The Role of a Cox in Boat Racing – Part 2

Once again, we clamber into the coxswain’s seat at the stern of the boat and steer our way through the waters of understanding the role of a cox in a racing boat, and how to improve. In the first race we learned how a good cox should be able to motivate a crew of rowers and to understand how to issue instructions that will get more out of them. It is important that you develop your own style as a cox, there is no one simple instruction that will make a boat go faster. By understanding the rowers individually, you will know what orders to shout and when to do so. And this all starts by earning respect.

Earn Respect

It is easy to go power crazy as a cox, you are positioned in the aft of the boat with a clear view of the water ahead and eight oarsmen under your control. It is crucial that the crew respect you, don’t sound bossy or arrogant and work with the other members of the boat team. As in every walk of life as a leader, if your team respects you, they are more likely to do as you say and put more effort in their work to succeed. Being a cox is not simply telling the rowers what to do, it’s about assisting them, so they are getting more out their own boat.

Earn Respect


Be Familiar with the Crew

A good cox will know the names of every rower and members of the team. Don’t ever just shout out their number, this is both disrespectful and non-motivational. Not only is this common courtesy but rowers often change their seat numbers and forget what number they are, so if you are just barking out instructions to a number, nobody may be listening. Pay particular attention to the stroke person, who is sometimes termed the wing man. The rower closest to the cox is responsible for setting the stroke time of the oarsmen, therefore it is crucial that there is a really good relationship between the cox and his stroke. By having a good rapport with the stroke, a cox can communicate with the whole boat very easily.


A Cox Should Always Work with the Coach

The general manager of a rowing team has several descriptions, such as rowing captain or coach. The relationship between the coach and the cox has to be one of complete understanding. A cox must instinctively know what the coach wants from the boat and do his very best to deliver this. Such demands from a coach could be:

  • What the focus of the boat is
  • Good communication on and off the boat
  • Following a race plan
  • To be the eyes and ears of the coach on the boat during racing

On race days most coaches have very little to do with their crews, the hard work should have been put in well before the actual day of the race. Therefore, the coach basically leaves control to the cox, and in our third and concluding part of this blog we look at the main duties of a cox on race day.