Coxing Q&A Teammates & Coaches

Question of the Day

Thoughts on stroke seats yelling at coxswains and telling them to do things during pieces?

I’ve got a few.

Novice coxswain + novice stroke

Unnecessary because it’s pretty likely that the stroke is just as clueless as the coxswain and is just trying to be a badass because they Googled “personalities in an eight” and read that strokes have big egos. When they’re both equally inexperienced novices, there’s very little reason for the stroke to be telling the coxswain how to do anything.

Novice coxswain + experienced stroke

I’m OK with this as long as the stroke understands the coxswain is a novice and doesn’t know very much yet. Yelling isn’t cool but “guiding” them through what they could/should say or do is fine. The coxswain should interpret this as the stroke helping them learn and should make sure that they’re actually paying attention to what they’re saying so that they can make the calls on their own next time. If the coxswain gets pissed in this situation, I’d say they’re the ones that need to check their egos.

Experienced coxswain + novice stroke

Lol, no.

Experienced coxswain + experienced stroke

At this point when both people know what’s going on, the stroke telling the coxswain what to do can be looked at in one of two ways. One, as simple communication because they can feel things we can’t and their feedback is kind of important for certain calls or two, as overstepping their role. I don’t have a problem if during a piece my stroke says “ratio” or “let’s take a 10” or whatever because sometimes I’m focused on something else and can’t/don’t see or feel that the ratio might be off, so them saying that helps me focus on it for a second and make the appropriate call. If they say to take a 10 or something and I think it’s a good time to take one, I will. Almost every time this has happened to me I’ve been about two strokes away from calling a ten anyways, so it speaks more to how synced my stroke and I were than anything else. Other times I’ll either ignore them or say “not yet”. If you have a good relationship with your stroke, none of this should be an issue.

If, on the other hand, they start telling you how to do every little thing or start yelling at you to do what they want and what they think is right, that’s a problem. You’ll know the difference between communicating and overstepping if/when you experience it. It might be difficult to explain on paper but it’s not hard to tell the difference in the boat.

Ultimately, the coxswain is the one who decides what to say and what to call during pieces. If the rowers don’t like it, deal with it, it’s our job. Communicating with the stroke is important but when the stroke starts telling the coxswain every move they should make, that’s when the coxswain needs to regain control of the boat and tell the stroke to back off. There are exceptions to every rule but that’s how I feel about the majority of these scenarios.

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Comments (1)

  1. That stroke / cox communication is VITAL. When both are experienced and the communication is going well, the boat runs faster and better. If one or the other is cranky, it can make for an uncomfortable day for the rest of the boat, so be aware if there is a communication breakdown. I’ve had to tell my stroke (experienced) to back off when he’s having a cranky day (at first it was a little intimidating but he and I have a good working relationship back there now, and there are times when I don’t have to say anything at all).

    here’s hoping you can get to that non-communicating communication part – it’s helpful in race situations where you dont’ want the competition to figure out when you’re taking your moves. 🙂