can only do so much too … like, yes, you’re there to give instructions, make corrections, etc. and you could do that until you’re blue in the face but unless the rowers actually listen to you and make an effort to do something different, things aren’t going to change. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink is essentially what I’m getting at.

I’d approach him about this and say that as a crew you all agree that the reason you lost was because of technique issues that everyone was having and now that you, as the coxswain, are more aware of what those issues are and what calls to make for them, you feel like you deserve an opportunity to work with them for at least a couple practices to show your coach not only your improved communications skills but also the positive effect that you have on the boat when you’re in there with them. Think about what you contribute to the boat, how you being in there makes them faster, and tell him that. If he doesn’t respond to that or keeps putting you in the other boats … I mean, that’s kind of unfair in my opinion, but you’ve essentially got to accept that that’s the decision he’s made (regardless of whether it’s right, fair, etc.) and commit to working with your new boat to help them go fast.

Going back to what I said about being more aware of the technique issues, make sure you actually are aware of what specifically was causing problems, what the stroke should look like compared to how it looked that day, what you need to tell the rowers to do differently, what calls you would make, and how you would make those calls. Be cognizant of all of that with whatever boat you’re put in and make an effort to be really on top of watching their technique so you can immediately point out something when you see it. Not only will that make you a better coxswain in the long run but it’ll also give your coach an opportunity to watch you with a completely different crew and see that you’re making an effort yourself to do something differently/better than you were before.

Whenever I’m in a boat that’s consistently having technique problems one of the things I always do is re-evaluate how I’m communicating with them and if I’m saying the right things. Even if what I’m saying sounds good to me or good in my head, it might not be resonating with the rowers, which means I’ve gotta either stop using it or reword it so everyone understands what I’m saying. One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a coxswain is continuing to use an ineffective call or saying the same thing over and over with no results. If your coach sees you making an effort to improve that area of your coxing then he might be willing to give you another shot with your original boat.

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