Hi Kayleigh! I’m a coxswain coming out of my novice year into varsity (I’m a sophomore in high school). There’s 3 total varsity coxswains, one of whom came out of my novice year with me, and my coach told us that she’d be rotating us in and out of the 2V for some practices to see which one of us would be long-term coxing it. The first day of this, she put the other coxswain in, which at the time was no big deal as we’d be rotating, or so I thought. She has never rotated me into this boat or rotated the other girl out. Even this wouldn’t be a huge deal, but the boat I’m coxing, the ‘3V’ if you could call it that, is composed entirely of girls who row only scholastically (not for our actual club), and a few of the more advanced novii. A few girls in the 2V have mentioned that they prefer my coxing style and want me to cox them, but I have been given – quite literally – no chance. It’s really bothering me as I feel that I am capable and even if I can’t say right off the bat I deserve that boat, I was promised a chance to try and I know I deserve that much. Since the novices of the 3V will go back to racing novice once regattas start to strengthen that program, and the girls who row only scholastically will compete for their schools, I will be left without a crew. How should I handle this? Would it be too forward to discuss the matter with my coach?
Absolutely not. If she already told you that she’d be rotating you in then you should hold her to that. Talk to her before practice, remind her that she said she’d switch you guys out, and ask if you can take the 2V out today.
One thing I’ve always found to be helpful (not just in this context but whenever I have to remind people that they said they’d do something…) is to include as many details from the original conversation as possible and avoid making “you said” comments that could make you sound accusatory or impatient (though tbh you have every right to be impatient in this case). Rather than just saying “Hey, you said I could cox the 2V at some point, can I take them out today?”, say “Hey, during the first week of practice we’d talked about rotating the three of us through the 2V to determine who was gonna cox it for the rest of the season and I wanted to see if I could hop in there today or tomorrow since I haven’t had a chance to take them out yet. I’ve been working on XYZ with the 3V over the last few weeks and can see where I’ve made improvements that I think make me competitive for the 2V but I’d like the chance to show you and get your feedback before a final decision is made on who’ll be in the boat the rest of the fall.”.
The reason why I think this works (and this is just my own personal theory) is because it shows you were paying attention when that initial conversation happened because it’s something that is important to you and if you can communicate that by repeating back to whoever you’re talking to verbatim (or as close to it as you can) what was originally discussed, they’re much more likely to take your request(s) seriously and hold up their end of it. I also refuse to let people make me feel like a nagging asshole for bringing up something they said they’d do and haven’t done yet so if they feel awkward because they’re getting called out, even when it’s done in normal conversation with no negative or passive-aggressive undertones … *shrug*.
(Granted, I also fully recognize/admit that that’s because I’m in that phase of your late-20s where you realize some stuff is just not worth giving a shit about anymore. Thinking people are going to get mad or offended because I’m standing up for myself, in whatever aspect, is just not something I can allocate one of the few fucks I have to give towards.)
I’ve worked in tandem with enough coaches over the last four years that it’s become obvious when they’ve just gotten into a routine with one coxswain + crew and it’s slipped their mind that they said they’d switch someone else in there … and also when they’ve decided they just really like a certain coxswain and hope that the other ones will forget that they said they’d give them a shot (sometimes because they were never going to give them one in the first place). The former is mildly annoying but not at all malicious or ultimately that big of a deal. The latter is just a dick move and frankly, lazy AF on their part. I totally get why some coxswains are apprehensive about saying something too (in either situation – I’ve been in both and felt the same way) but you really do have to hold their feet to the fire if you’re serious about wanting a shot. If you’re not following up with them (in a timely manner), nothing I say is gonna help you.
If you’re getting a sense like they’ve already made their decision and are just hoping you forget or don’t notice that you never actually got to go out with the 2V then, again, talk to them before practice and say “I wanted to see where you were at with regards to who’d be coxing the 2V. I’ve been working on XYZ and would really like a shot to show why I think I’d be good in that boat. I don’t know if you’ve already made a decision but one way or the other, I just wanted to see if the opportunity was still there to go out with that boat for a practice.”.
The thing you have to remember – at practice, at school, at work, etc. – is that you have to be your own biggest advocate. This has always been one of the biggest lessons I took away from coxing too. I know that it’s awkward to feel like you’re calling out someone in a senior position but sometimes it’s gotta be done. It pays off in the long run too because if you can get over that feeling of thinking you can’t or shouldn’t do this while you’re young (and in relatively low-consequence situations like this), it makes it a lot easier to stand up for yourself (especially as a woman) when you’re older and in situations with actual real life ramifications, like salary negotiations, promotions … even stuff like harassment. Look at this as just another skill you’ve gotta develop and add to your arsenal. And hey, if you end up getting to go out with the 2V for a couple days, consider that a bonus.