top of page

026 | Audience-Generated Topics



Welcome to CoxPod - a podcast dedicated solely to coxing topics. I’m Sally. I’m Anne. I’m Breana and we're three coxswains with over 50 years of experience in the seat. We learn a great deal by sharing with each other and want to foster a community that encourages skills development and discussion. We're happy  you're joining us.


ANNE: And in this episode, we're going to address a variety of topics inspired by our audience. A lot of these questions came in from our Slack community and there are excellent community responses to these questions already there. We'd encourage you to use Slack to continue the conversation after this episode and share some more ideas. Another way that we've enjoyed interacting with our community is through polls conducted via Instagram stories. And today, we're going to intersperse three of those throughout our conversation. Wow, each of these topics could easily be its own episode and so we've discussed it amongst ourselves and we promise to limit ourselves to a brief response. Right, Sally?


SALLY: You know I chafe - I chafe at restrictions … just …. 


ANNE: We're watching you, Sally. So we have pledged to one another - despite how it might sound from Sally - that we're gonna make one key point about each topic.


BREANA: Our first topic comes from a high school listener in Australia who asked a question via our contact form. And they write: “ I was hoping you could talk about coxing ergs. It's something I’ve never liked or been very good at. I think it has to do with having to cox in front of my coaches and other coxes and my confidence off the water. Love to hear your views on coxing ergs and any tips or advice you have.” And in terms of competitive erging, we tackled this in Episode 23 - titled ‘Coxing An Erg Race’ - so we'd point anyone who's looking for that sort of information to that Episode. In terms of coxing a practice on the ergs, it does feel awkward at first. I’ve definitely experienced that and my take is that there are other things you can do to be useful at a land practice as you're building that confidence. So maybe more senior coxswains on the team are actively coxing rowers and maybe you - as you observe them and start to build that confidence yourself - can take on a role like recording data that needs to be written down after the workout.


ANNE: I want to start by saying that I can relate to that feeling about it being awkward or difficult so I’m glad this question came in. And in our club, this feeling of being uncomfortable is accentuated by the fact that generally having a land practice is a last-minute call. For example, we get to the boathouse and there's a weather issue with fog or some other weather issue and people are grumpy because all of a sudden they're not going on the water and there're not enough ergs and it's very chaotic. So my take on this is - muscle through it. Do the best you can and hopefully it doesn't happen as many times as you think.


SALLY: I have to say – Anne, Breana - I absolutely agree with you. It's incredibly disconcerting for me as well. I spend a lot of my time with smoke and mirrors … being the disembodied voice that calls out to the rowers from the stern. And I love the ability to hide and suddenly when I’m in a room full of ergs and I’m walking around with my rowers, I lose my invisibility cloak and everybody can see me … which actually is really, really hard for me. And my skills - my steering, my navigating, my presence - is lost because … I don't know if you all found this out … but ergs don't float. I actually tried once. It didn't end well. So how I comfort myself - how I get over my insecurity and my discomfort of not being in the coxswain's seat - is I look at and try to absorb as much data as possible. I can now see the rowers from all different angles. I can watch how they react during pieces. I can study their form. I can study their splits and I just use it as an information collecting piece. But like the two of you, I am incredibly uncomfortable and feel very, very vulnerable. Our next question is from Coxswain's Log and it came to us on Slack. She asked us:  “What are some of the solutions that coxswains can provide when the boat is down to a certain side? Is there something that we coxswains -  especially those like me who are better at visual learning - can do to feel better when the boat is down to a certain side?” Ladies, I have talked to you. I know this is a pet peeve of both of you. What are your thoughts? 


ANNE: That's true, Sally. Not only is it a pet peeve but it's extremely common. So first, I want the writer to know that this is not uncommon. But I’m just going to toss out an idea that I had and executed and it seemed to be effective. And this was when the boat was down to one side in particular - I asked the crew to deliberately put it down to the opposite side … to do anything and everything they could to actually keep it at the extreme on the other side … and they did. And then I asked them to split the difference and suddenly the boat was beautifully set. And the rowers remarked afterwards - saying that that was an interesting exercise. So I liked that idea. I wouldn't use it a lot but it did show the crew that they can control the set and they're just not passive parties. Every single person was contributing to the problem and then to the solution. Sally, what about you?


SALLY: I think that's very astute, Anne. Set boats is definitely one of my pet peeves, too. And there's a lot you can do to fix it. An unset boat is really one of two things - it's finish timings and it's going to be load balancing - so it's either going to be a disparity in the weight, pressure, or power of the crew and when they release from the water. So one of the things when you watch a boat - you can watch which side is coming out of the water quicker … which side has a lot of white water at the release. That's that they're not prying at the end so you can try to balance both the timing and execution of the extraction from the water. And you can also watch how powerful is the crew on one side or another. If you have four people pulling (you know) 300 pounds every stroke and you have four people on starboard pulling 150 pounds, the disparity … the weight is always going to be to one side. So you might have to have one side lighten up to keep the boat set. For me, it's going to be a lot about load balancing and pressure. Breana, that's what Anne and I think. I know deep in your core this distracts you and bothers you more than my inability to spell. What are your thoughts?


BREANA: Because an offset boat drives me nuts that is just so hard to fix. You know, I really relate to Lea of  Coxswain’s Log question here. And I am also very reliant upon visual signals and certainly was incredibly so especially when I started out coxing. And so I’ve tried to seek additional types of signals that might benefit me and also rowers who are seeking to even understand - when they're novices especially - when the boat is offset. Even just perceiving that is difficult when we start. And so one additional signal that's not visual that I turn to is relying upon the unconscious mechanisms that our body has to keep us upright … which are really cool if you want to spend some time looking into this for yourself. Anyone who's listening - a search term that will kind of get you started on that path is to look up the vestibulospinal tract - and these are connections between our brain stem and our spinal cord that work to keep us upright without us having to think about it … which we typically appreciate. But we can turn our conscious awareness to the outcomes of these pathways. So what I do is - in the boat, I do it for myself and I encourage rowers to do it as well - is take note of whether I’m having to engage the muscles on one side of my body more than on the other side just to stay upright and aligned in the coxswain seat. You might feel that in the muscles of your legs, in your core, or in your neck. So that's an additional signal that you might be able to tune into to help you recognize when the boat is off set. 


ANNE: That's very cool, Breana. We love your science. 


SALLY: Intimidated by it. Can't spell it but really appreciate it. 


BEANA: I will point folks towards it … yeah, in case selling is a challenge … in our show notes for sure to give you some guidance. Let's pivot now to one of the Instagram polls that we mentioned at the beginning. This poll was inspired by our conversations in Episode 13 about landing where we discovered that each of us approaches the dock in a different way. So we put this to our audience and asked ‘How do you prefer to approach the dock? And the choices were: ‘With stern pair or with bow pair?’. And since it's a binary choice on Instagram, we couldn't account for Sally's approach of coming in all eight, unfortunately. So listen to that episode if you would like to hear Sally describe how she pulls that off. For the rest of us who probably opt to either approach - stern pair or bow pair - this was a very close poll. We had 53% of our audience respond saying that they come in with stern pair as I also do - and 47% responded saying that they come in with bow pair as Anne does. 


ANNE: Yay for bow pair. 


BREANA: Yeah, a little vouching for both approaches. 


SALLY: And just because I (again) chafe at restrictions when presented with an option, I take both and like to come in all eight. So I may have screwed up your numbers there.


ANNE: All right. We're headed back to audience question feedback. So Eliza wrote to us on Slack while she was on a holiday break and said, ‘Obviously the rowers have been given things they can do over the break to improve and maintain fitness - for example, ergs circuits and so forth. But as a cox, I am struggling to find ideas of things that I could do to keep improving and keep my spot in the boat while not doing regular trainings’. Any ideas?


SALLY: When given a pause or an empty space in time, I always recommend reading, listening, studying. I will read the wallpaper if left unattended long enough. But I can't stress enough how important it is to read and listen and collect as many tools to hold into your toolbox because you never know when some tidbit or some random factoid is going to become useful and pertinent and helpful.


BREANA: This is a common struggle and it honestly frustrates me a little bit when teams mobilize to make sure that rowers are covered during a break like this and don't really do anything for the coxswain. So it's a very common situation that you've found yourself in. And I think if you're asking this, you're already doing some things that you can do to find ways to improve during your break. And there are so many resources out there. I would suggest maybe using a period of downtime like this to (maybe) identify an area that you feel is not your strongest area - maybe it's coxing a bow loader …  maybe it's something that we've mentioned in this episode already about feeling set differences and when the set is off, for example. And so - identify that area and then seek resources out there that might help you grow in that area while you're off the water on your break. So just to point you towards one possible resource, in Episode 05, we interviewed Kayleigh Durm - the author of the excellent coxing blog titled ‘Ready All, row’. And there's so much information there that you might find something to support you


ANNE: And I’m going to take a slightly different approach here and recommend that while you're on break given the scenario that your crew and your coach and your club has not provided something specific for you. My suggestion is to do something entirely different that's not related to coxing and rowing … whether it be something physical or some other learning that you want to take on, I recommend trying something different. It will help to keep you flexible. It's going to remind you what it's like to have to learn something brand new … what it's like to be a beginner. And the side benefit is when you get back to coxing, chances are you're going to enjoy it even more because you will have been away from it for a little while. So that's my suggestion.


ANNE: So a friend of mine from upstate New York who listens to this podcast emailed me personally and asked, ‘What do coxswains love/hate about the folks in the stroke seat? Some seasons I’m nearly always in the stroke seat and others barely at all. We seem to have a new batch of coxswains every year - my point being, I know what I like in a cox but rarely have I formed enough of a relationship to know what coxswains like or welcome in stroke. My goal is to have a strong team with the cox and the stroke pair’. So ladies, what are your thoughts? 


BREANA: I love this question. I’m glad that we heard from a rower and I’m glad that your aspiration as a rower - which is also our aspiration as coxswains - is to have that strong relationship between stroke seat and the coxswain. That's a really amazing relationship when it goes really well. For me personally, I like it when stroke seats communicate key information to me especially regarding safety … so whether other boats are approaching us. Boat feel is something I like to hear about as well - so for example, whether they are perceiving rush. Sometimes they're better able to report that to me than I’m able to feel it or we can address that more quickly. Some of the relationships that are a little bit less pleasant sometimes include stroke seats that are completely silent … who maybe are not conveying any of that information or stroke seats that kind of engage in (like) undirected grumbling about things - so just kind of complaining that the boat is offset and you know (which I can also feel that maybe that's not what we're addressing in that moment). And it's just … rather than being helpful, it's more just voicing a complaint. It also bothers me when stroke seats don't engage me in the process of being a teammate. So (you know) we finish a piece and then they turn around to talk about the piece with the whole boat and don't include me in that conversation even though I’m the one who will conduct the next piece and could bring their requests and their comments to fruition. So that's some positives and negatives for me personally in stroke seats. How about you, Anne?


ANNE: Yeah. I also love this topic and appreciate the comments that you made regarding it. For me, I start off with thinking about whether or not it's going to be a one-time or a rare event or if this is a person or persons that I am going to be having a long-term relationship with. So whatever I appreciate depends on the longevity of that relationship but regardless of that, there are some common denominators there. One of the important aspects of the stroke communication with me is non-verbal and it does give me a lot of clues as to what's going on. So I may be taking that information in and then executing on that. For example, if they're grimacing as opposed to saying something to me and I know that it has to do the set, then I can put that into context and act on it. One of the things that I also do is at the end of every row, I do try to say a thank you to the stroke seat. Sometimes it's just privately, “Hey – thanks! You showed a lot of great leadership out there today”. And sometimes I will do that publicly. So I like to foster those relationships and recognize that person's contributions.


SALLY: You know, it's hard coming last because I can't add anything really and truly substantive to what this discussion is because I think both you and Breana have covered it so well. The communication with your stroke … both verbal and non-verbal … and the level of trust is critical. So what I’m going to do instead of adding something real, I’m just going to be kind of cranky and picky because I have been spit on, loogied on, peed on more times …….. 


Breana: Sally went on for a while about this.


SALLY: …. I like strokes who brush their teeth in the morning because trust me ….


Breana: … and now we'll bring you back …


SALLY: … windward and leeward side of the boat. But you know (again) this is just me being really picky. And I’ve had some really weird relationships with my stroke but I’ve had some incredibly powerful ones where I’m able to tell by just how they twitch their eye whether they're in pain or they're invigorated or I should make a move. And I am so grateful for those precious moments where my relationship just defied words and defied the cosmos and I knew someone so personally and so powerfully. I’m very grateful for it.


BREANA: Our next question raises a topic that a couple of individuals brought up, including Charlotte via our website contact form and Victor on Slack. They each asked, ‘What tips do you have if you're put into a crew that have a lot more experience than you or are a higher crew than your skill level? Do you have any tricks on what to spot with the boat - maybe common issues that higher crews experience and more sophisticated technical fixes for those issues?” And then relatedly, “I’ve been changed to an older crew at the last moment for a race and I’m worried that they'll be expecting a more experienced coxswain. So does anyone have tips for when that happens?” 


ANNE: Again, I think our listeners have brought up some excellent questions and situations and I look forward to the dialogue continuing on Slack. And since I’m first up to respond to this particular question, I’m going to say that I can relate to this. For this example, I’m going to bring up when I’ve coxed at Worlds. I am often in crews that are much more skilled than I am and so I focus on doing the basics as well as I possibly can - whether it's getting them into the stake boat or steering straight - just the fundamentals. And then I deliberately let them do their thing with minimal interruption on my part. So that's how I address that situation. How about you, Sally?


SALLY: This is hard. This is a great question, Charlotte. One of the things I would absolutely recommend is to stay calm and commanding. Take a deep breath. Fight the urge to fill uncomfortable silence with noise and patter and talking. Take a deep breath and sit up sit straight and just focus. Stay calm. Stay collected - in control. And don't be afraid to admit when something is more difficult than your abilities allow. You know, discretion is the better part of valor and I think it's okay in some situations - when you're with a better crew - to admit that this is beyond your skill level rather than put your crew in a dangerous position - but don't be intimidated by them. Every single one of them had to start at your level and they didn't get to where they were until somebody greater than them had patience to reach and help them up to the level they are now. And just stay calm. Appreciate the situation you're in and just learn from them. Learn what the boat feels like. Feel the snap of the oars. It’s an incredible experience when you get to row up but it's intimidating, too. So my advice is - stay calm, stay commanding, and stay professional. Breana?


BREANA: Those are great points, Sally. When this happened to me, it happened for the first time quite early in my novice career and what I took to doing at that first practice that I was put into a much higher skilled both than my own current skill level - my approach was to repeat technical fixes that I had gathered from coaches were useful even though at the time, I definitely did not have the skills to actually perceive when those calls were needed. But if you pick up a few general things that are often happening in a boat, my experience was that there was kind of ‘no wrong time’ to say those. And if you say something like, “Okay, we should slow down our recovery” - good chance that that's something that could stand to be worked on in that moment. That was the kind of thing that I did, you know. If you make a call like, “Sit up”, somebody is probably slouching in the boat at that moment. So that's something that you can do is - find a few things that (you know) do serve a purpose and say them even though you may not be able to perceive yet in that moment whether those are actively needed. Chances are someone will benefit. And back to another Instagram poll where we asked our audience about their experience during sprint races. This was after reading a World Rowing article where Kristen Kitt - the gold medalist in the Canadian women's 8 in Tokyo and Sam Bosworth - the gold medalist in the New Zealand men's 8 - describe the different ways that they, as coxswains, perceive a race. And we'll link to this article in our show notes. As a brief description … kind of a sentence that I’ve pulled out to describe how these two athletes experience it … is as follows: for Kristin Kitt, the race almost happens in slow motion. She is consciously experiencing every second of it but Sam Bosworth says that some of his best races are actually a blur. So when we put this to our audience and asked them, ‘How do you experience a sprint race? Is it more like Kristin or more like Sam?’ We had 22% respond that they experience it like Kristin Kitt - experiencing every second of the race in a conscious way. And 78% of the audience said that they experience sprint races more like Sam does - where they kind of pass in a blur. So as far as us, I personally also experience races like Sam. I rarely can remember specific moments from races especially as more and more time passes after the race has happened. I feel like - kind of like the rowers described - sometimes you sort of just black out and you're definitely doing stuff the whole time but could I call upon a particular moment? Not necessarily. So I very much relate to the description of how Sam experiences things. How about you both?


SALLY:  Oh ,I’m very much like Kristin. Time stretches out and slows down and colors become sharper and sounds become more intense. I mean - this is part of the reason why I cox because – wow - I have so much more time.


ANNE: So interesting how people perceive these things and I am actually a blend of both and here is why. I remember acutely the parts where I messed up or I did not do well or I feel like I underperformed and I cannot forget those. Those stick in my head firmly. The rest … it's a blur. It's a great question. I think it's a fun thing to ask your fellow coxswains in your club and see what they say … and answer the question for yourself. Our next question - we're moving along - is from Wendy and came to us via Slack. And her comment and question were, ‘So yesterday I did a local head course and took the textbook line given in the course map. Later it suggested that I could have come closer to the island to block from the wind. Probably wise but then other times I’ve been told don't come too close to shore because if you get in the shallows, that can slow you down. And then there is also the added issue of changing the course and missing the buoys. Makes me think no matter how perfect you think your course is, someone is going to find a way to criticize it.’ Anyone have anything to add about this?  


SALLY: No. Not at all. We have nothing to say on this topic. We have never been criticized – ever. 


BREANA: All I have to add is that I’m glad that you shared this because I can commiserate. 


ANNE: And I just shared that the loudest critic of all is in my own head so I am less likely to have other people criticizing me than what's going on in between my ears. On a more serious note, I do ask for post-race feedback that is specific and actionable for the future. However, I rarely get it from the people that I ask. I think they have a hard time supplying me with actionable information.


SALLY: I really think that examining your performance … examining your line … listening to what you said is 100% critical to becoming a better coxswain. You have to do it but you have to be kind when you listen to yourself. Did you hear that, Anne? You have to be kind when you do it. I’m an Irish storyteller. I have ADHD. I see all the different variables and all the what-ifs and I can play them in my head out seven or eight steps and it's hard to deal with the chances not taken. And it's hard to deal with the what-ifs that I am thinking about and I am discussing with dry socks, in a warm room, in a chair that's not in a boat. So the decisions I make and I reflect on aren't necessarily the ones that are available to me when I’m coxing and I’m in the heat of the battle and I’m filled with adrenaline. And everybody's going to have an opinion and people will blame the boat or the equipment or the course why they didn't win. And it's possible that all of these things were the reason but it's also possible that you did a really good course with the tools you had at the time and you have to allow yourself to take pride in what you did if you did well. And if you didn't, learn from it. But be kind to yourself when you do it. There's always going to be a path not taken. There's always going to be a what if and you can allow yourself to be consumed by it to the point of paralysis or you can take the data and just keep building on it and learning from it. Just be kind to yourself. Study but - you know - be gentle.


BREANA: Our next question comes to us from Ali on Slack who said that, ‘One thing that I’ve been really struggling with lately is my confidence in the boat. It's a constant competition between me and two other coxswains on who is the best as we've all had a chance to be in the top boat this past fall. Going into the spring, we have no idea who's taking the top boat and I’m incredibly nervous to find out as I’ve been in that top boat for nearly three years. I feel like my skills are slipping and I’m running out of calls to make to get my boats moving. Any tips to help with confidence or maybe ways to figure out new calls to make instead of falling back on repetitive ones as well as any great motivational calls.’


ANNE: Confidence. Wow, I can really relate to the challenges around confidence even though I am … in our club … the most experienced coxswain. So one of the things I do to mitigate the feelings of insecurity are to first recognize those times when I am feeling insecure and then I pause and I breathe and then I try to think about one or two things that I do well. And then ultimately I also watch and learn from what the other person does and says and add those positive aspects to my toolbox going forward. Sally? 


SALLY: I appreciate this question because confidence is really important and I would like to just emphasize there is a fine line between confident and cocky. And I would like to encourage people - you know - sit up, sit tall, take a couple of deep breaths and use that nervousness for something productive. I firmly believe that if you stay calm and keep your head about you, most coxswains - even the most novice ones - are better than they think they are because they've got a tape in their head playing all the criticism since they were four years old over and over and over again. And there's a time and a place to listen to that criticism but it's not when you're steering an 8+.  And I just think knowledge can be an incredible thing but it can also be a curse sometimes … because if you were truly as bad as Anne thinks she is on some days, you wouldn't be because you would be blissfully unaware. Anne is an incredibly skilled coxswain and I trust her with my life, my equipment, and my reputation. And I know that even the most novice coxswains - when you go out on a boat - this is what your coach is saying to you. So take a deep breath. Stay calm. Stay focused. 


BREANA: I'll speak to the note of repetitive calls and I totally understand that feeling like … why am I so repetitive? I wish I could come up with more original stuff and get out of this repetition. But my experience over the years has been that repetitive calls might not be all that bad in terms of race calls. I’ve actually had rowers request that I repeat particular calls from one race to the next which surprised me initially because I thought they'd be like tired of them. You know … ‘We've heard these. We expect you to come up with something exciting and new during races and during practice pieces’. But that has not been the case in my experience. So (like) for one example, a call that people really enjoyed is your classic ten strokes for everyone in the boat. And then you're naming someone in the boat on each stroke. That is something that rowers specifically requested in that post-race analysis that Anne mentioned where you're asking for feedback. They said, ‘You know … can you make that next time? We really liked that’. So repetition might not be as much of an enemy as it feels for us. 


,ANNE: I really like that comment, Breana, and perspective on that question. So let's move on to our next question. And this came from Ali again via Slack. ‘I’ve been thinking and reflecting about when my boats have lost badly and what I could have done better. I always tend to panic when we're down because I feel like it is my responsibility to make the magic call that will save the race. Any suggestions when a race just isn't in your favor and you know it? Anything to still keep it positive and spirits high?’


BREANA: We have talked about this scenario in Episodes 015 titled: Audience Generated Topics and 025 titled: Sprint Racing: Start to Finish Line. So we'd point folks towards those episodes for a deeper discussion. I can say that I relate a lot to this question. As I watched the Tokyo 2020 Olympics this past year and I saw both of our eights for the United States - both our men's and women's eight - finish fourth. I was really reflecting on all the times that I’d found myself in this same situation where you're just off the podium and you're thinking. ‘What can I do as a coxswain?’ Or maybe you're thinking afterwards … what could I have done? And it comforted me personally to see that sometimes not even the best of the best - not even Olympians - are able to pull out a magic call to get their boat onto the podium.


ABBEL Yes, Ali, it is a scenario that I am very familiar with as well. And it is a tough position. Yet, as Breana has pointed out, it is one that we've all been in. I cannot imagine that there's a coxswain out there who has not been in this situation so keep that in mind first. Second, I think that it's our responsibility to get the very best row possible out of the crew at the time. We did talk about this perspective in those episodes that Breana mentioned also. And I like to try to highlight any improvement that the crew is making while the boat is in the race. So I picked one or two things that they seem to be doing very well … try to capitalize on that and extend it for as long as possible. Sally?


SALLY: I’ve been there right with both of you and I completely understand Ali’s position. You're scrambling to find the magic word … the secret invocation … that will make your boat fly. I absolutely recognize that pressure but I would just like to reinforce that the coxswain is no more than 20% of a crew competing. They're part of the team. They're all in this together and that little 20% isn't going to magically make that boat move forward. I really encourage the coxswains to stop thinking of themselves as an ‘I’ and stress that they start thinking of themselves as a ‘we’ and try to think about what we are doing and like you're doing, Anne, and find value in what they're doing well and find value in what the team is accomplishing even if it's (you know) not a win but maybe just a great story or a building block for next time. But I really try to take the pressure off the ‘I’ and reinforce the coxswain as part of the team. They're part of the whole. They're not the individual.


In the final Instagram poll we'll highlight today, we asked our followers how they approached the start of a head race - something we discussed in Episode 017 titled: Head Racing: Chute to Finish Line. In that episode, we discussed whether we follow a prescribed number of high strokes off the start no matter what or whether we let our crews know that the number of strokes might change depending on how the start unfolds. So we asked our audience: ‘How do you approach the start of a head race?’ 41% responded and said that they stick to the plan … the first scenario I described … while 59% said that they play it by ear. And we just want to emphasize that you can find all of these polls recapped after the fact if you'd like to take a look at how people responded in an Instagram stories highlight right on our homepage on Instagram. 


ANNE: I think they’re so much fun, Breana. I love it when you put them out and I also enjoy the fact that we're throwing a few of these sprinkled in amongst the questions from our listeners. So thanks for doing that!


SALLY: Our next question comes from Heather on Slack. She asked us: ‘What is your favorite way to answer ‘What is a coxswain?’ for someone who knows nothing about rowing? Like how do you sum up all our jobs without reciting an essay in a way they will understand?’ How would you guys answer that?


BREANA: I would like to describe myself as a mental athlete. You know, most people are brought to sports by their interest in rising to physical challenges and for me, I was really ecstatic to find a role in athletics where the challenge was a mental one. So that's what really excites me about being a coxswain. I think there are some harmful stereotypes out there that people fall back on in a recruiting context when answering the question ‘what's a coxswain’ - that are things like, ‘Oh, you just get to yell at a bunch of big guys and tell them what to do’. And I don't think that does a good job of encapsulating what we do truly but I think that mental athlete does for me.


ANNE: And you're the epitome of a mental athlete. 


SALLY: Yeah, so I was thinking that, Anne. 


ANNE: That's a great answer. I want to say to Heather that I get asked this question an awful lot by people who have no idea about rowing in general. So I usually respond the traditional way - that I’m the person in a crew boat who's the leader and responsible for safety, steering, and essentially in charge of whatever the crew is doing. Pretty straightforward answer … so nothing so glamorous as saying a mental athlete. Sally? 


SALLY: So you know I’ve been taught that you always have to have an elevator pitch, right? When you're at work, you want that five second thing - how are you doing – this little blurb and then get out of the elevator and never see them again. I would also like to point out - I hate talking to people in elevators. That is … 


BREANA: Extroverts, just please leave us alone in the elevators. Please…  


SALLY. No - but my elevator pitch for the coxswain is: first, I just say  - very much like Anne - that I’m the individual that's responsible for safety and steering and a team manager is basically what I do. And then I awkwardly look at the elevator door and tap my feet and pray that the doors open soon.


BREANA: As we reflect on what we've just talked about both via Instagram poll responses and our answers to these questions, it emphasizes to us that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to so many things in coxing. There are definitely some wrong things that we can do as coxswains but there are lots of right ways of doing things. And really, that's what keeps us coming back to the sport. We know that we get better together so please keep sharing with us on Slack. You can always find the link to join at Please keep responding to Instagram polls - they're super fun for us and we hope that they're fun for you as well. We love to get people's input on those and please keep bringing more coxswains into the community. And as we finish up this episode we want to thank you for listening. If you like what we're doing, please consider financially supporting us on Patreon. We're excited to bring you more content soon and until next time, I’m Anne. I’m Breana. And I’m Sally - signing off for now.

bottom of page