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The Coxswain


Many people who watch rowing think that the role of the coxswain is to sit in the back of the boat and yell “stroke” so the entire crew stays together. All the rowers know that is not the case but non-rowers (parents and friends of Pittsford Rowing) might find helpful some information about the coxswain’s role.

The coxswain’s main role is to steer the boat. Although singles, doubles, and some fours are steered by the rowers themselves, all of the sweep boots are “coxed” or steered by coxswains from the stern. (There are some fours that are “bow loaded” or have the coxswain in the bow). The steering of a 55ft long boat, with a very small rudder, and with rowers of different strengths is not easy especially since the coxswain is low in the stern of the boat. The coxswain who can steer a true course and stay off the rudder as much as possible to avoid drag will make a
tremendous difference to a crew.

Beyond steering, the coxswain plays a critical role in keeping all members of a crew on the same page. No lowers at an level of competition, be it big school novice or the US National Team, does anything without the coxswains command. Otherwise, it would be chaos.

In addition, the coxswain helps the rowers by pointing out certain flaws which may not be noticed, such as being late at the catch or “washing out” or “skying”. A good coxswain can really help a rower and all good rowers appreciate the fad that when a good coxswain says something, its done to help everyone to make the boat go faster. Rowers need to listen to the coxswain and -coxswains have to be sensitive to what the rower is having to deal with.

Finally, on race day, it is the coxswain’s job to keep his or her crew in the race, mentally, physically, and strategically. The coxswain must keep the crew informed as to where they are in the race (ex. 500 meters down, halt way home, 1 00 to go, etc.) and also where they are in relationship to other crews. A properly timed “power 10 or 20 can allow a to crew sprint right past another boat and go on to victory.

There is a very special relationship between the 4 or 8 rowers in a shell and their coxswain. The process by which the Two groups learn to work together and develop mutual respect for what the other is doing, is essential for winning crews.

We are fortunate to have some excellent coxswains in the Pittsford Crew. At several regattas, other coaches have commented about how well our coxswains steer their boats and how well they follow the course rules.

Here are some more links that are pertinent to the Cox:

Coxswain Commands

Second to God

Referee Tips:  Floating Starts for Coxswains

The Coxswain Café


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