I’m not a fan of seat racing coxswains. There are just way too many variables and you can’t quantify it the same way you can with rowers but despite all that, there are still coaches out there that do it. It’s one of those things that you’ve always gotta be prepared for just in case it happens to you but if you’re doing everything you’re supposed to be doing, you’ll never be caught off guard if your coach decides that a coxswain seat race is needed.
I was going through some of my saved posts on Reddit the other day and came across this year-old reply that I’d written to a coxswain who was asking for advice on how to deal with being seat-raced. They said that they felt like an underdog compared to the person they were up against (who was a year older than them) but that they felt capable of beating them and wanted to know how to get the coach to look past their age so they could have a shot at the eight.
For those of you that are going up against someone more experienced than you (hell, even if you’re going up against an someone who is equally experienced), I implore you to read this first paragraph down below and really take it to heart because a) you need to hear it and b) if I’ve learned anything through this blog it’s that it’s unlikely anyone else is going to say it to you and be as straightforward about it. Two and a half years into this, you guys should know by now I’m not going to sugarcoat things when I think there’s something that needs to be said and this is one of those times. We’re two weeks into racing season and SRAAs, Youth Nationals, conference championships, IRAs, and NCAAs is going to be here before you know it. You want that top boat? Go take it.
“Fuck age, seniority, being an “underdog”, etc. Do not use that an excuse. Those things only become factors if you pay too much attention to them and let them become factors. Cox your race and let the other coxswain(s) cox theirs. If you think you’re capable of beating them, do it.
The coxswain who is smart, confident, strategic, resourceful, commanding, authoritative, aggressive, and respectful of the competition will earn the seat in the 8+. Steer a smart course and know what you need to say to get the most out of your rowers. This requires you to interact with them in order to find out what makes them tick. Pick their brains off the water so you can get in their heads on the water.
Oh, and don’t assume that this seat race is the only thing your coaches are looking at. They’ve been watching you since Day 1, the first day you showed up to practice when you were a novice, to see how well you interact with your teammates, what your presence on and off the water is like, if you command the respect of your teammates through your actions, how well you understand the technical side of rowing, how effectively you communicate what you want/need to happen, etc. The seat race is only a piece of the final puzzle.
Saying you want it isn’t enough. I have to be able to look at you and feel how bad you want you want that top 8+. Give your rowers a reason to want to pull hard for you. Don’t half ass anything. Make your intentions known from the first day of practice that you want that top eight and you’re going to work as hard as you can to get it. Do this without being a cocky, over-confident douche. Seat racing isn’t just something you can get in a boat and do. You’ve gotta prep for it just like you do any other race. Put the effort into perfecting your steering, working on your calls, getting feedback from your rowers and coaches after practice, etc. and then go out and execute when it’s time for your race. Get off the water knowing and believing that you couldn’t have done any more or any better than you just did.
Do all of that and your coaches might give you a shot.”
Rule #1: never refer to yourself as the underdog. Let other people say that about you but know that the minute you say it about yourself you’ve already lost. It absolutely drives me nuts when I hear people talk down about themselves like that because if you aren’t even confident in yourself how is that supposed to inspire me to be confident in you?