Why you should go to a summer camp (and what to do/not to do)

On Sunday I posted the 2016 Summer Camps list that includes many options for rowers and coxswains if you’re looking to stay active over the summer. The benefits of going to a camp are obvious for rowers but are sometimes less so for coxswains, particularly if there isn’t any coxswain-specific instruction built into the camp, so below I’ve listed some reasons why you should consider attending one and things you should do (and not do) to make the most of the experience.

Reasons to attend a camp

Unlike for rowers, camps give coxswains the opportunity to make substantial improvements in nearly every aspect of coxing in a relatively short period of time. Your steering isn’t going to go from 0 to 100 in five days but you do have roughly 20 hours (two hour practices x two practices a day x 5 days) in just about the most low-key environment you’ll ever be in to try something different so you’d be foolish to not take full advantage of that. That doesn’t just apply to steering either, it applies to every single aspect of your coxing – calls, practice management, communication … all of it. If you are at a camp where there are coxswains on staff or there’s coxswain-specific instruction built into the program, ask questions about the things you want/need to improve on and then pick two or three to implement and work on throughout the week. Keep trying new things until you find something that works and then once you’ve found whatever it is, go all in on working towards making the change stick.

If you primarily cox bowloaded fours be prepared to spend the majority of your time in eights at just about any camp you attend. This gives you a chance to actually see the blades and make the necessary connections between what the coaches are saying and what the blades are doing and how they look.

The last day of the camp typically involves some kind of “racing”, whether it’s a head race-style time trial or your typical spring season side-by-side pieces. You can never have enough practice doing either of these and since this is, again, the most low key, no repercussions environment you could possibly be in, this is a good time to work on getting comfortable steering next to other crews, working and communicating with other coxswains, your time management skills (i.e. you launch at this time, you need to be at the line at this time, and it’s your job to effectively manage the time in between so you’re not too early or late), etc.

Things to do

Get. over. yourself.

At every camp I’ve coached at there have been multiple coxswains come in thinking that they’re hot shit because they cox their team’s top boat and they quickly learn that “good” is a subjective word. You should come into these camps with a humble attitude and be open to receiving feedback on how you’re doing, things you could/should do better, etc. Don’t be that guy/girl who argues with people more experienced than yourselves just because you cox the 1V. Congrats, we all coxed the 1V … that argument means nothing to us.

Be proactive

Go on Google Maps and look at the body of water you’ll be on before you get there. See if you can find a course map that shows what the traffic pattern is, if there are any bridges, etc. Can’t find one online? Email and ask if they can send you one. Bring your recorder and take it on the water every time you go out. This applies during the school year too but there is literally no excuse to not record yourself every day. If you end up not doing anything worth listening to then you can delete it but that’s better than coming off the water after a really solid day and wishing you’d recorded yourself so you could get feedback on it later. Have a notebook as well for all the reasons I talk about on here ad nauseam and also because there will likely be talks and one-on-one sessions offered by the coaches on a variety of topics that you’ll want to take notes on. Also arrive with specific and attainable goals that are reasonably achievable in the given time frame. Don’t try to cram “2 month-long summer program” goals into a 5 day camp.

Seek out coaches yourself and talk to them

We’re not going to come find you. This is your chance to pick our brains about what they look for in recruited coxswains, what being a coxswain on a college team is like, what they like about their current coxswains, how could you improve your coxswain-coach communication skills based off the practices you’ve had together so far, etc. Most of these coaches have decades of experience and when asked the right questions, they’ll be able to give you some really great feedback and advice.

Things not to do

One of the first things I remember Marcus saying at the Sparks coxswain camp was that everyone should be prepared to accept that some, if not all, of what they’ve learned up to this point will be dispelled (such as motivation being the most important job a coxswain has since that’s what lazy coaches tell you so they don’t have to do any work – FACT). This means you’ll probably be asked to do things you’re not used to doing or things that might not make sense right off the bat. Don’t come back with “this isn’t what we do on my team” or “that’s not what my coach said”. There’s an appropriate way to have that conversation and none of them start with either of those two sentences.

Do not – do NOT – complain about what you’re doing or being asked to do. If you’re new to coxing (hell, even if you’re not) and you spend more time complaining about coxing eights when you’re used to being in fours or coxing women when you’re used to coxing men than you do learning how to handle new situations then you might want to reconsider what you’re doing there. This probably isn’t the sport for you if you can’t commit to something as low-key as a summer camp when opportunities to learn and get better are being handed to you left and right. If you’re just going to rebuff everything … well, it must be nice having that kind of money to just throw away.

Camps are what you make of them so whatever you take away is more often than not going to be a direct result of how prepared you were coming into the camp, how present you were each day, and how committed you were to going outside your comfort zone in order to get better.

Image via // New York Times

Leave a Comment