About the Coxswain

Q:  Who should join crew to be a coxswain?

A:  Anyone can.  That said, it should be emphasized that coxing presents a wonderful opportunity for smaller students.  Most sports don’t advantage the shorter/lighter human.  But as a coxswain, that is actually to your advantage.

Q:  What equipment do coxswains bring to practice?

A:   Here’s a list of what you should have as a competitive coxswain.  Not all items are absolutely necessary, and in those cases, alternatives are suggested.

  • Running shoes – We do plenty of running.  Good shoes prevent injury.  Coxswains always need to be ready to join the workout.
  • A watch with a timer – Racing is all about time.  So is practice.  A coxswain must time races and workouts.
  • A ballcap – Safety on the water means keeping the suns and splash out of your eyes.  In the bow of a 4+, you will deal with both.
  • Sun Glasses – Sunlight damages eyes just like it damages skin.  Get a cheap pair that protects from UVA/UVB rays.  Don’t let glare reduce your awareness.
  • Warm clothes when it’s cold – If the water’s good enough, we’ll go out when it’s really cold.  Some teams row in the snow.  Coxswains get much colder than rowers.  Baggy clothes are fine for the coxswain, so layers are ideal.
  • A water bottle – We are on the water, away from drinking water for a long time.  You need to bring your own.

Q:  What is the job of a coxswain?

A:  The stupid stereotype of the coxswain is to sit in the stern saying “stroke, stroke, stroke”.  Wrong!  The job of a coxswain is far more complex. They drive the boat, keeping the crew safe and giving them a great chance to win.  Coxswains encourage and focus the rowers, making sure they work together.  They direct the crew on land in moving boats and in other activities.  They often function as coaches, correcting the technique of their rowers in practices and during races to help them get better with every stroke.  Coxswains react to the changing situations on the water and adjust their strategy accordingly.  When a boat is ready to work, the coxswain’s in charge.

Q:  What makes for a good coxswain?

A:  Coxswains are leaders.  They have the motivation, confidence, and commitment to make their crews work hard and focus well in any circumstance.  Coxswains are smart.  You can’t coach the technique or drive a great race if you don’t understand how it’s done.  Coxswains are organized.  They should be capable of running the entire training session as if the coach isn’t there.  Coxswains are communicators.  Their instructions must be voiced well (sometimes loudly), and they must have equal ability to listen.  Coxswains are athletes.  Athletes respect athletes; coxswains must earn the respect of their rowers by being athletes themselves.

Q:  Do coxswains get to row?

A:  Of course they do.  Granby Crew has had many students who did both, including several state champions.  The jobs are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, doing both jobs helps you understand what is required of both positions.  Every coxswain should row, and understand how to move boats.

Q:  What is a cox box?

A:  The bigger shells have speaker systems installed.  The cox box powers this system. Your voices is piped to the crew so you don’t have to yell to be heard.  There is also data displayed on the cox box about what the shell is doing.

Q:  Why are most coxswains small/light?

A:  Youth sports should not have weight requirements, so we don’t have them for coxswains.  But the typical coxswain is light because that helps the boat move faster.  We want our coxswains to be capable of all the stuff stated above.  We want them to be healthy.  After that, it is helpful if they are light.  Thus, weight is a small part of what goes into selecting coxswains for racing lineups.