Coxswain Evaluations 2.0

Previously: Coxswain evaluations + my system for organizing them

Last spring when we were in Florida for spring break the coxswains decided they wanted to update the evals we’d been using with questions that were more specific and kinda forced the guys to think deeper about what they wanted in a coxswain and how our current group measured up to that. We spent about two hours in my hotel room tossing around ideas for what to change, add, etc. and came up with Eval 2.0, which I’ve linked below.

Related: Coxswain evaluations 2.0

With the exception of one or two questions we didn’t really eliminate that much from the original eval but there were a lot of changes and additions made. Here’s what we added:

More specificity to most of the questions

Sometimes having open-ended questions is necessary but there’s a thin line between open-ended and vague so we tried to make the questions as direct as possible in order to get more targeted feedback that we/I could more easily translate into actionable goals.

Added a section on communication

This was an area where we struggled last year (to the point where the rowers noticed, which was a wake up call for the coxswains over spring break) and after strategizing on ways we could improve (individually and collectively) they wanted feedback on whether or not the changes were coming across. (We also added a section for calls – previously it was tacked onto motivation but there weren’t any specific questions for it so we separated it and made it it’s own section.)

Added several new questions

Many of the questions carried over from the first eval but we also added a couple new ones to address specific areas of concern/interest. For example, under “execution” there weren’t any questions that directly addressed the coxswains’ knowledge. It’s one thing to say you know what you’re doing or talking about but when it comes time to call drills, make technical corrections to an individual’s stroke, etc. can you actually do that or no? (This has consistently been one of the questions that gets the best responses too.)

Execution

Knowledge and communication of technique issues – do the coxswains appear to have a good understanding of the rowing stroke, as well as the ability to pick out technical problems during practice and provide the appropriate feedback?

How well do you feel the coxswains manage practice in terms of running warm-ups, understanding what the coaches are looking for, what the goal of the practice/pieces are, etc.?

Motivation

How would you describe the energy the coxswain brings to the boat? Are they someone that can lift the boat when they’re having a bad practice and maintain a positive atmosphere when things are going well?

Calls

Conciseness of calls – are the calls too wordy (5), just right (3), or too vague/ambiguous (1)?

Clarity of calls – how clear is the coxswain when making a call and how well do you understand the calls that are being made? (This question has two meanings – are they clear as in (1) not mumbling and (2) do their calls make sense and can the rowers easily process and translate them into actions.)

What calls do you like, what calls do you think aren’t effective, and/or what calls do you not understand?

Communication

Do you feel the coxswains communicate effectively and work well with each other, the coaches, and the crew during practice? Are there any areas in which you think they can/should improve?

Expanded on which coxswains are best in racing + practice situations

Asking which coxswains they prefer for races and practice is helpful for the coaches but it never really did much for the coxswains other than create animosity. Adding in an open-ended “why” component helped them see why the rowers chose who they did and where they could make improvements. There was also some … ok, a lot of … debate on what makes a good varsity coxswain last year so to settle that we came up with two questions that addressed not just the specific qualities the rowers want in their coxswains but also asking who they felt could get in the boat and maximize the crew’s potential.

Both questions were initially a little self-serving (one of the coxswains definitely thought their point was going to be made and the responses would lean in their favor … which didn’t end up happening) but the underlying thought behind the latter question was that it’s not just about being a good coxswain because not all good coxswains can get in a boat and make it faster (which happened last year too). The question about maximizing potential looks past all the “surface aesthetics”, their weight, etc. and focuses solely on who can pull something out of the boat when its needed the most.

In the fall I go over the evals individually with the coxswains but in the winter/spring I like to go over them as a group. This winter we did a combination of both (at their request) and started off by going over them individually (three coxswains = three practices to go over them, roughly an hour each) before meeting as a group to discuss everything and address some particular points that came up. (We spent about two hours doing this during one of the team’s steady state days.) Instead of doing individual sheets like I do in the fall (you can see an example of those in the original evals post linked at the top) I just put all the comments on one page and color-coded them for each person.

This was then shared with them the night before the first one-on-one so they could see not just the comments they got but what was said about everyone else as well. I have my reasons for letting them see each other’s comments so use your best judgement since that approach obviously won’t work for everyone.

Related: How to handle a negative coxswain evaluation…

So, what do the guys think of these new evals? Surprisingly, they like them. They’re obviously a lot more labor-intensive than the original ones are (those usually took 15-20 minutes to fill out whereas the guys tend to spend 45-60+ minutes filling these ones out – seriously) but the quality of the feedback also matches the amount of time they spend on them so the trade-off is worth it. Naturally they all complain about how long they are but I think they recognize that the coxswains really look forward to the feedback they get so it’s mostly in jest at this point.

If you don’t have a ton of time to spare then definitely stick with the original ones but if you do, I’d consider doing a longer eval like this at least once a year. I’m mulling the idea of making these into a Google Form for next time and having the guys fill them out that way but the downside to that is they don’t get donuts if we aren’t doing them at the boathouse sooo … there’s that.

Pro tip: bring the rowers donuts and they’ll do whatever you ask. FACT.

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