039 | Interview with Cameron Moffatt
Welcome to CoxPod, a podcast dedicated to coxing topics. I'm Anne. I'm Breana. We're experienced coxswains who continue to learn a great deal from the broader coxing community and from sharing with each other. Our primary goal is to promote ongoing skills development, and we're happy you're joining us.
ANNE: As coxswains, all of us have spent time listening to race recordings online, haven't we? And often they're from premier races such as the Olympics or the Henley Royal Regatta. So many times as I'm watching them, I wish I knew what was going on in those coxswains' minds.
BREANA: Well, I have good news for Anne and everyone else listening. Today you get your wish because we have as our guest fellow coxswain Cameron Moffatt, who won the 2023 Island Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta. Welcome Cam!
ANNE: Welcome Cam!
CAM: Hey guys, good to be here. How are we doing?
ANNE: Super! So glad you're joining us. And you will be talking about Henley Royal Regatta. But before we get to that, we all want to acknowledge that getting there, let alone winning it, requires a huge amount of effort and work in the seat as a coxswain. So, to hear more about all of that, let's turn it over to Cam.
CAM: So, I got into coxing at about 2015. I started coxing at Pangbourne College aged around 13 or 14. I remember pretty much we all used to take turns coxing, and it didn't take long before some people wanted to row and not many people wanted to cox. And I remember there was one time, the day it pretty much all started was, we had one guy who we got pretty used to coxing us and eventually he was just like: “Nope, I'm not doing this anymore. I want to be a rower.” So the coach went: “Right, somebody else.” Everyone took a step back, and it was like, “Right, Cam, in you get.” And basically, I— I haven't left the seat since. So I carried on all the way at Pangbourne 2015 through to 2018, and then for the rest of my junior career, I spent that at Reading Rowing Club. But basically, since the age of 13 or 14, I'd looked up to, like, coxes at the top level, particularly at Brookes. And that was the standard I set my sights and yeah, that's kind of where the journey all started for me.
ANNE: That is such a common story, isn't it Cam, that someone is sort of nominated for the seat?
ANNE: But something about that really stuck with you. You really enjoyed it from the moment that you got in. Is that right?
CAM: I always loved rowing. I always loved the sport from day one. And what kept me coming back to it was kind of this addiction of like, right, I'm in this coxing seat now. And I kind of dedicated myself from my early days that like, right, I want to take this coxing thing seriously. And I want to get really good at this. Definitely the early days it was, you know, it was a bumpy road getting into it. Because I think for any cox, the only way you kind of learn is by making mistakes and by learning from the experience of others. A lot of it you just picked it up as you went along. Every time you were picking something up, you were adding to your journey. You were learning something. But I started from nothing and the only way really I could learn was by getting more and more experience and by doing more and more of it.
ANNE: Can you tell us a little bit more about your coxing development? As you point out, you know, we all— we all start with no information, with no skills in that seat. What was it like more specifically being the new kid at Brookes?
CAM: Yeah, so I've kind of followed my dream definitely since 2017, when Harry's Ladies Plate video came out. It's like, right, Oxford Brookes, that's where I'd set my sights, where I wanted to go for uni. I very much went to uni to row, not to do a degree, and I'm not ashamed of saying that. But yeah , I'd already achieved, you know, a big part of my dream and my ambition arriving at Brookes in September 2020. My first year there, I was very, very much the new kid, as we put it. We had Harry Brightmore, who's obviously now in the national team, as the top cox. We had Scott Cockle, double under 23 world champion. And all these other coxes at Brookes, who were all pretty big names in the coxing world. They were all people older than me, all people more experienced than me. All people who have made a name for themselves in the coxing world, in a way that I hadn't. And what obviously was quite isolating is you arrive there, and international level coxing is just the standard that's expected. It's like, right, you know what the competition is, you know what the standard is expected of Brookes coxes. Nothing less than that will do. So it was tough, obviously having come from very provisional school and club level background. But I wanted to be there. I was fully invested in it, and I was going to do whatever it took to get to the level of these other coxes that were at the top of the sport and that were ahead of me. I was very much on my own, but I had that ambition. I had that drive to develop and pick up what these other coxes ahead of me already had. And just, you know, keep adding to your journey, learning…learning so much along the way under Henry Bailhache-Webb and Richard Spratley. And the fact you were the new kid, soaking all of it up as you went along to develop.
ANNE: So you mentioned mentorship, in building your skillset. Was that specifically coxing related? Because we found, you know, for our experiences as well as many other listeners, that they don't have a mentor or someone who's actually coaching them. How did you pick up the huge amount of skills that you have garnered over the years?
CAM: Reading Rowing Club was very good, they set me up on a mentorship course with Zoe De Toledo, Olympic silver medalist in the women's Rio 8 2016. She came down to our club one day, I remember, did a little bit of work with me and some of the masters lot down there. I think they will remember it pretty well. It was all pre lockdowns, but I would submit her some of my recordings. And, yeah, it was, obviously, great experience, great mentorship to learn from someone who's already been and done it. But yeah, that was a big part of my development before kind of making it onto the scene at Brookes.
BREANA: That's amazing that you got some development so early in your coxing career. Kudos to your club for providing that, Cam. And of course, nobody comes out of just a couple of years of coxing at the school level at an international standard. So I imagine that was pretty intimidating, going to Brookes, being among these extremely accomplished coxswains, but still being on your own learning trajectory. Could you share a little bit more about what that was like?
CAM: Yeah, well, a big thing, like obviously I wanted to talk about was even though you're in a leadership role, coxing is probably the most isolating seat you can sit in, in the rowing world. Because truth be told, you're the link between the coach and the athletes, and you do fall between stools. You can be getting it in the neck from the coach, and you can be getting it in the neck from the athletes, about pretty much and all things that could go wrong, left, right and center. So what was difficult was trying to develop my own skill set, while at the same time, you've got to be doing what the coaches expect of you. But the same time, you've also got to be delivering that to the athletes. And remember, like, the coach and the athletes don't always understand every single thing that's going on for you in that seat, or some of the things you might be having to deal with. If anything goes wrong for a cox, it's pretty obvious, but not everyone— not everyone knows what's going on in there. So a big thing that I had to develop because it, you know, it always has been isolating. There’s no two ways about it. Even when you win, it's still an isolating role to be in. But the big thing that I learned, in order to carry on and get to the level where I aspire to be, I had to, I had to back myself. I had to be very confident in my ability. And even though maybe I wasn't at the same level of experience as these other coxes ahead of me, I had to back myself, I had to believe in myself that I can still be just as good as these guys, but I need to be confident. I need to back myself and my ability that I can get there. But, yeah, that strength and that kind of resilience that I developed, pretty much right from day one, carried me through, and allow me to overcome some obstacles along the way.
ANNE: What you're talking about is incredibly relatable, just not at the level that you experienced, right? So when other coxswains are developing their skill sets, they're not in that super high pressure, elite atmosphere right off the bat. So thank you for sharing that. I think that it's important for all of us to remember that: None of us walks in as an expert. It is a long trajectory. Some people go quicker than others through that trajectory. Some have a lot of support, some have very little.
BREANA: I agree. That's a really relatable experience: fighting through that isolation of no one truly knowing what you are doing and facing in the seat. And again, I really respect and admire how you were able to pull that off in, as ANNE said, such a high stress environment with such high expectations of you. And I think what you provided is something very actionable that coxswains can do. They can back themselves. They can have that confidence that they will reach that level, even as they are still developing. And I know for you Cam, that resilience that you developed was really critical in future experiences you would encounter in your coxing career, those day-to-day adversities - we might say - that we face as coxswains … the bigger deal adversities that come our way. So we'd love it if you could share with our listeners a little bit about how that resilience that you developed became critical for you in overcoming those things that we face as coxswains.
CAM: Of course. All good coxes are gonna face some sort of adversity. you know, we, we've all been there. Be it your standard bad outing, you know, you're not a real cox until you've crashed once…once or twice.
ANNE: What? You had a crash? No…
CAM: Happens to the best of us! Um, but, you know, just a standard bad outing. or just, you know, the cox box doesn't work. One of my early days at Brookes, I remember I lost the cox box and I lost the rudder on the boat in the middle of winter during the same outing. Some people remember—that was an outing to remember. But when I arrived at Brookes, remember, I was not an inexperienced cox. I'd been in the game for... five, six years before coming to Brookes. So it's all stuff you'd faced before but in obviously such a high pressure intense environment, it's also difficult because at that level, if you drop the ball for just an outing or a single race, you might well lose your place in the boat. So really the way I dealt with it was, you know, still backing myself that no matter what happened, I'm still a good cox. And when I did have the low days, you know, just your standard bad outing, anything going wrong, you know (too many experiences to name in one episode) but it would be the sort of thing, like I knew how to just go home, get some time to myself, decompress. If you need to go home and punch a pillow or cry into your pillow just to get the emotional side of it out, then that's fine, you know, decompress. And then dusting myself off, picking myself up again, because then I would tend to find that some of my worst outings in my whole career have then equally been followed probably in the same week by some of my best outings. And what would generally happen is I'd have a bad day. And then by the time you come around to the next day, it's like, right, I'm not going to make that mistake again, or I'm not going to let that happen again. Or right: we had a really bad session this day, and that was because of this problem. So I'm going to focus on really fixing it and it's going to get better. And then as soon as it gets better, the way you pick yourself up is like, well, as soon as it's gone well, then as a cox obviously people do compliment you. It's like: “Yeah Cam, that was good. Well done.” And then it means the world to you even more when people are nice to you, doesn't it?
CAM: You know all coxes, we're human beings at the end of the day - it's a human being in that seat. And just using that to, you know, using sometimes the adversity using it to motivate you; using it to get you hungrier to get even better was kind of my way of going into it.
ANNE: So glad you articulated that, you know, because that is something that I think many people who are feeling those days of discouragement can keep in mind. You're modeling how you did that. Other people have other methods, but it all works. You've got to take care of yourself. It's really, really important. And thanks for sharing that.
BREANA: That rollercoaster of emotions as a coxswain is so relatable. I know I've had days where I thought - why am I still doing this? I don't have to do this. Why am I getting up and doing this? And then you have one of those amazing outings where the boat is just flying, your calls are working, everything is just gelling in this really beautiful way and you're like, that's why. Those buoy you through the bad days.
CAM: Exactly. You find your love for what you do again as soon as it's going well, don't you?
BREANA: Right, right, exactly. And those down moments are really challenging to deal with. I'm wondering, Cam, if there's any particular setbacks that you can reflect on in your own career and kind of how you overcame those, I think that will help a lot of coxswains listening who may find themselves in those situations.
CAM: Well, remember, just the road to even get to Brookes is a school of hard knocks in itself. You will get knocked down time and time again as a cox, and you have to be able to take the hits and come back from whatever you face. That is the only way your coxing will get better. So a big one for me, uh, this is probably, one of the darkest points, was: In 2022, at the last minute, the decision was made that I wasn't going to be in the Prince Albert A coxed four - that's one of the student events at Henley in the coxed four. That was obviously a massive blow. It happened right at the last minute, and…it was tough. Yeah, it was tough, because at the end of Henley, about 10 days later, they went on to go and win while I was stood having to watch. It was a really difficult point because I felt I'd done all I could - I didn't really think I could have done any more and I still didn't get the result or the outcome or the boat that I wanted. And I went through this dark patch of kind of, right, do I stay in the sport? Do I carry on with this coxing thing? Or do I just call it a day, throw in the towel, just walk away, and get stuck into something else? You know, it was a real mental struggle because I was between very much a rock and a hard place of - bottom line - did I carry on coxing or not? Because I still had one more year left at Brookes. But the mentality I got myself into was that I have not trained since 2015 to be at this point to kind of just walk away … to just throw in the towel … to kind of just let that setback of the previous year define me. And I think a big thing that lifted me up was - end of 2022 - we did Wallingford Head. and that would have been with, uh, that was Brookes third eight, I think that was. But I remember it was just such a fun race. Four and a half K upstream … absolutely pelting it downward stream. So I had this real opportunity of being a leader in there as well as one of the more experienced guys in there. It's also Wallingford Head, it's our home stretch as well. It's one of the big bucket list things you could do as a Brookes athlete - Wallingford Head. And I remember we did it. We pulled it off. And I remember we overtook two crews and we came away with a win as well. It was just such a fun race. It was just such a good day out with such an absolutely amazing group of lads. And I think that was where I really kind of fell back in love with the sport. The fun aspect of coxing was definitely at its best in that race. One of my happiest memories, I think, at Brookes was just coxing that eight on that day. And yeah, I went home…I had the medal, which was a big part of it, but you know, it had just been a good day and a good day of coxing and with a good crew. And it just made me think: this is why I do it. This is what it's about. It's about having fun. It's about using your skillset to lead a crew and get the most out of them. And that is actually just such a rewarding feeling. I don't think you can ever get enough of that feeling, like, that feeling of responsibility, that feeling of leadership. I just really enjoyed that. And I just thought, right. I've still got another year in me. I've come too far to just throw in the towel or just let the previous year’s setback define me. I could have just been like, right, I didn't get where I wanted to…call it a day. I thought, no, just give it one more year and go again. And yeah, that kind of led on to, um, things that were later to come in the next eight months that followed that race.
ANNE: What a beautiful, and sometimes painful description of that rollercoaster. Thank you for sharing it in the way that you did because you've led us from, you know, real deep pain of disappointment and then the other side of regaining that love for the sport. And really persisting—your ability to persist in the face of adversity is so admirable. I just want to say that. And I'm sorry you've had those bad experiences, but I know that you've gone from the dark moments on to some, additional—not just one, but you know, many, many brilliant races.
BREANA: As we continue this story from an initial setback, the comeback doesn't end at Wallingford Head. So if you could, Cam, give us a little bit more, maybe for listeners who aren't as familiar…many of us have not been to Henley. Could you tell us a little bit more about what that event is like, leading up to the subsequent appearance that you do ultimately make there?
CAM: Okay, so Henley Royal Regatta. It's…I would say it goes, well, the Olympic Games, obviously the top of the sport. I think Henley Royal Regatta is still up there with importance of the Olympics. Nothing's got the history of Henley Royal Regatta. Remember, that's a big part of it. It's gladiatorial racing - two boats side-by-side upstream with these big concrete and wooden booms that divide the race course from the river that's filled with spectators. But basically Henley Royal Regatta comes at the top of domestic/international rowing. For the majority of rowers there, it is the pinnacle of their rowing career. It is the biggest row you will do. It’s the only regatta really in the world you're going to find Olympic champions racing side-by-side with club, uni, and student rowers. It's all there really at Henley. For me, from day one, particularly starting to cox in the UK, you pretty much learn pretty early on that Henley is everything. If you're over in the States, it's maybe not covered perhaps so much. Obviously you see some of the big names, you see Cal, Washington, and Yale coming over. But definitely in the UK, you learn pretty early on that Henley is everything. And if you make your appearance at Henley, in front of the whole rowing world, that's the pinnacle of your rowing career.
ANNE: It really is and a lot of the clips that we'll watch online - regardless of where you live - are based at Henley. And part of it is because it is, as you said, that gladiatorial, side-by-side, only two boats. There's a winner and a loser. And that's just unique, as far as I know, is that right?
CAM: Yeah, I can't really think of another race anywhere in the world where racing is like that. If it's anything, it's more intense than pretty much any other regatta you do. If you go to any international regatta or any other domestic regatta like you have in the U.S. or in the U.K., you're going to have six boats side-by-side along a big lake. But at Henley, you know, you've got the film crews there … you'll have tens of thousands of people going up and down the bank. So you race, obviously from Temple Island up to Henley Town. The big thing for Henley is that like, definitely towards the end, as you come into enclosures towards Henley Town, the closer you get to the finish line, it becomes more and more like rowing in a stadium. And you're not going to get that at any other regatta in the world. So it's a really, really, special traditional race to do. And so for me as a cox, personally, I think the best coxing recordings you can listen to out there are all ones of the Henley coxes. And remember I'd grown up following the likes of Harry Brightmore and Rory Copus, some of the other popular famous coxswain recordings you can find on there. And remember, they're all at Henley. They're all at Henley in Henley finals, where it's the pinnacle—it's the peak of this gladiatorial side-by-side racing you're having in this very special race. So it's really, again, for the coxes, for all British rowers, you learn pretty early days that it's not just any other regatta. It's not the same as winning just a national championship, or BUCS or National Schools. It's really something else. It is, you know, it is writing your name in history to even participate in Henley, let alone win it.
ANNE: Yes, and we're going to hear more details about that winning in just a few moments. But the harsh reality, the long reality is, to get there must take a lot.
CAM: Oh yeah, oh yeah, I never said it was easy.
ANNE: No, you never did, not once. But pro tip to our listeners: take Cam's suggestion. Watch, listen to the Henley recordings. They're great to learn from. But I'm anxious to learn a little bit more about how you prepped for this race that you're going to describe and, and all of that. So tell us more Cam, please.
CAM: I started working with the Brookes women's first eight…I think it would have been late April, early May. It was just before we did Duisburg regatta. So Duisburg regatta is one of the biggest international races you could do in Europe. It is the top end of the sport. You get a lot of under 23s, a lot of development national teams going. In my opinion, Duisburg was above the standard of any student crew you're gonna race. It's more Ladies Plate, Grand, International. I was fortunate enough to be selected to take the women's eight for that race. We did very well. We came away with a win on both days against some really, really strong international competition. I enjoyed coxing the women, I felt we pretty much clicked straight away, and as soon as we arrived in Duisburg it's like, yeah, I really want to work with these guys, and I want to stay in this boat and I want to take these guys the whole way. For me, it was very, very special - taking charge of this women's eight and leading it towards their goal, which was always to win the Island. The last two and a half years I'd spent at Brookes, I'd always been working with men's crews. Definitely before coming to Brookes even, I hadn't really had a whole lot of experience coxing a women's boat, would you believe? So it was interesting kind of how I had to tailor my style … tailor it to a completely different crew and develop a little bit of a different working relationship with some of these guys than some other crews I've worked with before. You kind of just almost have a bit of a one size fits all (kind of) when it comes to calls and things. But working with a new group of athletes, a new crew entirely, it kind of meant you could build it. I already had the skill set, but then, rebuilding it and molding it to a way that really gelled and really worked for the women in this boat.
ANNE: That's a really important point, Cam, that you just made. And I want to sort of stress that for a moment. We come into the seat with skill sets at different levels. But part of our success is dependent on how we tailor it to that individual crew.
CAM: Oh yeah, yeah, definitely. Like it's…it's all very well having the skillset. It's all very well having the experience. You can have as impressive a coxing CV as you like, but if you're not compatible—if you're not able to mold your ability or your skill set to a different crew. I think if you were to ask me, that is what—the measure of what makes a really good cox or separates a good cox from a great cox - is coxes who have that ability to tailor and mold their style and be compatible with kind of just, any crew of any level. So yeah, I come in, as an experienced cox. I've got to use what I already have—so my knowledge and my skill set was already pretty good, but right, how can I translate that? How can I mold that into a way that's going to work with this crew? It’s a little bit like, you almost build your own vocabulary of calls and everything. So definitely by the time you get to Henley, you're all on the same page and everyone knows what calls they're listening out for. There’s a good understanding between the cox and the rowers. You all know what you're looking for and you all know what the plans are. Having that ability to mold and tailor it to this women's crew was really…I found that really special and I really enjoyed that. What we were pretty good at was we had a very good level of communication between me and them. They were very good at telling me kind of what worked for them and what didn't. And well, my respect I had for them was, right, as soon as anything doesn't work, you need to make that change straight away so they know that you're listening to them. Because if the athletes know that you are willing to change and be the cox for them, you're not just going to do it someone else's way. You're going to be their cox. You care about them. They're the guys in your boat. You care about them and you want to do the best for them. That's going to develop and build the mutual respect. It would be the sort of thing they could come up to and be like, right, how was I doing in that session? And I could take that and explain and give them a bit more individual feedback away from the water session. You can (again) be the link between what the coaches want to see, and then the coach in the boat working with the athletes. So by the time it gets to Henley, the athletes have got the trust and the confidence in you. Because really what you want is people to actually want to have you as their cox and people to say: “I would go into Henley with him coxing me.”
ANNE: That's such powerful information, and I actually have goosebumps as I'm listening to you describe that, because I feel it deeply. So thank you for that description.
CAM: Just understanding sometimes the emotional side in the relationship you got a half between the cox and the athletes, it's an interesting…it's an interesting dynamic, isn't it?
ANNE: And you capitalized on that relationship, didn't you, in this particular race?
CAM: Yeah. Remember a lot of these guys had been in the Island actually the year before where they lost on the Saturday to Brown. What happened was, they got led from the start. And in an eights race, generally, you very rarely see anyone really coming back in eights racing. As soon as you're up off the start in eights racing, it's very, very…the boat is too big. The boat's too powerful to be able to get a change of speed … to be able to come back and row through someone. So going into it, this Penn crew, and I've, again, massive amount of respect to Penn. They are one of the best crews—I think, the best crew I've ever raced. They were at Henley Women's. I think we were faster than them by only about three seconds though in the time trial at Henley Women's. So we knew this Penn crew were pretty good and we knew that they'd won NCAAs. We knew they were worthy opponents but we never actually faced them face to face, until that final. We knew that we were capable of being better than them because we had been faster than them at certain points, but we'd never actually come up against them. Also on finals day - Richard Spratley told me after the race that he reckons the stream on the Bucks Station was eight seconds slower than if you were on the Berkshire Station. He reckons there was an eight second advantage with the stream. So, obviously what this Penn crew did was they watched us and they'd learned early on, if they could jump us off the start and then try to match our base pace, that was how they were going to beat us. They didn't just think, right, spend all our bullets in the first 500. We've got to try get the first advantage and then match them through the middle of the race. and they did it. And they executed it brilliantly because in the first minute of the race, I can remember it…remember it well. Coming up to the barrier, they had…I think it must have been about three quarters of a length. I could see the stern of Penn and the cox's back, and all of them, and I could…I could see them, we’re about three quarters of a length down to the barrier. And I remember, I'll never forget it: my heart sank. And, you know, I did…I did have a moment of [gulp]. This isn't quite…this isn't quite what I'd hoped for. This isn't quite what I planned. So probably the most important part of the recording is what, what is it I say? It's “trust the process, trust my voice.” Probably if anyone needed to hear that more in the boat it was me. Because in that race, what could have happened was they could have led us, and it could have been a case of flight rather than fight. I could have been like: “Right! Okay, guys, we're going 40 on the rate, plan’s out the window. Just go as hard as we can, try to catch them up.” I could have done that. I can tell you now, if we’d have done that, we'd have lost. So actually, you know, having that ability to be like, right, trust the process, trust my voice. It's me as an individual, you know, I'm not just…I'm not just listing through numbers anymore. I'm not giving them splits, data, time. It's me reaching out to them as a human being, like: “Right. Yeah, it's all nine of us in this now. It's down to the nine of us. Trust my voice.” And then sticking to the race plan, which was always to be able to just have a really solid rhythm and get a real hold of the work. Staying direct and getting a real hold of the work out the front end. And so then, as I got them onto that, we then started to move. And then by the time you're…definitely by the time you're a seat down, I then call out a couple of individuals in there. It's like, you can then use names. You can use the emotional side, like, use their names, call out to those athletes to just keep doing what they're doing. Keep working harder, keep…keep getting a hold of the work, and just sustain this incredible rhythm we had. And so then by the time we're half a length up, the psychology of it from there is already, I think, going to take you to the line. Because the guys have just made it from not being able to see Penn anymore, to half a length up on them. And I think they knew by the time they taken that much back, you know, just the fire in the belly was just so much, there was just so much intent to go. You know that just as soon as you can see your opposition, you can tell they're moving through them. The guys are going to take confidence off that and just keep doing what they're doing. But then equally, while we were just sustaining that rhythm coming into the line, that Penn crew…remember the stream is still, you know, they've still got the advantage. So when we put our push in, in the last 500, there was no way anyone on the Bucks station was ever going to get the change of speed—the sudden change of speed that you could if you were out the stream on the Berks station. So I think we got up to about…I sat on the two seat, coming into enclosures. And I remember I was just thinking, right, 30 strokes, just…just stay there, just don't move, just stay there, just stay on the two seat. And then again, we're going through the tiers, I'm calling them up, just getting, just empty the tank, empty the tank, empty the tank. And, I can see they're still moving, they're moving, they're moving, they're moving, and then I remember finally making it to the line and hearing the first beep, and I can remember literally just feeling just a massive weight came off my chest. I feel myself going [gasp] like I could breathe again suddenly. And then it wasn't until I heard the second beep and realized, okay, that's…that's for them, not for me. It's then you're like: “Oh, I've just won Henley”. But that's kind of the psychology and the emotional side of that relationship and that bond…that trust that we had being put into practice that was able to allow us to pull off that race.
ANNE: I want to say, Cam, that I literally have tears in my eyes, because hearing this is so motivating and inspirational. And you brought me right through the emotions and the strategy and the technique and the trust that you employed as a coxswain with your crew. It really emphasized that there were nine people that won that race.
CAM: Yeah, there's nine people in there. It's not an eight, it’s a nine.
ANNE: As fellow coxswain, we are in complete harmony and agreement about that but that's not something that is always described the way that you just described it, so thank you very much.
CAM: That is why I wanted to do this with you. Because I think you could literally write a book or a poem about all of that, couldn't you? Literally the emotions that you feel in a race but then put it all into practice. It creates…it creates a pretty sweet result, doesn't it?
ANNE: Yes, indeed. So I thank you for the tears. They are in respect and awe and also, just pride. Pride that you were able to articulate that, and what you accomplished.
CAM: Well, remember I was just one ninth of it. There's no one else I'd have rather done it with, so all…all credit to them - that's eight very amazing women that I had the privilege of working with there.
BREANA: Yes, massive credit to all nine of you for that accomplishment. I feel just drained, I think myself, listening to that - going through those emotions with you. What a beautiful description of that race. And I think so many coxswains can relate to going off the start line with that big of a gap. And your recording of this race - which for listeners Cam has very graciously made public … we will link to his YouTube video of this recording - and it's just a master class in how to stick to your plan, how to push down the panic. We know we're feeling that panic internally.
CAM: I was feeling the panic too, like, believe it or not. I tried not to let it seep into my voice. But like I say, my heart did sink. But another thing … if I just go back to the emotional side. Like, you have to use emotion in order to motivate your athletes a little bit but I don't give out just some massive speech, do I? You don't need to be going like: “Right guys, this is why we do it, blah, blah, blah.” And give, give a little…give a little speech in order to motivate them ‘cause no one's got time for that. It's just gotta be like: “Right. Trust my voice, keep doing what you're doing.” Keep them on the work and then just call their names and the psychology of it is just going to take care of itself. You don't need to watch Braveheart or try to deliver the Al Pacino inches speech in the middle of the race or anything like that. It’s just about developing that bond and then deploying it at the right time. The cox does not need to memorize a whole scene from Rocky IV and then script that into…and then script that into the race plan. Plain and simply, if you just get along with people in your boat, that trust and that mutual respect will take care of everything else.
ANNE: Yeah. Yeah. So great to hear that. So, is there anything else that we want to say before we move on?
CAM: I'm happy to say that, look, if any coxes want to reach out to me about any of that, then, you know, feel free. I always love talking to other coxes, just one cox to another, about these things—particularly helping learning coxes because remember, Rome wasn't built in a day. You know, it took years and years and a very bumpy and emotional ride over the better part of a decade, before I did that race … before you kind of put it all into practice there.
ANNE: You really exemplify what we also strive to promote, which is that development of a community and supporting one another and articulating things, not just throwing you in the seat and saying: “Have at it, good luck,” and waving from the shore. So thanks Cam for being so open to sharing your expertise and encouraging others and providing tools that they can use to improve. So what else is coming up for you?
CAM: So for me, obviously going to Brookes and winning Henley was a lifetime dream of mine. Well, I can proudly say I've achieved that goal now. It was very much my dream, my achievement, what I really wanted to do and accomplish as a cox. It was all about me. But anything I do now is more about helping other coxes or helping others out in the sport. Coxes - I've always believed - have a massive amount…way, way more coaching potential. And so I'm going to start my new coaching job at Kingston Grammar School in Surrey and I will also be carrying on coxing at Molesey Boat Club, which is just through the lock next door. So, bottom line, I've achieved what I wanted to do at Brookes. Leave it on good terms - we're friends for life. And leave it on a win and in a good place. But now - go and help others get better. Use what I've done. Go and help others achieve their dreams now. That's what I'm about now - helping these other clubs and teaching these new kids. I'll be teaching a lot of kids who have never touched an oar before until this year. I want to make an impact as a coach … as a mentor. My dream is obviously to have the same impact that the likes of Harry, Rory Copus, and Zoe De Toledo all had on me. I think everyone needs…everyone needs that kind of mentorship, definitely, to go and do these things.
BREANA: Well, both those teams are so fortunate to have you. I think that's a really great model of how to give back that a lot of coxswains will find value in. It's awesome that you're doing that.
CAM: And I mean, admittedly, unless you're another cox, it is a very difficult thing to teach someone because you do really just need the experience doing it. And then you build it from there. But I think the thing I could have used - definitely like in my first two years of coxing - was kind of just having someone there who could be like: “It’s—it’s okay to make mistakes.” You know, actually having the guidance that I didn't have. It wasn't actually until I became quite an experienced cox already, I had the mentorship of better coxes. You know, not everyone naturally takes to coxing like a duck to water. I wasn't actually a natural leader, as it were, but through coxing, I came out of my shell. Funny fact now, I was actually a singer before I got into coxing. Before coxing, I was singing for quite a long time. Not many people knew that but if my singing teacher’s listening to this, I still carried on using my voice, just not maybe the way she wanted me to.
ANNE: That is just brilliant.
CAM: That was my previous career, shall I say, before I ended up going into coxing. But yeah, what I would like is to be able to mentor up and coming coxes to hopefully go way further than I did. But still at the same time, I'm never going to stop coxing. I'm never going to stop rowing. I'll just put that out there now.
ANNE: That's great news for the…for the rowing world and the coxswain world.
BREANA: Yeah, I'm sure that you will be able to provide - as a mentor for those coxswains - some of the things that you maybe had to learn on your own that I think are big takeaways for me from this episode. For example, the ability to come back from setbacks, whether they're large or small. I'm sure you'll be able to help those coxswains reignite their passion for the sport if that starts to dim. And another major thing that I think you conveyed really well here is the importance of knowing your crew, getting to know your crew, fostering that relationship, and then how much that can serve your boat-wide goals on race day. So I'm sure that any coxswains you work with and teams that you cox for in the future will benefit from all that knowledge.
CAM: There's not that many people who really know how to do it, let alone teach someone how to do it. But being able to provide that mentorship so that coxing doesn't have to be as isolating as it was for me. Or be someone who another cox can reach out to and be able to help them. And then the big reward for you as a mentor is seeing those things come to light. Soon as I had won, the first person I went and gave a hug to was Harry Brightmore and Rory Copus, because I wouldn't be there were they not my inspiration to get to that point.
ANNE: Well, you're an inspiration to me, absolutely. And I'm confident that there are lots of our listeners who feel the very same way. I urge them to watch your recording. It is motivational. It's informational. It's all the things wrapped into one. It's a come-from-behind story. It's a winning story. It's all that and more. So thank you so much for joining us, sharing your career, as well as your future aspirations and goals. And we really appreciate also that you've made yourself available to our listeners. But Cam, do you mind letting us know how they can reach you?
CAM: Yeah, guys, feel free to email me or feel free to message me on Instagram. I'm always keen to help out fellow coxes, one cox to another. I think the only way really any cox is going to learn is by having a mentor or actually talking to someone who actually knows what the job is about because most coaches have not come from coxing. I was very fortunate actually - Hugo Gulliver was a cox before he went into his coaching. And that definitely helped me come on, so all credit should go out to Hugo. But majority of coxes, you’re not going to be as lucky me as I was at the end of my time at Brookes, to have a coach who was a former cox. So the only way you can really learn is through experience, first thing, and then through the mentorship and the guidance of people who know the business. And keep listening to CoxPod, because I don’t think really you can go wrong with some of the stuff you’re picking up here.
BREANA: Well thank you so much for that promo, we appreciate it. And absolutely in the episode details, we will include Cam's contact information for anyone who would like to get a little bit of that mentorship themselves and reach out.
ANNE: You've been incredibly generous with your time and information and inspiration, and emphasis on resilience and, in drive and commitment, Cam. Thanks so very much. This has meant a lot to me personally and I look forward to our fellow listeners having a conversation on Discord about their reactions to what you've been saying. And we can't wait to follow your career as a coach and a coxswain.
CAM: Thank you so much. Well, guys, it's been an absolute pleasure to work with you guys. And it's been a pleasure to be a part of this. Thank you very much for having me.
ANNE: And now, regrettably, we must come to the close of the episode and we thank our listeners for being with us. 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.
BREANA: And I'm Breana - signing off for now.