Coxing Masters Q&A

Question of the Day

So I’m the most experienced coxswain on my juniors team, and was asked to cox a master’s eight. It isn’t a racing boat or anything. Some of the masters just wanted to try sweep. The thing is both of my coaches and a few of the board members for the juniors team will be in the boat, as will my dad. I’m afraid that if I mess up, or if my coach isn’t a fan of my style, it could affect boat placement going into spring. Any advice?

It won’t. It would be really stupid of your coach to keep you out of certain boats just because he didn’t like your style of coxing. I was emailing with another coxswain about a very similar situation a couple weeks ago and a lot of what I told him applies to you too. In this situation, yea it might be awkward to have your dad, your coach, and some of the board members in the boat but when you’re on the water they’re none of those people – they’re just another group of rowers. Something that I’ve noticed with masters rowers over the last few years (both men and women) is that they tend to forget that on the water I (and the other coxswains) don’t look at them the way their employees, colleagues, etc. look at them – they’re not doctors, lawyers, university administrators, hedge fund managers, venture capitalists, small business owners, non-profit managers, contractors, advertising execs, etc. to me. They’re just rowers. If it comes off like you’re intimidated by them because of who they are off the water then you open the door for them to put on their manager/department head/executive hat and try to run the show because that’s what they’re used to doing every day. Don’t forget though, you’re used to managing people every day too, the only difference between the two groups being age.

The majority of masters rowers are great and come out just to have a good time with friends so trust me when I say all you have to do is the exact same thing you do during practice with your normal crews. Obviously you should make sure you’re on top of your game (that means steering good lines, not hitting things, communicating clearly and concisely, etc.) but if you excel at all of the basic coxswain skills any other day of the week then you’re not going to have any issues with these guys.

Below is another part of the email I mentioned earlier that I hope will help you out. Remember, you wouldn’t have been asked to do this if someone (your coach, I’m assuming) didn’t think you were capable. Don’t take the situation too seriously and have fun with it!

“The biggest piece of advice I can give you is if you get nervous, keep it to yourself. Act like every single thing you say and do is a deliberate action, not something you debated doing before making a decision. Be confident and have a good time! Coxing masters, even competitive ones, can be a lot of fun. They’ll probably joke around with you which will hopefully lighten the atmosphere a bit so just approach it like you would any other practice. Communicate with the coach, ask questions if you don’t understand something, need it repeated, etc., be clear with your calls to the crew, and use this as an opportunity to learn. Every crew is different so you can probably apply something you’ve done with your high school team to these guys and you’ll probably be able to take something away from this and apply it to your high school practice next week.”

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Comments (2)

  1. A master rower chiming in here. In our club, we are so thankful to have a cox at all. Often, bow seat has to try to row, cox and steer. I love a cox who can take charge so that I can forget about the responsibility that comes with work and family. I just want to be head-in-the-boat rowing. There are a few times when we’ve had really inexperienced coxswains and I’ve made a few suggestions (read this blog), but usually, I just want to focus on technique and power and getting a good workout.

  2. I am a master coxswain for a community rowing club – let me tell you, 90% of my teammates are out to have a good row, a good time and that’s pretty much it.. Unless you are coxing for an elite program, they will be super thrilled that you steered a good line, didn’t hit anything and kept them honest about their technique as a whole boat. You’ll be fine, there are very very few master’s rowers that judge coxswains on community rowing programs, or programs where folks want to “try sweep”. You could even use this time to develop your coaching or boat feeling skill set (ie check at the catch is coming from.. rushing the slide, throwing the shoulders or upper body into the catch, rowing it in.. etc).

    You’ll definitely be fine.