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002 | The Elephant in the Room



Racing intro sounds


BREANA: Welcome to CoxPod - a podcast for coxswains.  I'm Breana. I'm Sally. I'm Anne, and we're three coxswains with a combined 50 years of experience in the seat. 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.


SALLY: So this is Episode 2, which we have called "The Elephant in the Room".  In the era of Covid where we aren't in sweep boats, the big question is how can we learn to cox or if we know how to cox, how can we improve our skills? We're having to be very creative and try to figure out what are actionable items that we can do now that will improve our abilities when we get on the water  - it's not if y'all - it's when we get back on the water. And truthfully, I really, really need to get back on the water. Initially Breana had a pretty visceral reaction to this topic. I truly, truly, truly wish you could have seen her face. I am not nearly skilled or articulate enough to describe it but if looks could kill, um carries a greater meaning. So Breana, with that inauspicious opening what are your thoughts about coxing in the era of Covid?


BREANA: Well yeah, when Sally proposed this as an upcoming episode, I was ... I got the chance to kind of share my real thoughts on the the current situation and I want to give the message at the start here to our listeners and our coxswains out there who are probably also off the water to say that it's okay to grieve the loss of your season - maybe even multiple seasons at this point. And it's okay to admit that virtual regattas are something that doesn't serve you at all, and you are not excited to think about getting on the erg for a virtual Head of the Charles, and you really aren't that excited about watching from the launch as the entire rest of your team gets to continue their participation in the sport via singles. So, in this space, it's okay to say it out loud that it is sad and frustrating that we are off the water and that the efforts that the rowing community has made so far to kind of recoup our sport has not included you as a coxswain. So here you're among people who get that. And there are a lot of groups despite that, there are some folks out there really trying to make suggestions for what coxswains can do during this time and that's what we're here to do as well is to offer maybe a unique kind of different perspective that helps us capitalize on this time without getting just lost and mired in the sadness of not being on the water. Anne, what are you up to during this coxswain dry spell that we are having? 


ANNE: Well Breana, unlike you I'm glad that we're really tackling this subject.  I am feeling really sad. I'm one of those people feeling really sad about missing the fall racing season. This is a big shift and a disappointment to me. In my situation, I belong to a master's club and there are absolutely no boats going out other than singles, and the good news is that during this pandemic I'm able to get out in a single. So I still feel connected in some way to the sport. But not everybody can do that or has the interest or the access, so I do feel very lucky in that way. Other than that, I go through real spurts of splurging on online research and then just watching racing videos - it's kind of what keeps me excited and motivated. I know though, in talking with you in the past, that you are into gaming, so I was wondering - is that something that you're binging on during Covid? 


BREANA: Yeah,  I'm actually wearing a t-shirt today of my favorite e-sports team. So yeah, gaming is something that i enjoy and the esports scene is one of the few that really was able to carry on despite Covid, but actually there is some scientific research in support of the idea that gaming can improve various aspects of your cognition including the ability to perceive objects that are in your visual periphery and that has clear connections to what we do as coxswains. So if you feel like you've been maybe wasting this mandatory time off the water that none of us wanted by doing something like gaming, don't be so sure. In our show notes at 002, I will include a couple of references to those scientific papers if anyone is really feeling nerdy and wants to check that out. What about you Sally? How have you been handling this time? What have you been up to during our increasingly large number of months off the water?


SALLY: Well truthfully I'm an introvert so I think I was built for this time period.


BREANA: Me too.


SALLY: Ya, it doesn't surprise anyone who knows me -  I'm spending a lot of time reading.  I think I'm a terminally curious person and I realize that I have a very distinctive and occasionally extremely unhelpful communication style, so I've been spending a lot of this time in isolation and solitude reading and thinking about, you know, different personality types and how best to communicate with them... ... different philosophic leadership styles and how to best apply them to rowing. To be honest, I kind of wish I could practice a little bit more and have conversations with, you know, people because my cats are really fed up with me and are ignoring me. And when I try this on my houseplants, the ficus in the corner just sits in the corner and drops leaves. So it's not real helpful. Anyhow Breana, since I have like clearly abused my plant life and ravaged the lexicon of available philosophic and historical resources, I acknowledge these are really really far away from the scary hard science world that you live in. So could you tell me about the cognitive neuroscience field that you do professionally, and maybe is there something in that that's like the golden nugget to how to fix coxswains in the age of Covid?


BREANA: If only! Yeah, I hope our audience ultimately comes to appreciate that between us we really cover quite a spectrum - from the humanities to the sciences to medicine so I think that's a really cool thing about us. And yeah, there's so much that the brain and the study of the brain can bring to bear on learning in general and on coxing. One of the ways that I really saw that play out in my own coxing life was as I was studying for my first ever Head of the Charles, I unknowingly at the time, even though it was something I'd maybe learned about in class, I applied this technique called 'spaced repetition' or called 'distributed practice' where you study something in little amounts for a long period of time.  So a little bit each day leading up to something, and then that really cements the knowledge in your mind. and I found that to be true the first time that I got to the Charles. So one day I'd love to do a whole episode on the neuroscience of coxing and I've got that in my back pocket, so if you're interested in that let us know online. And you know, another thing that I've been doing is reflecting on some bigger picture topics in the realm of coxing - things that maybe we we don't have time to think about in the hustle and bustle of day-to-day practice, but for me that's included recalling times when I was faced with an emergency situation on the water for instance, or thinking about some of the situations in the boat that still present me with challenges every time even after coxing for years. And that's something that our listeners can do as well during this time - is reflect on some scenarios that they've encountered that were challenging, or reflect on how they've dealt with a crisis. And to that end, something that we have for you guys who are listening is a set of 20 journal prompts that will kind of get you thinking about coxing in a deeper way. And if journaling isn't your thing, we would invite you to join the conversation with us on our Slack community. So there'll be an invite link to that in our show notes and the link is So another aspect of self-assessment involves reflecting on how you handle difficult situations like I said. So Sally,  what's a difficult situation that you've encountered while coxing? 


SALLY:  Um, how much time do we have?  To be honest Breana, I think it's really a loaded question and I don't want to give the impression that I'm cavalier or flighty because I really do appreciate the gravity and seriousness of the coxswain's role. I do stress safety first in almost everything I do. It doesn't always actualize that way, but I do try to stress it on paper. And I approach a lot of my decisions with a significant amount of contemplation and I weigh the odds and I'm able to make very quick decisions. And so it doesn't always appear that I appreciate the the seriousness and the gravity of the situation at the time, but my experiences with rowing and with life have really been to push the envelope and explore a lot of new opportunities

which has given me just amazing stories and opportunities and I'm so grateful for them. But in this jackpot of amazing things, sometimes the law of averages don't really work out so well and really, I think the years of coxing and dealing with all these - like, shall we call them interesting moments of trepidation - have led me to be able to respond to new ones quickly and safely when something else unexpected pops up.


ANNE: Yeah Sally, I really hear you. I think that was a great description because what I've observed when you are in those difficult situations is that your speed of assessing the situation and coming up with sort of counter measures or whatever you feel is best best for that situation, is done so quickly and it almost seems like you're not fully taking that time that some of us need to deal with it, but that is reflective of the fact that you've had so many years and so many diverse experiences. I think our audience can take a lot away from that - is that, as you experience those situations you, then can integrate that information in the future. Because you sure look calm Sally, when my knees would be knocking.


SALLY: Yes, it's smoke and mirrors. But I think it's a little bit like muscle memory in a rower. You know, you spend all this time perfecting the perfect growing stroke at an 18 so that when you're at a 36, the wheels don't come off the axles. So I think, you know, some of this stuff is a bit like rowing in the way that you're doing the same things all the time so that the unknown and the 'what if' becomes a little a little less scary and a little bit more inside your comfort zone. I don't know. Breana, what do you think about this? 

BREANA: Yeah, I really relate to this and I want to say to our audience as well, that these scenarios might happen to you early in your career they might happen really late. Some of the moments that stick out to me most are ones that I had after I had many years of coxing experience under my belt and I know other coxswains who had something terrible happen in their very first race that built their experience in responding to it, so there's a whole variety of experiences out there that our audience is gonna have had. And the part of - kind of what we're encouraging you to do during this time is to reflect on those - whether they're happening on the water, or they happened on the water in the past, or they're happening in your outside life somewhere on land. There's an opportunity to kind of reflect and think about what those experiences showed you about how you handle situations that are really challenging ... even if the answer is that your knees are knocking and you're still trying to kind of get through it. So for me, you know, it took a couple of really challenging experiences on the water that I would label as a crisis nearly to show me how I handle things and you really don't know. you know you can think in the abstract maybe oh maybe I would be heroic and I would save the day, or maybe I would, like, cower in fear and you just don't know until you're actually in those situations. So one that I can share that happened to me on the water was a couple years ago at the world rowing masters regatta in Sarasota Florida which is a state that is very hot in the summer - in August time. And I actually had a rower start suffering from heat exhaustion to the point that they were pretty much unable to communicate with me. And this was a masters event - it was one of the older events, so this was an older gentleman who was really struggling to even just articulate what he was experiencing but could have managed to tell me that things were not well. And so eventually it came down to me having to flag down a launch and because they were using static umpiring at this regatta, the launch was extremely far away from where we ... actually we were in lane double zero … and this launch was 10 lanes across as races were coming down as we kind of paddled. So this is a good tip for anyone. We had the entire boat wave our hands above our heads and that got the launch to notice us. They sped over and then they ultimately brought the medical launch and took the rower out of the boat. So that, and a couple of other scenarios in my life have shown me that luckily I have found my responses to pretty much just stay calm and address the situation. So that's part of kind of what I've been thinking about and again, it took actually having those experiences to know for sure what my real reaction was. So how about you guys? What have you found that your reactions to, you know, really hard situations are?


ANNE: Well, this is something I think about a lot and I really have identified as an area for improvement for the future.  My tendency when I'm encountering a difficult situation is to pretty much go silent. I still internalize it a lot. I  sort of ... I get very quiet and not as quickly responsive as Sally is, for example. I think an example of that is in a race, I was in a bow loader in a borrowed boat. It was a head race. We were probably halfway through the race and all of a sudden the entire steering harness dropped into my lap ... the little screw just going somewhere. I had no clue where it was. So there I was - trying to and I just went silent and then I realized that I was silent and I just said to the crew, "I'm making a repair" and then I proceeded to try to find the nuts and bolts and get it back on, which I did do. But the takeaway from that one is, if I do need to make a repair, I need to more quickly tell the rowers what it is that I'm doing and then take the time to do it. So again, it's a learning opportunity. What do you think, Sally? I mean, you know me a little bit. Does that ring true to you for me? 


SALLY: For you, I think you don't give yourself enough credit for being able to handle complex situations quickly. I mean, I have seen you pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat and I know you've saved my bacon on a couple of times which I'm not going to go into right now because the names and locations need to be protected for legal reasons. But I honestly don't think you're giving yourself enough credit and about how quickly you respond. When you think about it -  when that steering mechanism fell into your lap, how many seconds really was it?


ANNE: Well, it seemed like a week but um, yeah, you you're probably right.


SALLY: I think one of the things I found out about myself and I'm not - again a place for improvement - are the finely honed skills that I have spent all these years developing makes me a really great teammate on the buoy line and on the water, but these skills don't necessarily translate well to making me a agreeable dinner companion. When there's a crisis happening, I step back like you do and I pause and I examine the situation and I look to my right and to my left and I see if anybody's taking charge and if anybody who's taking charge is capable and if not, I jump into that power vacuum and I set the wheels in motion. So I think my instinct, like you, is to step back and evaluate. Very recently actually, I was at the supermarket (wearing masks) and someone passed out. Someone was having um, I think, congestive heart failure and I was able to jump in and, you know, at least, you know, call 9-1-1... call the manager ... keep people back ... do all these things. I will tell you my first instinct on rushing in was like, make sure my life jacket was on. And I looked back to kill the engine and I'm like nope, that's a grocery cart. So it was a bit of a surreal experience for me. But I'm pretty sure in either one of those situations you guys would have responded quickly and probably wouldn't have looked back to kill the engine. But you know, as instincts go it's not a bad one.


BREANA: That's the coach in you coming out.


SALLY: Breana, do you find any water tendencies coming to you during this time of Covid?


BREANA: Well, one that I've always liked to practice including during the winter when we can't be on the water -again the geographical places that we live - one that I've always kind of enjoyed doing is just practicing as I'm walking on the sidewalk (that's my preferred method of transportation), I like to imagine maintaining my line when people are coming my direction. You know, sometimes someone is obstinately walking up towards you on the sidewalk on the wrong side and it's your side and I just stare that person down and I'm like, you will be the one to move! I am going to stay here. And it's kind of a game of chicken all the way up until, you know, we're about to collide and usually if I give them, you know, enough like looks and enough determination that I have no intention of yielding, they'll get in line. So that's just kind of a fun light-hearted way that I like to practice my coxing skills in real life.


ANNE: I can see you doing that too, and I'm sure that they do yield.


SALLY: Do you have any on land coxswain holdovers?


ANNE: I do not on land necessarily.


SALLY: Ladies and gentlemen, that speaks to the healthy person that Anne is.


ANNE: Just a different style, just a different style that's all. But I do think there are - I know that we have talked all of us amongst ourselves and we do have some other suggestions that come to our minds for folks to try to cultivate during Covid. Sally, know when we talked, what kinds of other ideas did you have? 


SALLY: We should warn everybody - giving me creative freedom is not always a developmentally appropriate thing, but since you asked, one of the things I like to do is visualization. I love Head of the Charles. I live for Head of the Charles. I will miss family weddings. I have missed family weddings for Head of the Charles. So one of the things I do is, I do Head of the Charles course and I don't do it like, you know, the perfect course. I do: okay, I'm in a four with a quartering crosswind - how would I handle this? Or I am in a four being chased by a better boat - how do I handle this? So I do the course a lot. That's one of the things I recommend. You know, there's a fine line between golfers (or batters) study their swing ... rowers study where to put their pinky and they do it over and over and over again. There's a fine line between studying to improve and criticizing yourself and suddenly hearing, you know, your lesser demons being really abusive to you. So that's just kind of a fine line you should be aware of. But I do think visualization helps tremendously. 


BREANA: Something I can say as well is - maybe if you're more, I guess, practically minded and you're like I don't know about this visualization stuff yet. I don't know how I would do it. Another way to kind of get started on that, if you're a coxswain who, you know, is going to be in the same area for a while and going to the same regattas, is that you could sit down right now, get on a site like map- my-run or google maps and really carefully map out your body of water ... maybe bodies of water that you race on a lot ... so that you get more and more adept at knowing - okay between these two bridges that are on our river, it's exactly 300 meters and so I know if we're going through that area in a piece I can tell my rowers that we covered this distance in this amount of time and that's better than usual. That's another way to really kind of practically take advantage of this time for coxswains out there. 


ANNE: That's a great suggestion Breana. I'm going to actually take that one up myself, thanks. I imagine Sally probably has some thoughts about books.


SALLY: Yeah.


ANNE: I know you well enough, Sally. Books have to be in here somewhere.


SALLY: There is so much information and content online about management and communication styles and I'm hesitant to, you know, start listing names because everybody's got an opinion, but I do really believe that reading about and understanding communication styles, reading and understanding about how people process information, goes a long way in helping a coxswain skillfully communicate to their crew. Again, more tools in your toolbox -understanding and appreciating how people are interpreting your words. The words that I think are incredibly eloquent and clear, sounded to the rower like: "do that thing with that other thing". And I think being aware of that is really critical. So just reading up and just making an effort to understand communication, and you google it ... there's like a kabillion hits. And Breana, as a science person, kabillion is a real term, right?


BREANA: Totally.


ANNE: Having said that and really emphasizing for us all and reminding us how much communication and styles matter, is there any particular book that like jumps to your mind on that subject? 


SALLY: I'm a victim of what I read last. I think, you know, there's some basics out there and it doesn't actually have to be directly applicable to rowing, but you know Stephen Covey wrote 'Good to Great', and master of communication Andrew Carnegie. There're all styles of communication that might not be in vogue right now (that might seem passé), so I would just do reading on it. Do random things. Watch YouTube blurbs and try to hone in on  a communication style that: A - works for you and then B - that your rowers truly need. So I am hesitant to give one name because the three of us, as Breana said earlier, are so incredibly diverse in our personalities. The communication style that works for me (which is crusty, cantankerous and snarky) doesn't work for Anne and quite honestly, it's too low brow for Breana.  So, you know, I wouldn't try to force who I am on either one of you. I would just encourage you guys to read or explore or watch different sources of communication, and really appreciate how your words are being understood by by different people, because not everybody is going to interpret the same sentence the same way - which all, y'all know, to great frustration. 


BREANA: One recommendation that I can give for folks, related to what you're just saying Sally, is a youtube channel called 'Productivity Game' which we can link in our show notes. It's really great. It's this person who reads those kinds of books that you mentioned and then gives a really great, really visually well done, it's kind of a line drawing sort of things - a recap of the key points of that book, so that's a way to start if you're maybe like, I don't have time to delve into something that's hundreds of pages. That's a really great channel that gives good recaps and maybe it could stimulate you to think about a book that you do want to look in into more deeply. Another thing related to what you're saying Sally, that coxswains could do right now, is if you have any old recordings especially of a practice or even a race as well that you happened to get before coronavirus struck, you could listen to those. I'm finding it's a little less painful now for me personally to listen to some recordings knowing that it's going to be a while again before I can implement any actual coxing. So I'm finding it a little less stressful, and you can listen for times when you maybe said, "Uh do the uh thing.. um... I need this side to" ... those kinds of moments that you were talking about where we're not clear in our language is a great way to to listen. And listening with a purpose again makes listening to your recordings less painful. And trade them with another cox and friend who's feeling down in the dumps you know, for not being able to be on the water right now, maybe they can listen to yours and you'll listen to theirs, and listen out for those unclear moments in particular.


SALLY: I think there's something to be said, I mean again,  I'm a logician and I'm kind of devious in my plotting and planning, but I think one of the things to appreciate is to recognize that people don't always bring their best selves to the dock at 4:30 in the morning or don't always bring themselves to stressful situations - you know, like a worldwide pandemic or something like that -

but I think understanding and appreciating the difference between acting positively and reacting viscerally to these situations would go a long way in helping a coxswain not only deal with feedback but deal with the chaos and cluster of trying to run a practice to the emotional space out, fraz out, whatever happens just before we launch. I'm a big believer and you know reading and like Sun Tzu, the Chinese philosopher said, "Know thyself and know thy enemy and then you will know the outcome of the battle". So I'm a big believer in using this time to understand yourself and maybe have the luxury of understanding and knowing your rowers - their fears, their concerns, what makes them tick - so that when something bad happens you are able to communicate to them in a language and in a vernacular that they can both appreciate and support.


BREANA: That's peak Sally for you everyone - reading Chinese philosophy.


ANNE: And able to quote it, right? You know she's internalized it that much.


SALLY: Some people have social lives, Anne.


ANNE: Some of the people you socialize with lived centuries ago right? Or millennia.  Um, so I think though that you touched on a couple really important things to me, anyway. The first is, you know, there are a lot of resources out there both of you about communication styles and leadership styles and I know also that there is a lot of information about something you just brought up, Sally, about personalities and potential conflict. And there is a lot of great information out there about conflict management and I think every coxswain could benefit from honing our skills in conflict management. What are your thoughts on that?


SALLY: Truthfully I would much rather be talking about the steering strategy of a head race or like what do you do with a cross wind at the start. That's the exciting coxing stuff that's the five percent of the time when our hearts get pumping and we get to do this, but I think having some skills in conflict management and having some skills in diplomacy. Understanding that compromise isn't a dirty word is what takes good coxswains and makes them great because our skills aren't just counting cadence and keeping time and keeping the boat straight. Those are very important things that we should be perfecting, but I think as the de facto leader in a boat as the you know, the voice of the coach when the coach isn't there. Conflict management goes a long way into improving the synergy and the ability of a boat to row well. I think using this time that we can't steer to improve on those lesser valued, lesser appreciated skills is really critical to a development as a coxswain.


BREANA: Yeah, I'll admit that's an area of growth for me for sure. I've always kind of felt that and that's that's my answer to one of the journal prompts that we have for you all, which is kind of reflecting on a something that is routinely challenging for you in the boat and for me, it's those types of scenarios when someone five seats back just shouts in the middle of a practice, "Control the rush guys, come on" and many coxswains have probably had those kinds of experiences. And I am a little bit stuck every time that those happen and I wonder about the appropriate response and how to defuse the situation and whether to say anything. So for sure, there are a lot of great books and other resources out there about conflict management, so I love that suggestion, Anne. 


ANNE: There are lots of things we can do. I think, you know, as we were pondering this episode the more we got into it the more we came up with some specifics and I want to offer up what I think are to me feel practical, too. And given my background which is in healthcare, I um, one of my suggestions is that coxswains use this time to take a first aid course. As you pointed out Breana, you ended up with a medical emergency in one of your races, and it's not only important for your rowers but for your own well-being. I'm often a volunteer at regattas on the docks and I can't tell you how many times coxswains have come off the water and, you know, had hypothermia and not even recognizing it. So a first aid course is a terrific way of preparing yourself for not just coxing but also the rest of your life, so I highly recommend that. And also another thing that people can do - coxswains in particular - is maintain your physical fitness. It's tough at this time, but for your skill as a coxswain and your comfort level and also for your rowers to have confidence in you, I think that to be physically fit is an important aspect and you can work on that during Covid.


BREANA: Yeah, I would definitely echo that because the trouble of course, with working on your own fitness for coxswains as we know, is that if you want to do that during the season, you have to devote double the amount of time and that's not something everyone thinks about. You know - you're not getting your work out when the rowers are, so if you want to do so, you're going to have to find an additional hour or two in your day that maybe a rower is not having to devote. Or maybe they're getting a second practice and you're joining them. But this is a really great time to instill a habit like that in your life. If you're looking to start yoga, start just even going on regular walks, jogs, whatever appeals to you. Hopping in a single if that's within accessibility for you is a great thing that you know you're able to reap, and that can also enable people to just even -  if you're not doing it for the fitness aspect, to just start to learn how it really feels to move a boat which is a luxury we don't get most of the time.


ANNE:  Exactly.


SALLY: One of the things I would recommend, and I found out about it very late in my coxing career, is the stress that coxing and check in the boat and even laying in a bow loader puts on your thoracic spine. So I've actually talked to coxswains who are several years my senior who actually had to get hip replacements because nobody impressed upon them what coxing actually does to the body. And when you think about it, if you're in an eight, your back, your spine, your abs are absorbing sixteen hundred pounds of pressure and force -

because when the rowers are going one way, you're not. And so working on your abs, working on your obliques now will go a long way into helping you stay healthy and helping you stay mobile when you become a geriatric coxswain like I am. So I'm a big believer in working on your obliques, working on your abs, even if it's just eight minutes a day will help protect you from some of the aches and pains. And I don't know ... I look like Quasimodo when I'm getting up in the bed anymore because it takes me a little while to straighten up. So I would highly recommend focusing on yourself and your physical fitness because nobody ever - no one - ever thinks about that, right? You're just - you're just sitting there. Why would you need great abs?


ANNE: Right, right. And you know, I think that when we're coming up with ideas for people, I'm sure that all our listeners have some great ideas that they've been doing, too, so we would really like to hear about that from you all. And join in the Slack community and let us know what ideas you have because you know what? I might just want to borrow one of your ideas. So I need as much help as you do! And Breana, you recently went through a cleaning situation right … 

that you were telling us about. Why don't you tell people that idea?


BREANA: Yeah it was forced on me a little bit in the sense that I was moving halfway across the country and this was mid- pandemic and starting a new job, and I was kind of forced to confront the amount of coxing attire that I had accumulated over the years. So that's a practical suggestion again for how you could utilize this time. I found I had - I had probably almost 20, like long-sleeve t-shirts and just realistically, in between laundry, there's just no reason to keep around (you know) ones that aren't my absolute favorite to put on in the boat. So even though many of us, you know, are layering up, I had days in college up in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania where I was seven layers deep in the morning just to stay alive, and especially before I invested in a survival suit. So that's something that you can do if you've got those like holey socks that don't work and you know other things that are just realistically the bottom of the barrel stuff that you wouldn't even wear in the boat, then that's something that you could consider going through and decluttering in today's times. Anne, you had a really great suggestion of something that you are doing alongside other coxswains in your club during this time. Could you tell us about that a little bit?


ANNE: Sure. Again, at our club - our master's club - we're not getting out in the water in any boats other than singles as I mentioned before. So I was starting to feel disconnected with some of my fellow coxswains. There are actually four of us. Some of us go more full-time than the others, but what we've decided to do is that we are actually meeting on a monthly basis and working on a new coxswain section for our membership manual. And what we're going to do is put it together from our point of view, not only for our own edification but, you know, as new coxswains come into the club, it'll be a great starting point for them. And it's something that none of the other club members can do. This section, it's ours and we're really finding that we have many more details than we ever imagined when we first started out. So I would encourage people if, you know, even if you don't belong to a local club, you could even volunteer to look at their membership manual and if there isn't a coxswain section, offer to create one for them at least the outline of it. And I think you're gonna come to appreciate how much knowledge you have that's important for the club and for the functioning of the club that other people just are not going to even think about. Speaking of that, there's information that we might want to share about talking to the coaches and rowers. Tell us more about that, Breana. 


BREANA: Yeah, I love what you shared. That's a great kind of coxswain to coxswain interaction that could happen. A future episode that I'd really like to do is talking about ways to make your club welcoming to coxswains - especially masters clubs where recruitment is more of a challenge. And to me it's a great sign to even see that a club I'm considering has a coxswain section in their manual at all. You know it means that they know I exist and they're acknowledging that, so I think that's really excellent and a way to create a positive environment in your club for coxswains. So yeah, another thing that you could do during this time is talk to coaches and rowers on your team. Some of us may be very disconnected from those populations. Some coxswains may be in the launch every day with their coach while the rowers are in singles, so there's various opportunities for connecting there. And it's possible that if you were to ask these populations what you should be doing during this time they wouldn't really have anything for you, so to mitigate that we're going to offer some suggestions here for how coaches and rowers can support coxswains during Covid. And maybe if any of you are listening and you fall into those categories, you'll find some suggestions here as well. So one kind of easy go-to option - especially if your team is fully virtual or even just can meet but distanced - is to hold just meetings and trainings with your coxswains. And Sally has a really awesome suggestion for how that can be done in a way that doesn't require any advance preparation from the coach. So do you want to share that, Sally?


SALLY: Thanks Breana.  Again i am always full of creative and sometimes unhelpful suggestions but one of the things i think we can really capitalize right now is that we have the luxury of time and we can know each other a little bit more than we would again like 4:30 in the morning in the dark when everybody's, you know, rushing around and nobody's awake and then everybody like disappears to go off to work. I think developing communication and developing a line of understanding with your rowers now is really critical to go back to my analogy that I'm Quasimodo (I am deaf in my right ear so if I'm in the coxswain seat and the coach pulls up in the launch and they say something, I have to repeat it back to them or I put my hand in the air to acknowledge I hear them but sometimes over the engine over the water I just don't know what they're saying or I don't know they're saying anything. So without that heads up, if the coach thinks I'm off doing my own thing, it can just lead to frustration and misunderstandings and (you know) conflict. But if the coach knows that he or she said something and I didn't acknowledge it or I didn't respond he knows or she knows that I'm not ignoring them - just it didn't happen in my universe. Or one of the things I've had to do again because I  do have some issues with my thoracic spine - if the coach pulls up, sometimes I have to turn my back to you so that I can twist my head to get my good ear (my left ear) facing you so I can hear you. And again, that body language of - I have just turned my back to you - someone who doesn't know and doesn't understand that I am really just desperately trying to hear them could come off as very insulting, which isn't my intent.  But knowing that about me - knowing that I'm actually just desperately trying to hear you - versus misinterpreting my ideas and going off with it, is something that can only be gained by conversation and getting to know me as a person. So little things like that, you know, the Friday night happy-hour zoom call where you just are talking to each other a little bit. The community - I don't want to do all the, you know,  tralala… kumbaya - everybody does (you know) team building and singing songs around a campfire. There's a time and a place for that - not in my universe - but there's a time and a place for that, but I think some understanding and appreciation of the person needs to be done. And that just makes the synergy and the dynamic team better.


ANNE: I think that's a great example Sally and I think that by getting to know the coach and the coxswain getting to know each other better. I mean the reverse could be true for the coach the coach might be hard of hearing or might have a visual issue, so that's not the kind of stuff that normally comes up in a very fast-paced crew season when everybody's just running around. So we can take advantage of this time and really flush out some of those important details perhaps a little more and everyone will benefit from it, I think. Right? 


SALLY:  And just understanding your coach's vocabulary because there have been many times I've showed up at boathouse and they say ,"Okay Sally, we're gonna meet at the old grist mill - or at the at the second grove of elm trees, we're gonna stop and wait for the coach". My particular favorite was ... "At the horse paddock, I need you to turn left". I'm like … I don't know what a horse paddock is, and a horse paddock without a horse looks like a green field. so it was completely indistinguishable to me from the other green fields on the riverbanks.


BREANA: These suggestions that you're making, Sally, are really great because it doesn't require a lot on the coach side. We know coaches are busy. We know that it can be intimidating if you weren't a coxswain to dive into coxing material and start to learn so that you can coach and interact with your coxswains. So another great thing that you can do from the coach side without having to do any, you know, preparation is to (for instance) talk about the parts of the stroke and exactly what you're looking for in each of those parts. So, you know, how do you want the sequencing on the recovery to look? Is it fast hands for you? Is it slow hands? Is it at the coxswain's discretion? Can they add a pause? You know, having those kinds of conversations - which will also clear up some terminology like you mentioned, Sally. And talking about your expectations for how you expect a multi-boat practice to be run is really helpful as well. So, you know, sometimes coaches get frustrated because coxswains aren't executing something that the coach didn't convey as well as they could have. So after a piece is over, do you typically want coxswains to reset the spread that you started with, for instance, in a practice with several boats out, or do you want them to gather together so you can talk to them all, and then you'll direct them to reset the spread? Those are the kinds of scenarios that you could discuss with your coxswains. Another option - this is something I personally did with the team that I coached - I consulted the team and asked if they would be able to use some resources to purchase a book for each of our coxswain so that they could at least continue their development off the water. And the one that I love the most and would recommend is: The Short and Snarky Guide to Coxing and Rowing. That's a really excellent book that's available on Amazon.

We bought that for all of our coxswains and the high school team that I coached. And what we're ultimately going to do today and other days where we have episode content that's aimed at coaches, is we're gonna have a little section of the website called Coach Tidbits where you can find just a short quick article, you know. If you're a coxswain listening and your coach is kind of wondering how to support you, you can point them towards that. So we'll recap the ideas that we shared here today for coaches. And the other population that we want to just talk to ... that we know may be listening and that is critical to our sport … we can't do it without you guys - the rowers. So a couple of options that rowers can do - one thing that's kind of emerging in this time is the concept of virtual coxing, so there are all these virtual regattas going on and I know a coxswain who has participated in this - where the rower was erging and remotely, the coxswain was doing the coxing, which is a really cool, like brand new phenomenon that we're inventing on the go! So rowers could stand to remember that that's an option that's out there, so consult us. We're happy to figure out how many different devices we need to be zooming in to see your erg screen and also talk to you. That's kind of a fun new phenomenon and I would also say to rowers - you know, don't forget that coxswains are here and acknowledge that we're having a worse time than you are with this. You know, there is not a way for us to do what we do virtually or remotely, you know, the way that you can still hop in a single and at least still get some rowing experience. Or you can compete in a virtual regatta. We don't have that, so don't forget to reach out to your coxswains, include them in your funny group chats where you're sharing tick tocks that you all think are hilarious, and keep them involved in in some way. 


ANNE: I kind of wish that I had rowers that I could connect with. It's just really tough because everybody that's only doing sweep - they're just not even at the boathouse, so one of the things that I've tried to do is when there are social events that involve people that in the past I would have on my sweep teams, is I go to those events and it's really mostly just to say, "Hey, I'm still here. I still want to feel part of your group". But it's something that I actively have to do and 'I'm just very conscious of that in this day and age where we're separated from one another.


BREANA: That's a great suggestion.


SALLY: Yeah, that really is, Anne. And as an introvert, I know how hard it is to break away from my books and talk with the living, so I applaud you for being able to do that. So to recap the topics that we discussed today - we shared what we are doing during this time away from our active role in the sport of coxing. We shared with you a lot of the ideas and skills that you can cultivate even when you are off the water. I have shared with you the cure for insomnia, which is reading ancient Chinese philosopher texts. We do suggest that having more tools in your toolbox will help prepare you for the variety of situations you will encounter on the water. There is no one answer and there's no rule book on what will happen, but the more you know, the more you understand, the better you are prepared to handle the unknown. Yeah, we really hope that you heard something in this episode that maybe was different from what's been said so far about how coxswains can take advantage of this time. We hope that this serves to just kind of expand what is out there, and like Anne said, we know that you, our listeners, have been thinking about this a lot, too. We've all been forced to think about this and we bet that you have some creative ideas as well, so we would love to hear from you on social media or on our Slack channel. Again, find the invite link in our show notes and please share your ideas with us and with the community.


ANNE: Yes Breana, I know I look forward to learning more from our listeners and we will continue to evolve during this hard time. Now as we wrap up this episode, we are going to have our shout out, and this time we are shouting out and thanking several people who have contributed to providing feedback on our first episode - and that would be Marnie, Lauren and Joanne 'Mustang' - thanks a lot! You are the best!


BREANA: Thank you to all of you guys. And our quick pick for today - as we conclude, I want to share a website. We've been discussing a lot of topics today that are leading into our next episode where we're going to delve into something that is an area of real interest and excitement for us - which is personality types. And a website where you can check that out is '16' with the numbers 1, 6, and then 'personalities' written out. And that's where you can try this out yourself. You can take a personality test. And we are going to - again next episode - be talking about our results from this test and really diving into why it's worthwhile to understand yourself in terms of your personality type. And that brings along with it given strengths and weaknesses that you will bring to the coxing role and to your outside life as we've been sharing here. So we would encourage you if you take that before you listen to our next episode, to please share with us on Slack and on social media what you got for the test. So we'll be talking about that next time. Look out for that and as some final reminders, those journal prompts will be available on  And again, use our social media and Slack channels, too. Let us know how you would answer some of those scenarios. So in the meantime, while you eagerly await that next episode, we invite you to engage with us wherever you find us on the internet. And ask us some questions - so we'd be happy to feature your question ... whatever you're interested in asking us, in a future episode, and we'd also love for you to consider supporting us on Patreon if that's of interest to you. We'll be adding things to our Patreon page for our patrons - like early access to some episodes and the chance to have input into what we talk about in future episodes and other fun perks like blooper reels ... and maybe we can get Sally to do a dramatic reading of one of her books ... or whatever is of interest to the community. So we're so excited to bring you more content soon. And until next time, I'm Breana,  I'm Sally, and I'm Anne - signing off.

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