Tag: coxswain evaluation

How to increase the effectiveness of your coxswain evaluations

Coxing Teammates & Coaches

How to increase the effectiveness of your coxswain evaluations

Evals have been a frequent topic of discussion this week between the heavyweight and lightweight coaches and I. One of the conversations I had was about the things I think make evals effective – beyond, you know, actually doing them and going over them with your coxswains instead of just shoving 30 pieces of paper their way and expecting them to decipher everything on their own.

Related: Coxswain evaluations + how I organize them


You have to do them on a regular basis throughout the year – once a year whenever you or your coach remembers isn’t good enough. One of the biggest ways we created buy-in from the MIT guys was by doing them consistently at the same time every year ..  in the fall during the week between HOCR and the Princeton Chase, mid-week during the winter training trip in Cocoa Beach, and again mid-week during spring break. It got to the point where they’d start asking me if “we’re gonna do evals this week” because they knew they were coming up.

Having them on your calendar and doing them at key points throughout the season means that your performance from training camp, that big race, etc. will be fresh in everyone’s mind, which in turn leads to them being able to elaborate more on the feedback they’re giving you.

Support from the coaches

No, coaches, this doesn’t mean saying “yea evals are a good idea, go ahead and put something together and hand them out”. Another one of the big ways that helped create buy-in at MIT was how wholeheartedly supportive the coaches were and they showed that by introducing the evals to the team (specifically the freshman) each fall and explaining why we think they’re an important tool in coaching the coxswains that by providing the coxswains – their teammates – with feedback that will aid in their development throughout the year, they’re helping make the team faster.

Related: Coxswain evaluations 2.0

I made this point to the lightweight coaches earlier before we distributed evals for the Oakland trip – it’s one thing for me to say it but at this point, they don’t know me as well as they know the coaches they’re with every single day so hearing them say how much they value doing evals carries a bit more weight than it does if I say it. (Also I’m obviously biased about how important they are so there’s that too.)

A very important caveat

This one needs absolutely no elaboration – if you don’t fill out the evals, you leave excessively vague comments, or you don’t provide any comments/feedback at all, you forfeit your right to complain about or make requests/demands of the coxswains going forward.

Image via // @mattaiomara

Coxswain Evaluations 2.0

College Coxing High School Teammates & Coaches

Coxswain Evaluations 2.0

Last spring when we were in Florida for spring break the coxswains decided they wanted to update the evals we’d been using with questions that were more specific and kinda forced the guys to think deeper about what they wanted in a coxswain and how our current group measured up to that. We spent about two hours in my hotel room tossing around ideas for what to change, add, etc. and came up with Eval 2.0, which I’ve linked as a PDF below.

Related: Coxswain Evaluations 2.0

With the exception of one or two questions we didn’t really eliminate that much from the original eval but there were a lot of changes and additions made. Here’s what we added:

More specificity to most of the questions

Sometimes having open-ended questions is necessary but there’s a thin line between open-ended and vague so we tried to make the questions as direct as possible in order to get more targeted feedback that we/I could more easily translate into actionable goals.

Added a section on communication

This was an area where we struggled last year (to the point where the rowers noticed, which was a wake up call for the coxswains over spring break) and after strategizing on ways we could improve (individually and collectively) they wanted feedback on whether or not the changes were coming across. (We also added a section for calls – previously it was tacked onto motivation but there weren’t any specific questions for it so we separated it and made it it’s own section.)

Added several new questions

Many of the questions carried over from the first eval but we also added a couple new ones to address specific areas of concern/interest. For example, under “execution” there weren’t any questions that directly addressed the coxswains’ knowledge. It’s one thing to say you know what you’re doing or talking about but when it comes time to call drills, make technical corrections to an individual’s stroke, etc. can you actually do that or no? (This has consistently been one of the questions that gets the best responses too.)


Knowledge and communication of technique issues – do the coxswains appear to have a good understanding of the rowing stroke, as well as the ability to pick out technical problems during practice and provide the appropriate feedback?

How well do you feel the coxswains manage practice in terms of running warm-ups, understanding what the coaches are looking for, what the goal of the practice/pieces are, etc.?


How would you describe the energy the coxswain brings to the boat? Are they someone that can lift the boat when they’re having a bad practice and maintain a positive atmosphere when things are going well?


Conciseness of calls – are the calls too wordy (5), just right (3), or too vague/ambiguous (1)?

Clarity of calls – how clear is the coxswain when making a call and how well do you understand the calls that are being made? (This question has two meanings – are they clear as in (1) not mumbling and (2) do their calls make sense and can the rowers easily process and translate them into actions.)

What calls do you like, what calls do you think aren’t effective, and/or what calls do you not understand?


Do you feel the coxswains communicate effectively and work well with each other, the coaches, and the crew during practice? Are there any areas in which you think they can/should improve?

Expanded on which coxswains are best in racing + practice situations

Asking which coxswains they prefer for races and practice is helpful for the coaches but it never really did much for the coxswains other than create animosity. Adding in an open-ended “why” component helped them see why the rowers chose who they did and where they could make improvements. There was also some … ok, a lot of … debate on what makes a good varsity coxswain last year so to settle that we came up with two questions that addressed not just the specific qualities the rowers want in their coxswains but also asking who they felt could get in the boat and maximize the crew’s potential.

Both questions were initially a little self-serving (one of the coxswains definitely thought their point was going to be made and the responses would lean in their favor … which didn’t end up happening) but the underlying thought behind the latter question was that it’s not just about being a good coxswain because not all good coxswains can get in a boat and make it faster (which happened last year too). The question about maximizing potential looks past all the “surface aesthetics”, their weight, etc. and focuses solely on who can pull something out of the boat when its needed the most.

In the fall I go over the evals individually with the coxswains but in the winter/spring I like to go over them as a group. This winter we did a combination of both (at their request) and started off by going over them individually (three coxswains = three practices to go over them, roughly an hour each) before meeting as a group to discuss everything and address some particular points that came up. (We spent about two hours doing this during one of the team’s steady state days.) Instead of doing individual sheets like I do in the fall (you can see an example of those in the original evals post linked at the top) I just put all the comments on one page and color-coded them for each person.

This was then shared with them the night before the first one-on-one so they could see not just the comments they got but what was said about everyone else as well. I have my reasons for letting them see each other’s comments so use your best judgement since that approach obviously won’t work for everyone.

Related: How to handle a negative coxswain evaluation

So, what do the guys think of these new evals? Surprisingly, they like them. They’re obviously a lot more labor-intensive than the original ones are (those usually took 15-20 minutes to fill out whereas the guys tend to spend 45-60+ minutes filling these ones out – seriously) but the quality of the feedback also matches the amount of time they spend on them so the trade-off is worth it. Naturally they all complain about how long they are but I think they recognize that the coxswains really look forward to the feedback they get so it’s mostly in jest at this point.

Related: Coxswain evaluations + my system for organizing them

If you don’t have a ton of time to spare then definitely stick with the original ones but if you do, I’d consider doing a longer eval like this at least once a year. I’m mulling the idea of making these into a Google Form for next time and having the guys fill them out that way but the downside to that is they don’t get donuts if we aren’t doing them at the boathouse sooo … there’s that.

Pro tip: bring the rowers donuts and they’ll do whatever you ask. FACT.

Image via // @mitmensrowing
Coxswain Skills: How to handle a negative coxswain evaluation

College Coxing High School How To Teammates & Coaches

Coxswain Skills: How to handle a negative coxswain evaluation

Previously: Steering, pt. 1 || Steering, pt. 2  || Boat feel 

This might seem like an unconventional topic to put under the “things you should know how to do” umbrella but after spending many hours on coxswain evals over the last year and a half and occasionally feeling like pulling teeth would have been a more enjoyable experience, I think learning how to handle negative feedback/constructive criticism is an important skill that coxswains need to pick up sooner rather than later.

Feedback, both positive and negative, is essential to your growth as a coxswain. When communicated properly, it should touch on three main things – what you’re doing well, what you need to improve on, and areas where you’ve made improvements since your last evaluation. This is a big reason why I revamped how the info on our evals is communicated to the coxswains. Before the coaches just handed them the 20+ pieces of paper and left them to their own devices but now it’s all laid out in a single spreadsheet that hits the three points I mentioned before.

Related: Coxswain evaluations + my system for organizing them

Where going over evals becomes a contentious and unproductive process is when you take the negative feedback personally. Being told you aren’t doing something well can sting because of the amount of time we put into coxing but if someone is critiquing your coxing, they’re not critiquing you. You have to be able to separate you the person from you the coxswain and look at these situations objectively. On the flip side though, if you’re not putting in the necessary extra effort outside of practice (or hell, even at practice…) or you show up every day with a shitty attitude then you really have no right to complain about whatever’s being said, which I think more coxswains than not need to understand.

With that in mind, here are eight things (some of which may or may not be inspired by our coxswains 😬) that you shoudn’t do when going over your evals.

Don’t get defensive

In most cases it’s the natural reaction to have but it can also come off as pretty immature. There’s a difference between defending your actions or making a case for why you did something a certain way and straight up making an excuse. You can defend something you’ve done one time (i.e. going through the wrong arch because you were unsure of which one to use due to construction on the bridge – a common problem on the Charles where this is always changing) but if you’re trying to defend something you’ve done multiple times (i.e. hitting the dock when coming in at the end of practice) then you’re just making excuses for why you haven’t adapted your steering to account for whatever was causing you to run into the dock in the first place (i.e. your speed, angle, line, etc.).

Don’t have an attitude or be sarcastic

Full disclosure, I started putting this post together after a particularly … uh, heated … meeting with one of our coxswains this past fall where this was the biggest issue I faced in trying to communicate with them the feedback that was on the evals. The bottom line is that you can be annoyed all you want but don’t be an asshole to the person taking time out of their schedule to go over this stuff with you because I promise, it just makes them not want to do it in the future … and if you have someone willing to go out of their way to discuss all of it with you, you are foolish if you don’t take advantage of it.

Don’t apologize 47 times for whatever mistake(s) you’ve made

Mainly looking at you, high school girls. Say it once sincerely and move on. Don’t make your coaches coddle you and have to keep saying “it’s fine” – I’ve had to do this recently and eventually it gets to the point where I’m like “I literally do not care if you’re sorry or how sorry you are, just do something different“. The more times you say sorry (especially for really trivial things that don’t require an apology) without actively changing your actions or behavior, the less your apology is going to mean when you really do screw up.

Don’t react immediately

If your immediate reaction to the feedback you’re getting is to blurt out “that’s not fair”, “I completely disagree”, etc. you will look so immature, even if the comments are unfair (which they rarely are) and you do disagree (which is fine but see point #1). Absorb the comments and think about what’s being said so you can try to understand why someone made that comment and then say that you’d like to come back to it later, either at the end of practice, tomorrow, etc., after you’ve had time to think about and process it.

And coaches, if your coxswain goes this route … respect it and say “OK, let’s touch base later”, even if that means spending an extra 20 minutes at the boathouse. If you force the issue by saying”no, we’re gonna do this now” you’re just gonna make them resent the whole evaluation process and their confidence/abilities will suffer as a result.

Don’t dwell on it, let it affect future practices, or use it as a reason/excuse for why you have a bad practice the following day

If you were caught off guard by the comments then that’s fine and you should take some time to deal with that but you also need to commit to letting them go, particularly when it’s time to get on the water. No pity parties or “woe is me” attitudes because the rowers don’t give a shit and the coaches are just gonna get annoyed because we have other stuff to focus on.

Don’t ignore comments you disagree with

Not all feedback is useful but disagreeing with a comment doesn’t mean you can straight up ignore it, particularly when getting any kind of feedback is so tough in the first place.

Don’t waste the opportunity to discuss, strategize, etc.

It’s like at the end of a job interview when they ask if you have any questions. You should always ask questions. I’m currently in the process of going over our winter evals with the coxswains and I told them ahead of time to bring questions, comments, things they wanted/needed clarification on, an action plan for the rest of winter training, a list of goals based on the feedback that was given, etc. because this is the prime chance to discuss all of that stuff with me. I see and talk to them every single day but direct one-on-one time like this is rare, as I assume it is with most of you and your coaches, so don’t waste the opportunity to pick their brains when it’s offered.

Don’t be resentful

If your coach(es) or the rowers have been telling you something for awhile and then it comes up again in the evals, you can expect that they’re all thinking “well … we told you so”. This shouldn’t piss you off or give you cause to be bitter towards them, it should instead act as a wake up call (or a “come to Jesus” moment, as our head coach calls it) that you need to do some serious self-analysis and get your shit together. They are telling you this stuff for. a. reason. Don’t ignore them just because you don’t think it’s important because it will bit you in the ass later.

Obviously these critiques are about what’s being said but ultimately their effectiveness is measured by how you handle and respond to them. This will also dictate how future evals go – the more receptive you are to feedback and the more diligently you go about addressing whatever issues are brought up, the more likely the rowers will be to continue giving you feedback because they can see that you’re taking it seriously. If you come off as aloof or combative in response to what’s being said, you’re not going to get better because the rowers will stop giving you any sort of feedback because it looks like you’re not taking it seriously. It’s your call.

Image via // @merijnsoeters
Coxswain evaluations + how I organize them

College Coxing High School Teammates & Coaches

Coxswain evaluations + how I organize them

I get a lot of emails asking about coxswain evaluations. Coaches want to know what they should say, how long they should be, are they even necessary (why would you ask me, of all people, this question), etc. and coxswains want to know how to interpret everything, what they should take seriously, and how much of what the rowers wrote is based on their level of like/dislike for person they’re writing about. Additionally, if you have a coxswain who is new to the team (like us – we have one freshman and two upperclassmen) it can be hard for them to know what to take away from the evaluations since they likely won’t have coxed many of the rowers if you do these early on in the season and the feedback can be scarce and occasionally harsh.

Coxswain evaluations are important and coaches should make it a priority to do them at least two or three times during the year. The problem though is what I said above – coaches don’t know how to make them and coxswains don’t know how to interpret them which renders the time you put into them all but wasted. Coaches also have to realize that part of doing evals is spending 20-30ish minutes going over them with your coxswains, explaining some of the more ambiguous comments, giving them specific things to work on based off the feedback, etc. Done right, yes, it does amount to a few hours of work but at the end of the day it’s a few hours well spent and your coxswains will be that much better for it. And, to be honest, it’s quite literally the least you can do for them in terms of helping them get better.

Related: Thoughts on coxswain evaluations? How should they be approached as a coach? And as a coxswain? What is the most effective method you have seen?

Sometime in October-ish we did our first round of evaluations for our three coxswains. I was excited but a little apprehensive at the same time because every coxswain evaluation I’ve seen before this has been borderline awful and/or useless. Thankfully the one they’ve been using is actually pretty good and manages to cover all the bases pretty well. (I’ll go into detail a bit more down below.)

Once the rowers had filled them out (this took maybe 10-15 minutes total) I collected them and asked the other coaches if they were going to go over them with the coxswains. They said “nah, we usually just give them the sheets to read on their own” to which I responded with this exact expression (I’m completely serious). Now, let’s think about this for a second. If you were given 20+ evaluations containing a lot of comments but no real indication of which of the three coxswains the feedback was directed towards, how much would you get out reading them? Probably not a lot. So … here’s what I did to make it easier for the coxswains to actually use the feedback they were being given.

To preface this, I’ve made templates of my “system” for you to use with your coxswains if you’d like. Everything is explained down below and can be found in this Google Doc.

First things first – the evaluation itself, which is on the first tab of that spreadsheet. MIT’s used this one for awhile so I can’t take credit for making it but I do like it so at the very least I’m endorsing it. It’s simple and to the point but open-ended enough for the rowers to elaborate if they have any specific comments (which, obviously, the goal is for them to do that with each section).

Once you have your evaluations and they’re filled out the next thing you’ve gotta do is figure out what to do with all that information. The first thing that I did was take all the numerical ratings and average them into one number so that instead of having 20+ ratings for each of the nine sub-sections, they’d only have one number each. (The sheet for this is under “Overall Evaluation” in the second tab at the bottom.) This allows them to get a better idea of where they fall on the 1-5 scale. It’s just like what your teachers do with your grades – instead of giving you a million individual grades at the end of the semester they just give you one that you can then compare to the pre-defined scale in order to determine how you did.

I tend to spend a lot of time on this section because averaging 20+ numbers for nine sections times three people is rather time-consuming. Luckily the day that I crunched all the winter numbers last week was when everyone was either biking or out on a long run so this ended up being a good way for me to pass the time until they got back. I have a pretty good system that works well for me so it only took me about an hour, or maybe a little less than, to get everything averaged out.

The next part is the most time-consuming. I’ve done this twice now and each time I’ve spent about 2.5 – 3hrs total putting these spreadsheets together (so about 45-60min per coxswain). How long it takes you will depend on how many coxswains you have, how many comments your rowers have left/how detailed they are, how diligent you are about dividing them up amongst the coxswains they apply to, and whether or not you boil down the comments to two to four bullet points of specific things to work on (hint: you should).

Each coxswain has their own sheet for each season that we’ve conducted the evals. We just did our second set last week so as you can see, each coxswain has two sheets so far for the year. Each individual sheet (noted as “Coxswain A”, “Coxswain B”, and “Coxswain C” in that spreadsheet) is broken down into four main sections, just like the evaluation itself. There’s a “pros”, “cons”, and “general comments” section where I’ve taken all the comments the rowers have left and divided them up to fit into one of those three categories. Most of the time the rowers will specify if their comments are directed towards a particular coxswain but if they don’t then I just consider it a general comment that’s directed towards everyone and I’ll include it on each person’s sheet.

As you can see, some of the comments are a bit repetitive but I think it’s important to write them all down regardless so that the coxswains can see what the rowers are noticing and how they feel about certain aspects of their coxing. If one person says “steers a great course” it’s not nearly as much of a confidence boost as four people saying it is. Same goes for the negative comments – they might not take “doesn’t steer competitive courses” that seriously when it comes from one person but if six of their teammates say it then it holds a bit more weight.

The “things to work on” section should be two (minimum) to four (maximum) bullet points based on all the pro/con/general comments. These really don’t take that much effort to come up with either. As you read through the comments you should easily be able to get a sense for what areas the rowers think they can or want them to improve on.

After putting all that together then you can go over it with your coxswains. When I sat down with ours I printed out their individual sheets so they could read the comments for themselves as we went over them and essentially just read through everything, pointed out anything that I thought was worth discussing and/or elaborating on, and got their thoughts on how they felt about the comments (did they agree/disagree with anything, have questions, etc.). We did this individually the first time but when we go over the most recent ones I think I’m going to do it as a group just because there’s only three of them and not as many individual nuances to discuss this time around.

The takeaway here is that coxswain evaluations should be a regular thing that you do at least twice per season (for comparison’s sake) and in order to maximize their effectiveness you, the coach, need to spend a few hours organizing them so that you can go directly to each coxswain and say “Here’s what your teammates said, here’s what we’d like to see you work on based on the feedback they’ve provided, let’s discuss…”. Don’t just give them a pile of papers and expect them to sort through all that themselves because they won’t do it (and I don’t blame them). Hell, you can outsource all your evals to me and I’ll organize them for you if it means you’ll actually do evals for your coxswains (…totally serious, by the way).

Related: Hey! So I’m a coxswain in high school and we (all the coxswains) want a coxswain evaluation/ranking from the rowers. Some coxswains feel like they should be in a different boat and we all want feedback from the rowers. How do we go about asking our coach about it?

After the first round of evals that we did all three of us (the coaches) noticed some major improvements in our coxswains so if you want proof that spending the time doing these and providing them with real information actually pays off, just look at the fall vs. winter averages in the first picture. I was a little skeptical initially because I didn’t think there was going to be much of a difference (mainly because I didn’t think the rowers would notice anything, not that I didn’t think our coxswains had improved) but I was really excited to see actual numerical data that backed up what we were seeing on the water.

Anyways, I hope all of this is helpful and encourages everyone to make coxswain evaluations a regular part of your seasonal plans. Coxswains, if your team hasn’t done evaluations before you should pose the idea to your coach(es) and show them the first tab of the Google Doc. If you have done evaluations but want to discuss some of the comments or get some additional feedback/insight, feel free to get in touch.

Image via // @mlcsrs_17

Coxing Q&A Teammates & Coaches

Question of the Day

Hey! So I’m a coxswain in high school and we (all the coxswains) want a coxswain evaluation/ranking from the rowers. Some coxswains feel like they should be in a different boat and we all want feedback from the rowers. How do we go about asking our coach about it?

I would advise against a “ranking” from the rowers. That would only cause … problems. Leave that kind of stuff to your coaches.

Related: How are coxswain evaluations conducted?

I’d talk to your coach and say that you and the other coxswains are looking for some more in-depth feedback from the rowers so that you can get an idea of the things you need to focus on improving over the winter. Ask them if it’d be possible to do a coxswain evaluation at the start or end of practice one day. If it is, ask them if you can make a list of things that everyone wants feedback on and give it to them for final approval within a day or two. Some coaches will want to create the evaluations themselves but others might be OK with you guys coming up with the questions (or some of them) yourselves as long as they get to see what they are first.

If they’re OK with you writing some of them, sit down with the other coxswains and come up with a list of 8-12 things that you think are the most important things for you to be evaluated on. If you need help coming up with ideas, check out the “coxswain evaluation” tag. Also make sure to note whether you want feedback in the form of short answers or a 1-2-3-4-5 system where “5” is very proficient or whatever you want to say and “1” is the opposite. Personally I’m a fan of short answers but the amount of time you have usually dictates whether or not doing that is an option.

Related: Thoughts on coxswain evaluations? How should they be approached as a coach? And as a coxswain? What is the most effective method you have seen?

Also, when you propose the idea to your coach, leave the part about being in different boats out because that’s not something the rowers have any control over – the coach(es) make those decisions and they’ll have their own reasons as to why you’re in the boats you are. If you or anyone want to know specifically why you were in this boat instead of that one, you should go directly to your coach and ask.

Coxing Q&A

Question of the Day

Thoughts on coxswain evaluations? How should they be approached as a coach? And as a coxswain? What is the most effective method you have seen?

How they should be approached as a coach

Gather the team/boat together, explain the purpose of the evaluations, why they’re important, how the coaches use them, and what the coxswain can/should gain from them. Give a detailed explanation of how they should be filled out (if it’s a ranking system (1-10), short answer, or both) so that there’s no confusion. When not explained properly people take the “short answer” phrase a little too seriously and only leave one or two words, which isn’t helpful to anyone, least of all the coxswain(s).

Also explain that coxswain evaluations are not popularity contests and behavior such as that won’t be tolerated. The coxswains are to be evaluated strictly on their ability to handle the boats, not on whether or not you’re BFFs off the water. If it were me, I would read through the evaluations first when they were returned, give them to the coxswains to read, and then set up a time to go over the together and discuss what they said.

Related: How are coxswain evaluations conducted?

How they should be approached as a coxswain

Do not bribe the rowers. Do not try to sway the lightweights with donuts in return for positive reviews. Stay out of it. When the evaluations are returned, go through them and take note of what is said – positive and negative. Don’t ignore the negative stuff and think you’re above whatever was said, regardless of who said it. Make a list of the positives (things you should keep doing and continue improving on) and the negatives (things to work on and strive to do better) and then order the from “most important” to “least important”.

Also go over the evaluations and your list(s) with your coach and get their feedback. Discuss why you’ve placed certain things higher than others, put together a plan on how you’re going to work on the things that need to be improved upon, and tell your coach what you need from them to help you work on them. Stay neutral and don’t treat anyone differently based on the feedback you receive. Don’t take it too personally either. Remember, you’re part of the boat too and just like you are trying to help the rowers improve, this is there way of helping you.

Related: Coxswain evaluations

Most effective method

The effectiveness of coxswain evaluations really depends on how the coach puts them together and how willing the rowers are to put the time in to adequately answer them. If the coaches aren’t willing to put together evaluations that ask the right questions and if the rowers aren’t willing to take the time to provide thoughtful responses, it’s a waste of time for everyone. In terms of an effective eval that generates good feedback for the coxswains, something that rates their skills on a scale of 1-5 and gives the rowers space to write comments on various aspects of their coxing would be ideal.

Coxing Q&A

Question of the Day

Part of coxswain selections are how safe you are and if you can keep the boat safe in different situations. How would coaches determine your safety-ness?

In no particular order, I’d look at:

Whether or not you follow the traffic patterns (and before that, if you know what the traffic patterns are)

What your steering is like (are you a straight shooter or a drunk driver?)

Related: How to steer an eight or four

How you handle high-volume days on the water when there’s a lot of traffic (i.e. on any given day you’ll encounter numerous other crews, launches, sailboats, tour boats, duck boats, kayakers, SUP-ers, etc.)

Are you calm in stressful situations or do you easily lose your composure

Do you follow instructions (this is huge)

Are you trustworthy (can I send you off by yourself for a few minutes without supervision and trust that you’ll execute practice accordingly, keep the crew safe, etc.)

Are you careful with the equipment

How well you handle inclement weather situations

Whether or not you used basic common sense

The last one is big for me personally and is probably the number one thing I would like at if I were evaluating how safe a coxswain is. Being aware of potentially dangerous, unsafe, or atypical situations and doing everything you can to avoid putting your crew in harm’s way is one of, if not the most, important responsibility of a coxswain. Common sense can and will keep you and your crew safe 98% of the time but being able to master everything I listed above will be of great use to you. Better safe than sorry, every time, all the time.

Coxing Q&A Teammates & Coaches

Question of the Day

This is probably a weird issue but I’m a coxswain and a few outings ago I accidentally spit on my stroke seat during a piece. The stroke screamed and demanded to be removed from the boat because she didn’t want to be in a boat with such a gross coxswain. This is the only time it’s ever happened to me but now the rowers are purposefully rowing poorly when they are in my boat and when out coach asked for input about coxswain placement for the next race, they trashed me and I was moved down a boat.

I’m assuming that this wasn’t on purpose and was just a result of you getting into the piece. Yea, that’s pretty gross and I definitely would have been like “…ew, seriously??” if I was your stroke but she and the other rowers took it way too far. If you’re feeling particularly passive-aggressive I would refuse to take their times down after their next erg test because rowers are disgusting and sweaty and covered in snot, vomit, and god knows what other bodily fluids after an erg test and nobody wants to be near such gross shit after an erg piece.

The solution to this problem is to talk to your coach and explain that it was an accident. Ask yourself though if you really want to cox a boat where the rowers evaluate their coxswain on something stupid like this instead of your actual abilities. I sure as hell wouldn’t. I’d tell them to go fuck themselves and stick with the boat you were moved down to. If your coach knew that that was why your evaluations were so poor, I’m sure he’d have something to say about it to your stroke and those rowers.

Rowers, if you treat your coxswains like this or see someone treating a coxswain on your team like this and say nothing about it, I have no respect for you. None.

I did something similar in one of my boats in high school and my stroke just busted out laughing and said “now you know how we feel!”. I had a cold at the time when we were doing a really intense race piece and I sneezed but tried to hold it in so it wouldn’t interrupt my coxing. That resulted in me choking which led to me coughing up a lot of nasty crap in my throat, which then led to said nasty stuff flying towards my cox box and my stroke’s feet. It was disgusting and I was like … omg … did that just happen … but my stroke was cool about it and laughed it off (although she wouldn’t let me live it down for at least a year after that).

Coxing Q&A Teammates & Coaches

Question of the Day

How are coxswain evaluations conducted?

What is asked and how they’re conducted will vary by team, but in general, they’re usually a survey (either paper or online) that your coach gives the rowers to complete. Some coaches have both practice and race-day evaluations but most stick to just general coxing skills without going into specifics.

Common questions that rowers are asked to provide feedback on include:

Something the coxswain does well and should keep doing

Something you don’t like that they do and think they should change or stop doing

Something new or different that they should incorporate

Who is the most/least motivating coxswain and why (or why you find/don’t find your coxswain motivating, if you’re not given the option to choose)

Who is the most/least confident and why (or why you find you find/don’t find your coxswain to be confident)

Skills regarding coaching on technique, how good the feedback is that they give you, etc.

One call you like and one you don’t like, and why

How’s their steering

What level of respect do you have for them, on a scale of 1-10 (or whatever) and why is it at that level

How efficient they are at giving directions – are they clear, concise, understandable, etc.

Do you think safety is a priority and why

Overall contribution to the boat – good, bad, etc.

Are they prepared or running around like a chicken with their head cut off

Do they work well with the coaches, other coxswains, and rowers

Sometimes the evaluations require written explanations from the rowers and some just ask for a number on a scale of 1-10. I think the more feedback you can get the better, so written responses are preferable. I’d like to say that the evaluations are free from popularity contests and personal like/dislike for the individual but that’s not always the case. Evaluating someone on whether or not you like them as a person instead of evaluating their overall skills is pretty immature in my opinion and is something that I feel the need to stress to everyone who reads this – don’t.

Check out the “coxswain evaluation” tag too, there will likely be a lot of information in there going forward on how to do them, what to include, etc.