Coxing Novice Q&A

Question of the Day

Hi! I’m a sophomore girl who just finished her novice year as first boat coxswain. I began fall as a rower and started coxing half way through winter (after Crash-Bs). Due to several strokes (haha) of luck (for me) I quickly moved up from being my teams third and least experienced coxswain to my teams only, most experienced, and favored coxswain. We eventually gained two more coxswains but I remained my coach’s and rower’s favorite.

Point of this is that coxing novice first 8+ and first 4+ through several gold medals this season had given me a lot of confidence and I thought I’d be ready for varsity and that I might even be able to beat out some of their current coxswains. But, a couple weeks ago, I broke two riggers and and an oar on our best boat during practice in an accident that left the boat itself and my rowers in tact and ever since then I’m pretty sure the varsity coach–my future coach–hates me a little and no longer trusts me like he seemed to before hand. I apologized and took full responsibility for breaking the boat, the riggers and oar were replaced without too much hassle, and me and my rowers went on to place a close 2nd at Midwest in that boat.

The overall point of this whole story are my questions: do you have any tips on how to improve my coxing over the summer (during which I’m not doing any sort of summer rowing programs)? And, are there any specific things you think I should do to help gain the varsity coach’s trust back? I want to prove to him that I’m good enough for second boat or for the lightweight V8 even as a junior with only a year of experience because I really think I’m not that bad of a coxswain now and that any sort of improvement could boost that. Anyway, thank you so much for this blog and for whatever answer or advice you can give!

I’ll be totally honest with you, if I was your coach I’d probably be a little apprehensive of your coxing abilities for awhile too but at the same time, I’d probably chalk part of whatever happened up to you being a novice. I highly doubt your coach hates you though. Adults don’t really experience the same levels of satisfaction that come with blatantly disliking someone the way we did when we were teenagers so it’s likely that you’re just misinterpreting his frustration with the overall situation as something it’s not. I think you’ll agree with me when I say that he definitely has a right to be frustrated too. I don’t think you need to do anything specific to try and win back his trust and truthfully, I’d advise against trying to apologize again or make some grand gesture because it’s like … whatever, it happened, move on already.

That applies to anyone in similar situations too – two times max is really quite enough when it comes to apologies. Once when it happens and again (privately) after practice. After that I just don’t care anymore and will probably get annoyed with you, as I think most coaches would. Saying you’re sorry umpteen hundred times doesn’t actually mean you’re sorry or prove that you’ve learned anything from what happened. Doing something different at practice and upping your game is a much better way to prove you’ve moved on and have become a better coxswain thanks to the situation you were put in. That would do a lot more for restoring my trust in you than probably anything else you could do.

Related: Do you have any advice for a novice coxswain who just crashed for the first time? It really shook me up and I know I won’t be able to get back in the boat for a few days (due to our walk-on coxswain rotation) but I want to get over it.

As far as improving over the summer, if you’re not going to be doing anything rowing related I’d recommend listening to the occasional recording or two when you’ve got some free time (long car rides or flights are perfect for this), doing some research on anything you didn’t fully understand or want to learn more about, etc. Otherwise just take the summer off. There’s nothing wrong with that. If there are rowing programs near you, even if you’re not participating in them see if you can get in contact with one of the coaches and ask to ride in the launch with them for a practice or two. I always liked doing this when I could in Boston because every coach is so unique with their approach that I’d ultimately come off the water having an entirely new perspective on something that I thought I understood pretty well already.

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