Question of the Day

I’m a novice coxswain for a men’s team, and I have absolutely no idea what to say to fix an issue. It’s been at least four months with me as a coxswain and we’re nearing the end of racing season. I have no idea what the source of an issue is, and am just grasping at straws. It occurred to me I’m simply repeating the same exact things every practice. Our biggest issues is the rest of the boat rushing up on stroke pair, and occasional issues of set that extend beyond just lower or raising blades and handles. My team has lost all patience with me and have no trust in me whatsoever. I want to quit, but have no replacement.

I guess to add on to this, I forgot to mention that at the end of December, basically all of our novice coxswains quit. We had four, and all of them left until I was the only left. I stayed because I didn’t want to leave my guys hanging. There is this one spare coxswain on the team, let’s call her C. She…doesn’t really do anything. I believe she is the women’s novice coxswain, but they only have one boat, so she just does…nothing. She’s there every morning though. I passed along the idea of quitting to my coach and her, and she basically said she “couldn’t” be the novice men’s coxswain because she wasn’t “allowed” to. I learned from my coach that she wanted to stay a novice coxswain for next year, and by competing she would have to be varsity. First off, I feel like I should be allowed to be a little annoyed at this. Part of me just wants to walk up to the coach and hand over my position, pay my fees, and leave. I never really wanted to be a coxswain in the first place. I joined rowing to row, but I didn’t have the athletic ability to do it. Thinking about it now, I don’t know why I stayed on the team. I don’t know what to do. We have two races left, one on Saturday and WIRA.

OK, let me ask you a question. What have you done to educate yourself on the different issues your crews are having? By educate yourself I mean how often did you bring the issue up with your coach(es) and ask them what causes this, what do the rowers need to be doing, what calls should/could I be making, etc., in addition to doing your own research outside of practice by Googling or YouTubing the issues your crew is having, looking up technique, drills, etc. or talking with your rowers to find out what you could be doing to help the crew? How often did you try to video your crew or have someone on the launch video them so you could go over it as a crew with your coach? Your coaches have a responsibility to teach you about this stuff but you have a responsibility to teach yourself as well. The loss in patience and trust from your teammates is usually exacerbated when they get the impression (or know) that you’re not doing anything on your own to make yourself a better/stronger coxswain.

Related: Coxswain skills: “So, what did you see?”

Personally I don’t think you should be “allowed” to be annoyed that another coxswain doesn’t want to or doesn’t feel ready to race yet. That’s a judgement call on her end and if she wants to continue as a novice next year to gain more experience and enhance her skills before she begins racing, you have to respect that whether you agree with it or not . I’d much rather have a coxswain do that than jump straight into a competitive crew that’s preparing to race when they’re not ready to do so.

If you’re having issues with rush and slide control, try doing some two-part pause drills pausing at hands away and half slide. I did those with my crew a couple weeks ago and they helped a lot.

Related: As a novice coxswain I still really struggle with the technical aspect of practices. This summer I joined a boat club and spent two weeks out on the water learning to row, hoping that the first-hand experience would help me understand how to fix some common problems. Now that I’m coxing again, I still get really confused when something is wrong with the set. I don’t know what other advice to give other than handle height suggestions and counting for catch-timing, especially when it doesn’t seem to be up or down to one side consistently (like rocking back and forth with every stroke). I was wondering what advice you would give to your rowers in a situation like this, and how you can recognize and remedy some common technical problems.

It really sounds like you aren’t enjoying crew at all though and (correct me if I’m wrong) don’t have much invested it in other than the fees and the time you spend at practice. If you’ve only got WIRA’s left now then I would at least stick it out through that and then you can give your coach your fees and leave.

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