001 | Meet the Hosts
Racing intro sounds
SALLY: Welcome to the inaugural episode of CoxPod, a podcast for coxswains. I'm Sally, I'm Anne, I'm Breana - and we're three coxswains with a combined 50 years of experience in the seat.
BREANA: We decided to share our knowledge with coxswains everywhere via this podcast and ultimately we hope
to create a community among our audience where coxswains everywhere can learn from each other. Today we'll be introducing ourselves, the hosts, telling you what this resource will be about and hopefully in the future getting to meet you. Since this is a brand new project we want to share with you what to expect, so first of all any links or other important information that we mention in today's episode will be available in our show notes which you can find at coxpod.com 001. So one of the things that we're excited to do as part of this podcast is take questions from our audience and we're kicking today's episode off with a question from a coxswain in our Slack community who wanted to know how we each got our start in coxing and on our website at CoxPod.com you can read fuller-fledged bios for all of us and for today we will give you some further information. So Sally - how did you come into rowing?
SALLY: Well, I watched the 1984 women's team win gold in Los Angeles. It was on this, like, black and white tv with a cracked dial and I think it was August 4th 1984 - those dates kind of sit hard and fast in my memory. I just saw it and saw the beauty and the symmetry of it and I was hooked. When I went to college I had to find a program that had a rowing team. It's just become a lifelong passion ever since. I am not necessarily a rowing specimen.
I am not the six foot two, two hundred pounds that I think I am, but I'm definitely more effective with the theoretical oar than an empirical one in my hand, so I just became a coxswain. Someone sold to me as chess on water and I was hooked. How about you Breana?
BREANA: Yeah, like you Sally, I got my start coxing in college. I was at the University of Pittsburgh - hail to Pitt - and then I moved to the Washington DC area to start grad school. But I knew that I wasn't ready to leave the sport of rowing behind and during that time, I really relished my couple of hours every morning spent on the water since it was really the only two hours out of every day when I wasn't thinking about neuroscience. And I was lucky enough to have you as my coach during my first season with the masters team that I joined in DC. I remember we were training for the Head of the Charles and you spent a whole day of practice working with me and the other coxswain on our team on our approach to Week's turn and teaching us how to adjust our rates to overlap oars with another boat, which I still have not mastered honestly. And that was the first time that a coach had devoted any amount of practice time to developing my skills and so I bet that experience of kind of going it on your own will resonate with a lot of coxswains - and we hope that this podcast will help you, our listeners, build your skills and maybe recognize skills you didn't even know you had and find a sense of community with fellow coxswains around the world.
SALLY: So Anne - I think I met you in 2012 possibly you were coxing for Lake Quinsigamond - which I can't spell to save my soul. So you were coxing at Lake Q. What brought you to the sport? What brought you to coxing?
ANNE: Thanks Sally - you don't ever have to spell Quinsigamond. It's quite alright.
But what brought me to coxing was desperation. No, not my desperation but a rower's desperation. And to give you a little context leading up to that - it was in 2005, I ended up moving to this area and took an adult learn to row sculling class and oh - I adored it! I loved it so I stuck with it and was hanging around the boathouse a lot. The following year - 2006 -
there was a desperate rower who approached me and asked if I might be interested in learning how to steer one of the big boats. It ended up that he was the stroke seat of a master's eight. He was a great guy. He taught me the basics and believe it or not - much to my astonishment - a month later, I ended up coxing at the Head of the Charles regatta which was ridiculously scary and at the same time incredibly exciting. Since then I've basically continued coxing masters crews, but I am still out in a single on the days that I'm not coxing. But in terms of learning about coxing and building that skill set, one of the biggest ways I've learned is through conversations with the two of you. And that's one reason I really enjoy spending time talking with you both. I learn a lot every time we have a conversation.
SALLY: I know I learned to cox in the days of bifurcated Germany and dial up modems and when cell phones were only a thing of the rich and famous, but I learned how to cox and and the environment that I learned how to cox in was really full of negative reinforcement. Coxswains didn't share their secrets. Coxswains didn't talk. We perceived another coxswain as the enemy - they were a threat to the seat because so much of what we did was absolutely unquantifiable and virtually indistinguishable from each other. I mean we could tell when a coxswain hit the bridge or the rocks or the dock, but a lot of that other stuff there was so much ambiguity in it, coxswains became a personality contest. It was just so easy to lose your seats over nothing. I learned to have cox in a vacuum and I kind of swore to myself that if I ever were to survive this sport - if I was ever to participate in the sport - that that cycle of being alone kind of ends with me. So when I saw the two of you and I saw these two incredible, remarkable, intelligent people, my first thought was "Oh crap they're smart" ... but the second thing was there's so much I can learn from you guys. There's so much I want to share with you guys. I love your opinion and I love the camaraderie of being 'Oh my god, can you believe we do x y and z together?" or "What would you have done Breana, if x and y and z happened?". And the solutions that you draw are so different than what I would have come up with. I am just so grateful to be able to talk with people and not worry that you're going to take my seat and I'm not worried that you guys are going to throw me out of the club. I know that you should, but I'm not going to worry about it, so anyhow that's me waxing philosophic.
BREANA: Now that we've told you how we got our starts in coxing, let's explore a little bit how we grew our skill sets from there.
SALLY: So Anne, I'm going to put you on the spot because it's unusual for masters crews to have a dedicated coxswain. How do you use your skills to bring value to a race or to a practice? How do you improve?
ANNE: Well, I honestly think I'm like everyone else. I read and re-read and re-read coxing books and I watch racing videos ... actually watched two of them this morning before we met to do this recording. I ask coaches and rowers for feedback. I talk with other coxes just like you, and I do a lot of self-reflection. I don't think that can be underestimated - the power of self-reflection. I watch, listen, borrow ideas, and set goals. And I do a lot of agonizing over mistakes. Now, that agonizing also keeps me very hungry to improve because I do not want to make those mistakes again. And I believe also that my rowers deserve better from me and that's what motivates me. I've got to say though, I get a whole lot of information from having honest conversations with the two of you, which is why I'm really excited about this podcast being launched. The talking through real life situations, Sally, as you mentioned, and getting other ideas is terrific. Again, it's unusual in our world.
BREANA: I echo what you both have said - that it has been so powerful - especially by the time you maybe end up on a team where you're the only coxswain - that those rare chances to sit down and kind of commiserate about the little things that happen on a day-to-day basis that only we know about. Those opportunities are really special and it was really kind of out there on the masters coxing circuit, if you will, that the three of us had the opportunity to meet and get to know each other ... kind of encountering each other at races and other opportunities,
and for me part of the way I built my skill set was to get more of those outside experiences in the broader community and experiences at different types of regattas and with all kinds of different types of rowers and teams, and that was a way that I enhanced my own skills. And I think what we're offering here at CoxPod is the perspective of kind of everyday coxswains. So we between us do have quite a bit of experience at big deal regattas, and you know with team names that you may recognize but we also are really seeking to bring you a podcast that is designed for everyone to be able to gain something from it and not only people maybe who have their eyes on the national team circuit, which is an amazing goal, and I would be so hyped if this podcast could get you closer to that, but we also want to reflect the experiences of coxswains who are just out there striving every day to do an awesome job on their high school team or their master's team or wherever they find themselves ...no matter what types of regattas they're going to ... whether they're big, known ones, or their small local regattas. We know that you - if you're listening to this you want to rock all of those contexts. and so we're really here to support that growth. And we have been, you know, we've been on the medal stand but we've also been the boat limping across the finish line and dead last, so we kind of have run the gamut of experiences and we're going to bring that knowledge to you. We learned things from both of those ends of the spectrum. And we're kind of excited to be a resource out there also that reflects the master's coxing side a little bit. So we really do hope that this podcast brings information that serves people at all levels. Like I said, no matter where you're coxing. And there's a little bit of a misconception out there that maybe masters coxing is less serious or it's kind of where you get funneled once you've fallen out of the system you know. But we hope we can convince you and show you that this is a really cool, kind of viable place to continue your coxing career for as long as you want.
SALLY: I think what you're saying, Breana, is incredible and there is definitely a glut of information as it is about how to be a D1 cox, or how to be, you know, on the national team but the truth of the matter is for the majority of us, those those paths are not available. I'm grateful we're on a podcast because it hides all my gray hair but you know, I just have to work to be the best master's cox that I'm going to be and to do that there isn't a terrible amount of information or resources available to how to run a master's program, or how do - you know I'm 44 - how do i start doing this? There's really not a lot of openness or information on that level of coxing so I hope that this CoxPod can add value to some of our more horrendous experiences and our life can be a cautionary tale to you so that you can learn from us and eventually help teach us some of your tricks and tools. Breana, so that kind of touches upon what CoxPod is, but what made you want to start it? This is, after all, your brainchild.
BREANA: Yeah, frankly Sally, I'd written off the idea of creating content on the internet a few times in the past because the online world, it just seemed saturated with content. It felt like there were already thousands of blogs and podcasts on everything that you could imagine - you know - cooking and productivity tips, and even my current professional field of education has dozens of podcasts. But during the pandemic, I started creating virtual content for the high school coxswains that I coached so that their season wouldn't be a total loss basically, and the experience of preparing for that really reminded me how little coxswain-oriented content there was online and a lot of that content out there was really pretty superficial I would say ... with the exception of the really fantastic Ready All Row blog which we'll link in our show notes. But coxswains are hungering for that kind of content, kind of like you said Anne, and once you get excited about this sport there's a hunger and a drive to do better. That's the sort of people that coxswains are! And you know most of that time, I think coxswains aren't receiving any coaching that's devoted to the development of their specific skills, and the remedy that's often put forward by well-meaning people is to go to a camp maybe, but when you think about it, that's a very privileged experience that isn't available to a lot of people, you know, for cost reasons or just maybe they aren't a high school-aged student. And so that isn't really at an appropriate place for them and it's not a place that's designed for them. And it also just doesn't make any sense that coxswains should have to pay thousands of dollars to get the experience that rowers get from regular participation on a coached team, which is that your coach is going to support and kind of facilitate your development as an athlete. Like even if you can pay that amount those camps are directed really at teenagers and so there's there's a lot less help out there like you said, Sally, for masters coxswains who are adults or even for coxswains really starting out in college which is - you know, between those two experiences - covers many people so I saw a place where there was room for another voice to add content to this rowing community and our little world of coxing specifically, and so podcasts you know are on the rise as a form of media and they're awesome because you can listen while you're up to other things in your life and we know we're busy people coxing, so that is part of kind of what led me to creating this resource.
ANNE: Well, I am thrilled that you have come up with this idea and now we're fleshing it out and sharing it with our listeners. It's been really great for me because as we've been developing these episodes, we've been talking a lot with each other and now we're hopefully turning this into content for you, our audience. And I have to say that when Breana started talking with Sally and me about this, she had already compiled a list of like nearly 200 ideas of topics to propose to talk about on the podcast, so you can tell that between the three of us, there are no shortages of ideas. But speaking of some of the topics, you know, we want to cover with you, they might not be things that you had expected necessarily as a resource for coxswains, so we're going to range from things like psychology ... we'll definitely include lots of actionable tips that are related to hard skills for coxswains ... but there will be some other topics that you might not hear about elsewhere. We are going to be covering practical things like race prep and then also how to correct technique in a bow loader. At another time we're going to be hopefully discussing things like transferable skills. I particularly am fond of this area of discussion. Transferable skills - by that I mean the ones you bring to coxing and then also the ones you can take from coxing out to your outside life.
BREANA: Yeah, we're really excited to bring not only these regular episodes that we're producing together but also blog posts from time to time that accompany what we're talking about. We hope to grow even more our social media community. So again, find all of our accounts on our website and specifically in today's show notes at CoxPod.com/001. We're especially excited about our Slack community. We really wanted to create a place that was kind of independent of individual social media accounts where coxswains could join and just start a conversation among each other that, you know, like we said doesn't happen at every club. And right now it's especially hard to get interacting with other coxswains, and that's a place for you to interact with us as well - where we can take your questions and your feedback into account as we develop this podcast so that it can be something that really serves you - our listeners! So we are most excited about kind of building up this community and bringing you a lot of really high quality, free resources that can enhance your coxing no matter what level you are at. And time is almost up here on our very first episode. I can't believe it. And we thought we would end on something fun so, Sally, what is something fun that you remember from your coxing legacy thus far?
SALLY: I'm a little concerned about the word 'legacy' because it's not over yet, but you know, as long as the names and the dates have been changed to protect the innocent victims of the story, I think I'll be okay with it. Truthfully, the first time I was in an eight and I felt all -
as a coxswain - I felt the power and the surge and that they responded to what I said and I made a difference, I still get chills thinking about it. I mean, the hard thing about coxing - a hard thing about rowing - is that it's not immediate work, immediate reward. And you have to put in a lot of hard work without any obvious signs of benefit initially, and it is most unrewarding and terribly brutal and exceptionally frustrating. But the day it works, the moment that I was able to be a coxswain, that I was able to actualize a call that made the difference and improved the efficiency of the boat ... it was far too far along in my rowing career to be proud of it, but the day that that happened, I think it was one of the highlights! Anne, how about you?
ANNE: Well thanks Sally. I think I can relate to what you're saying. But I have something that sticks with me as being really fun had to do with a time when I set out with a club pickup row and what that means in my club is that we say there's going to be an eight going out and a mixed crew just shows up ... could be anyone from all sorts of abilities, all sorts of sizes. Some of them have experience but a lot of times there are a lot of new rowers in the group. And there's no coach - there's just me trying to figure out things on the fly. So our lake is about three miles long. We were in mile two or so and uh, it was a rough go but people were really trying hard and finally I ended up succeeding to get the - all the ports were finally together with each other and all the starboards were finally together with themselves but the two sides were definitely not matched up. So I don't know what made me think of it but all of a sudden I said something like ... "Okay - all the starboards - you're all together. That's terrific. Ports - you are all together. Now what we need to do is put the two sides together. Let's think of it like a zipper." And in two strokes they ended up doing just that! They were thrilled and so was I, and strangely enough that small moment was so exciting that even as I talk about it now, I just get chills. So yeah, thanks.
SALLY: How about you Breana? That's pretty awesome Anne. It's hard enough to get eight desperate, different minded people to think alike but to row alike is a miracle. How about you Breana? What is, what is a fun story from your eclectic past?
BREANA: Yeah, I'm getting chills just listening to both of your guys' stories and ultimately I'm proud of the past three years that I spent coaching high school rowing. I really went into that with the goal of helping coxswains feel cared about and helping them have a faster trajectory to success than I had, you know, coming up with very little coaching. And I'd like to believe that I achieved that at least a little bit. And in terms of my own experiences, there are a few little moments that I'm proud of that maybe aren't the ones that, you know, led to a big deal medal or anything, but one of those is a race where in the last hundred meters of this sprint race, we went from fifth place to fourth place. And all of our teammates on the shore - you among them, Sally - were just screaming in excitement for this small victory that our boat made and it wasn't something that even led to a medal, but it was just such a cool moment to kind of get that walk in the final couple meters of this race and that's something that still really sticks with me today! And you know, another time while coxing abroad, I had to unearth some deeply buried foreign language skills in order to get my boat to the start line in this tiny fraction of time because we were already late, and that's a story that we can rehash another time. And I know all three of us have a wealth of coxing stories that will get incorporated into future episodes. So I hope our listeners enjoy looking forward to that.
ANNE: Well, I gotta say I have heard these stories before from each one of you and I'm still thrilled to hear them again, and hope our listeners are also, and that as people were listening to each of us talk, they had memories or they had thoughts about what excites them ... what's been fun for them ... because we want to tap into that. And for our listeners, we are thrilled that you have listened to our first episode. We are honored to have you here as part of our community, and we're getting ready to close. But before we do, we want to give a special shout out to the amazing artist who created our logo - Eileen Anderson! And if you want to check out more of her work, she's at eileen_ing on Instagram.
BREANA: Yes - thank you, Eileen! We love it!! We hope all of our listeners love our logo as well. So on the next episode, we'll address the elephant in the room, which is that we're starting up a coxing podcast in a time when very few coxswains are actually able to be on the water - at least in the United States - due to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. In the meantime, we invite you to engage with us on social media and on Slack. All of those links will be in our show notes and you could be the person who provides our very next cox question that we'll answer. And we'd also love for you to consider supporting us on Patreon if that's of interest to you. So for our patrons, we'll be offering things like early access to some of our upcoming episodes, the chance to have input into what we talk about in future episodes, and other fun perks like blooper reels from our first couple of episodes here.
Find us on Patreon. And we're just overall so excited to bring you more content soon, so until next time, I'm BREANA, I'm SALLY, and I'm ANNE - signing off for now.