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COACH TIDBITS: How Coaches can Support their Coxswains during Quarantine


In Episode 002 | The Elephant in the Room, we discuss how coxswains can maintain their skills while many teams are shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We know coaches are busy, so we’ve condensed our thoughts from that episode and added further ideas in this bite-sized article. Be sure to check the timestamps in each episode’s show notes if you’d like to skip the part of the episode where we provide specific tips for coaches.


Did you know that we have a Discord channel where coaches can discuss working with coxswains? Check it out! You can also get in touch on social media or by using the contact form on our website.


The worst thing you can do during this time is pretend that your coxswains don’t exist, while you continue to send workout plans and organize virtual erg meetups or on-water small boat practices with your rowers. The second worst thing you can do is fail to acknowledge that COVID essentially robbed coxswains of their ability to participate in the sport. Be realistic, and don't pretend that virtual regattas are "a fun opportunity for coxswains to try pushing themselves on the erg" or that an entire season of watching rowers go out in singles and recording their splits is "a great chance for coxswains to demonstrate organization and leadership." Everyone involved knows that's a feeble attempt to put a bandage over a gaping hole in coxswain’s lives that you and rowers have been able to fill in other ways.


Instead, here are some ideas for how to support your coxswains during COVID:

  • Take coxswains in the launch with you for small boat practices and talk to them about how technique should look, ideally from their perspective.

  • Educate yourself about coxing topics, so that you can better serve your coxswains when you’re back on the water—or even now, in virtual meetings (more ideas for virtual meeting topics below).

  • Round up team funds to buy a coxing book for each coxswain on your team. One of the best is The Short and Snarky Guide to Coxing and Rowing (affiliate link - as an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases).

  • Offer coxswains the opportunity to erg or to row with others of their ability level; putting them in a single and leaving them behind while skilled rowers take off down the river is intimidating, so make sure you’ve planned a way for them to join the practice safely. We all agree that having coxswains erg and row themselves is a great way to learn, but remember that physically rowing is not accessible to everyone.

  • Let your coxswains in on aspects of the coaching process that it could be beneficial for them to know about, like workout design and rigging.

  • Meet virtually with your coxswains, even if just to have a casual conversation where you all get to know each other better.


If you know nothing about coxing and don’t have time to learn, here are some ideas for virtual meeting topics:

  • Invite alumni coxswains from your team to come back and talk to your current coxswains.

  • Read an article on a blog like Ready all, row, or read a section of a coxing book, and discuss it with your coxswains.

  • Talk about your vision for each part of the stroke, including what every body part should be doing at that time and how it should feel to rowers.

  • Talk about your coaching pet peeves. Your coxswains may be surprised to learn what frustrates you, and mitigating those problems could be a quick fix.

  • Describe what an efficient multi-boat practice looks like to you. For example, when are coxswains authorized to change their speed in order to keep boats together? Do you have a preferred way for them to do that? How do you typically want them to align after finishing a piece?

  • Describe the qualities of a top coxswain in your mind.

  • Talk about a time in your coaching history where a coxswain really screwed up. What can your current coxes learn from that mistake? What did you learn?

  • Help your coxswains develop a team resource together, like a Google doc of technical calls or of commonly used drills on the team, or a map of major obstacles on your body of water.

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