Hi. First off let me say I love your blog. I completely agree with everything you say. I looked for a question like mine but I can’t really find one that’s exactly like it. I cox a group of guys and most of them are older than me, so of course they’re kind of douchey when someone younger than them is in charge, but it’s kind of gotten out of hand. On and off the water all they do is ridicule me. I have become ostracized from the group of friends that is our boat, and everything I do is constantly under scrutiny by them. There are two guys especially who are the oldest in the boat and everyone follows what they do. They are my stroke pair and no matter the importance of an issue, they constantly correct every single tiny mistake I make. Even sometimes during pieces! I have talked to them multiple times about letting me and my coach deal with it and not them, or at least talk about it on land instead, but they still do it. I.E: During a random 500 that my coach called to get us in after practice, I forgot to call the start and they yelled at me during the piece to correct me. We have regionals coming up and I’m tired of this. What should I do to end it once and for all?
Ugh, the unfortunate thing about this is that you’re completely right about older guys being jerks when the person in charge of them is younger than they are. I think a lot of coxswains who read this question will probably be thinking “wow, that’s exactly how my boat treats me”. It sucks and it’s not right and at some point, you’ve gotta do one of two things. The first is really stand up for yourself. Talking to them multiple times only does so much and to be honest, it’s probably doing more harm than good at this point. You need to flat out, point blank tell them (all of them) in a firm tone that you’re done with their shit and the only people they’re hurting is themselves because they’re focusing more on you than they are on their own rowing. Tell them that the back talking and backseat coxing ends now and from here on out, you’ll be ignoring what they say unless it’s constructive criticism that’s offered in a polite tone during water breaks or normal info that needs to be communicated between the stroke and coxswain during pieces (i.e. stroke rate, rush, etc.).
Remind your stern pair in particular that they are setting a really bad example for the rest of the boat by behaving like they are and you don’t appreciate the constant undermining of your authority that happens as a result of everyone else following their lead. If they spent half as much time scrutinizing their own stroke as they do your coxing, how much faster would you be? Instead, the time they spend getting on your ass about insignificant stuff is seconds and inches that they’re just giving away to the other boats in your race at regionals. I’m not saying that to be dramatic either, that’s exactly what’s happening and that’s what you need to tell them. You need to stand up for yourself and say this stuff (maybe not this exactly but you get my point). Until you solidly put your foot down and assert yourself, they’re going to keep thinking it’s OK to continue walking all over you. If they want to pick on teammates that are younger than them and get away with it, go join football, but until they decide to do that they need to check their egos and adjust their attitudes.
The second thing is to get your coach involved. If it’s progressed past the point of you being able to tolerate/handle the situation on your own then you need to privately say something to your coach and have him/her address it with the boat. This kind of behavior is distracting for you and takes your focus off of what you want/need to be doing, in addition to limiting what the coach can do if the rowers would rather focus on you than themselves. I don’t know a single coach that would stand to hear about or see their rowers criticizing someone else during a piece. If you’ve got that much energy then clearly you should be rowing harder. Regardless, if talking to them isn’t working and their attitudes haven’t changed then it’s time to elevate the situation to the next level and let your coach(es) handle it.
As far as being ostracized from the group, yea, it sucks but it’s truly the least of your problems right now. Like I’ve said many times in the past, you don’t have to be friends with everyone on the team but you do have to respect each other. Earn their respect and then move forward from there. Perform your duties to the best of your ability and try to avoid being that coxswain that lets their underlying Napoleon complex (we all have one) take over during practice. If they’re criticizing you for something, take in what they’re saying, dial back the attitude a couple notches, and consider if maybe they’ve made a point – maybe this certain thing is something you could/should be working on. Just because they’re assholes about it doesn’t mean that they don’t make a valid point now and then. I think that’s the hardest thing to come to terms with in situations like this. There’s always stuff to be working on and improving and as long as you’re making the effort, no one can or should criticize you for that. That’s not letting you off the hook in this situation or saying you’re doing everything right and they’re just being jerks … it’s just some food for thought.