Defining the role of the coxswain: What’s keeping you out of the 1V

You could apply this to any boat that you aspire to be in but since “how do I get in the 1V” is a frequently asked question, that’s what the focus of this post is on.

You’re not being proactive

Showing up every day isn’t reason enough to get put in the 1V. It’s mind boggling the number of coxswains who think that that’s all it takes. It is but one very small piece of the puzzle. You need to be proactive every single day (yea, even in the winter) about learning the required skills, striving to perfect them, and regularly communicating with your coaches about … pretty much everything. If you’re not doing those things, you’re not doing nearly enough.

You seem uninterested

You don’t have to be the peppiest person ever but you do need to convey some level of energy and enthusiasm. If you go about practice with an apathetic demeanor, there’s nothing about that that indicates to your coaches that being in the 1V is something you’re motivated to work towards. Apathy is not a leadership quality either so if that’s your general attitude, you’re not going to be a very inspired choice for the coaches to consider.

You don’t make a case for yourself

You need to objectively know your strengths and weaknesses and be able to sell yourself if/when you coach asks why you should be considered for the 1V. Consider it like any job interview you’ll ever go on – your coach, like an employer, wants to know what you can do for them and the team, not how this is going to benefit you. Confidence and humility are key; acting smug and cocky can/will make it easy to dismiss you.

You haven’t researched the job

Find out what the coaches and rowers want in a 1V coxswain in terms of skills, abilities, personality, etc. and talk with current/former 1V coxswains so you can get a sense for what it takes to be in that position and what the expectations are.

You’re not good enough or are under-qualified

It’s fine to aim high but you need to be realistic and not get pissed when someone says you’re not ready. If you’re just coming off of your novice year or you’re a junior who still hasn’t come to terms with what a straight line looks like, you’re not ready to be in the 1V. It’s not a dig or demeaning or bullying or whatever else to be told that … it’s an objective fact based on your current skill level and should motivate you to figure out where you can/should improve so you can make a stronger, more grounded-in-reality case for yourself next year.

You lack chemistry with the team and coaches

If the coaches find you difficult to work with or hard to coach and the rowers find you to be a power tripping try-hard, you’re gonna have a hard time getting them to advocate for you. You need to earn their respect and trust and if you lack that, your bid for the 1V just got a lot tougher.

You’re not learning from your mistakes or you get complacent easily

Your successes have to be given the same treatment as your failures – accept whatever happened, learn something, and apply it going forward. If you’re consistently making the same mistake(s) or you get cocky and stop paying attention, your judgment, decision-making, and (self-)awareness (all critical necessities for a 1V coxswain) are going to be called into question.

You’re entitled

This is, in my opinion, the number one reason why you’re not in the 1V. So many of the emails that I get about this reek of entitlement and arrogance. You don’t deserve the 1V just because you’ve been there the longest. You don’t deserve the 1V just because some of the rowers like you better than the other coxswain. You don’t deserve the 1V just because you did this pretty inconsequential thing that anyone with half a brain and an ounce of common sense would know to do. If you spent half as much time on actually improving yourself as a coxswain as you do complaining about why you’re not being given the 1V on a silver platter, you’d be in the 1V already.

All of this is good food for thought during the summer since things are a lot more low-key and you have the ability to look at the previous season or year’s performance with more objectivity. If you spent the spring season frustrated because you felt like you weren’t in the boat you “deserved”, consider what’s up above and think about the role you played in your coach’s decision because at the end of the day, this quote applies just as much to coxswains as it does to rowers.



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