Coxing How To Novice

How To Survive Winter Training: Coxswains

Previously: Rowers

We all know that winter training is the bane of every coxswain’s existence. It’s boring, there’s nothing for us to do, and … there are a ton of other things we could be doing besides watching people erg. When I was a freshman in high school, I did a lot of standing around and observing. My team didn’t really have a fall season because the majority of the team participated in other sports (soccer, cross country, etc.) or were in marching band (*raises hand*). I spent the winter season, which started the first day we got back from Christmas break, learning everything I could about rowing and my responsibilities as a coxswain. If you’re a novice, educate yourself. If you’re on varsity, continue educating yourself by helping to educate others.

In addition to what I’ve mentioned here, something that all coxswains should consider doing is working out with the team. So what if you can’t hold the same split as them? You can hop on the ergs once or twice a week, right? There’s no rules against running core sets and doing them at the same time. While they’re lifting, you can run or hop on the bike for 45-60 minutes. Coxswains should not look at exercise as a bad thing. “I’m not athletic/strong/coordinated” is not a legitimate excuse for not working out with your team. Some teams don’t care, some require it. Regardless of whether or not it’s mandated by the coaches, the rowers will notice if you do the workouts with them and it will help them formulate an idea in there head as to whether they want you as a coxswain or not.

Have a positive attitude

Don’t go into winter training thinking “ugh what am I even doing here, I’m so bored, I’m just going to sit and watch this paint dry while you guys do 2 x 6k.” No. No, no, no. When has going into something with a less than positive attitude EVER worked out for anyone? Never, that’s when. As the coxswain(s), the rowers and coaches look to you to keep the atmosphere light and upbeat during winter training. The rowers look to you for motivation and encouragement while the coaches observe your leadership skills and ability to take charge of a crowd. Like I said in the rower’s post,  your attitude at the beginning of a task determines how successful you’ll be at completing it. You can either go into winter training with an objective or you can go in without one. Which leads me to…

Set some goals

What are your goals this season? What did you do last season that you hope to improve on this season? Which regattas are you REALLY planning on going hard for? Which of your skills needs work? What about college – have you started emailing coaches and looking at potential majors? All of these things are goal-worthy, meaning you should be making a list of all the things you want to do or get out of this season and set some “deadlines” for them. Just because you’re not on the water doesn’t mean you can’t get better.

If you’re a varsity coxswain and already know roughly what your lineup will be, sit down with some of them and discuss what your goals as a crew are for the season. Look at how quickly you covered courses last year and figure out what you should be able to do them in this year. Talk with your coaches about what they’d like to see you do this season, both as a leader of the team and with your boat. Take it upon yourself to take the novices under your wing and help them set some goals of their own.

Take some time off

If you need a break, now is your shot. Everyone needs a break every now and then but coxswains have the luxury of actually being able to take it in the winter without getting too much shit for it. Talk with your coaches and explain why you want to take a week off from practice so you can come back refreshed and ready to go. Have a legitimate reason though – you know there won’t be anything for you to do is NOT an acceptable excuse. Staying at practice and just going through the motions doesn’t help anyone and it’ll become obvious quickly that you don’t want to be there. Listen to your brain and your body when it tells you it needs a break.

Do something fun with your team

Get to know your new teammates. If your team doesn’t do the fall season or there are people that have joined since then, organize a game night, social, dinner, etc. to introduce yourselves and the team to the new rowers and coxswains. Have a team Christmas party and do Secret Santa. Get with some of the varsity rowers and organize something fun to kick off winter training. Team triathlons sound like a ton of fun to me and would be a great way to start the indoor season on a fun, happy note. You could also organize a boathouse cleanup – the team breaks up into groups of nine and are each given a list of tasks that need to be completed around the boathouse. The team that finishes first wins a spectacular prize!


Have a plan for how you’re going to approach the indoor season. What are you going to do to make sure you make the most of the time you’re on land? How are you going to help the rowers? What are you going to do to help the coaches out? What are you going to do to help the novice coxswains get prepared for the spring season? What are you going to do to prepare yourself for the upcoming races?

One thing I always tried to do at some point during the winter season was sit down and look at my race notes from previous seasons. Pull up the course map on your laptop at practice one day and go over it with everyone, including the other varsity coxswains. Discuss where good spots to make a move are, what the various landmarks along the course are, etc. Start to formulate very basic and general race plans for the regattas your team plans on attending. Clue the novices in on the course, what it’s like, etc. Discuss race strategy with them, why it’s important, and how to form race plans.