Coxing Q&A

Question of the Day

Hi, do you have any tips on staying motivated through a long winter? This is my fifth year coxing at high school and as usual we are heading into a long winter and the girls are doing a ton of small boats stuff. This means I am rarely out on the water coxing (once since May last year, actually). I feel like I’m losing all my motivation, I don’t want to attend practice as I used to, and dread every session even though I love my team. I really don’t want to be training at the moment but I know if I quit now I will regret it in the summer, thinking about how amazing it was racing at nationals last year, and how much I want to do so again. The summer really is amazing but at the moment it is too far away to even comprehend!! Obviously watching them row in smaller boats from a launch can be beneficial but after so many hours it gets a bit tiresome. I know winter isn’t the most enjoyable for rowers either but at least they are developing and improving… I hope this makes sense! Have you ever felt like this?

I actually felt like that this past year. I absolutely love my team but there were times this past winter/spring where I questioned if that was enough to keep me coming back every day. When I first applied for the job  the coach I was talking to told me straight up that the team is small and how much coaching I was able to do would be dependent on our numbers. Last year we were really small and only had an eight and a four, which meant I wasn’t going to have my own boat to coach. Occasionally I’d take the four out if the other coaches both wanted to go out with the eight but I spent the majority of the year being a launch puppy.

Once I get bored with something I lose interest fast and I felt that happening starting sometime in late January. I’d wake up at 5am, be at the boathouse by 6am, sit around for two hours, go to work, come home … rinse, wash, repeat. There were a few times when I thought about telling the other coaches that I was just not coming anymore (during the winter) because technically they didn’t need me but I never did because even though I know they would have been fine with that, I’d signed up for this. Showing up everyday, even on the days I had zero interest in driving the 20+ minutes in sub-10 degree, snowy weather to stare at bunch of ergs, was just part of the job (at least from my perspective). I knew that negative mentality had more to do with not feeling like I had a sense of purpose than anything else so that was when I started to really ramp up what I was doing with the coxswains. I looked at it like if there wasn’t something for me to do I’d come up with something on my own and that’s what I did. We watched video, listened to recordings, shared stories about past races, talked about the technique we were seeing on the ergs, or just sat in the lounge and complained about stuff (which sounds unproductive but it was fun and actually gave me a lot of good ideas). In the spring when I was in the launch I’d take a lot of notes (either mentally or on my phone) on what we were doing, what the other coaches was saying, etc. and then I’d pass that along to the coxswain(s) to use for the next race/practice. It was a good way for me to feel productive and in turn it helped the coxswains, which by that point had been firmly established as my “niche” on the team.

Being bored during the winter is a given. It’s going to happen so you just kinda have to accept that it comes with the territory of being a coxswain. I think it’s good to not always have something to do (like you do when you’re on the water) and to be able to just sit and quietly watch but it does get old after awhile. If you don’t have something to do, come up with something on your own. See if you can get the other coxswains on board with having weekly meetups during practice where you talk about a recent race, film the rowers on the ergs so you can study their technique, crowdsource calls for races, practice, drills, etc., … stuff like that. The winter is a GREAT time to work on your technical eye so try to come up with (as juvenile as it sounds) “activities” that focus on that. (You can obviously do that on your own but I think it’s a good idea to do it in a group when you can.) At the very least, this would be a GREAT opportunity for you to step up (as, I’m assuming, one of the more experienced coxswains on the team) and take the initiative to help train the younger coxswains.

Don’t be afraid to take some time off either. I’ve said this every year but outside of the summer, the winter (particularly the start of winter training/anytime before Christmas) is really the only opportunity that coxswains have to take a break. If you’re feeling burned out, bored, or you need to get back on track with classes, talk with your coaches and see if you can work something out. Obviously don’t say “I’m bored and don’t want to come anymore, hit me up when it’s time to go back on the water!” but just communicate how you’re feeling and if the coaches don’t foresee any immediate need for you to be at practice, see if it would it be possible to take a couple days/week/two weeks off to recharge. If they absolutely insist that you come every day, bring a notebook on the water with you and start taking notes. I try to write down just about everything the coaches say (to individuals and the whole crew) on technique, as well as whatever offhand phrases they say that could potentially turn into calls so I can share it with the coxswains later. “Try less hard to go faster” is one of my recent favorites. I’ve been working on this for most of the fall so I’ll probably spend some time next week now that we’re indoors organizing the Google Sheet I’ve got everything sitting in so it’s ready to go for our training trip in January. A project like that might sound sorta unnecessary in theory but I think it’s useful and it’s a good way to utilize time that I’d otherwise spend mindlessly staring at erg monitors.

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