The Major Downsides to Being a Coxswain by Grace Meyer

Please note: there will be some serious ranting below. Viewer discretion advised.

Time and time again, my parents have asked me why I haven’t quit crew. At this point, I would’ve laughed in your face if you told me that I was going to stay with this sport for four years. It is a huge time commitment, which is why this year, my teammates have dropped like flies. Also, I am one of the few who shoulder the huge burden of being a coxswain.

I might’ve mentioned this before, but being a coxswain bears huge responsibility. By steering the boat, giving technique adjustments, motivational calls and creating race plans, this role isn’t for the faint hearted. Freshman and sophomore year, to say I had a rough adjustment would just be grazing the surface. I was horrid at steering, for one. Always on the wrong side of the river, I was almost always the butt of all my coach’s deafening yells. The worst part of it is, I truly believed I had let my teammates, and especially myself, down. Because I was, let’s face it, the worst cox on the team, I was always thrust into the weakest boats. It didn’t help that I was incredibly shy, puny girl who was too nervous to make enough calls to lead us to victory. Losing became habit, and quitting was always on my radar. I can’t even begin to describe how heartbroken I was after every regatta after failing my team yet again, all the wasted tears flowing down my face as I try to hide it in agony. I stood on the side as the other boats, although they didn’t always win from the tough competition, make racing and succeeding look easy. Trying to be happy for my other teammates, I couldn’t quite shake the feelings of jealousy pulsing through my veins.

However, on October 2nd, 2016, I coxed the women’s novice eight and four to victory (well, second and third place, close enough). By far, it was one of the best days of my life. The sound of the two medals clinking against my stomach radiated the feeling of accomplishment from my skin: I had finally done something right for my team. This year at the Head of the Cuyahoga, when I coxed the novice girl’s eight and won bronze, I had this same feeling. For once in the years I have participated in this competition, my face wasn’t covered in dry tears from yet another failure. The smiles on my teammates’ faces were contagious, and once again, I didn’t feel worthless or helpless.

Unfortunately, these are rare occurrences. If you are a coxswain, be prepared to be moved like a ping pong ball across a slew of boats– girls, boys, novice, jv, varsity: you name it, it is bound to happen. I can’t even begin to name the occurrences when this has happened to me. I completely understand that the coaches have to experiment with different lineups in the beginning, but when the regattas approach, I wish we could practice with the same ones as on race day.

If you’re still here, I will be immensely surprised. However, just because I’ve listed the greatest obstacles I’ve faced doesn’t mean there isn’t something to be gained either. All the workout the rowing team does in the fall, winter, spring and the end of summer makes us more fit. When joining the rowers on the ergs in the winter, I myself have felt more comfortable in my own skin and in-shape than before. We slowly but surely form a tightly-knit family, especially from team bonding activities. From freshman year, I have became more social and therefore have bettered my coxing skills significantly. I am incredibly proud of my progress, despite all the setbacks that have been thrown in my face.

To answer my parents’ question, I honestly don’t know what has kept me on the team for so long. Maybe it’s the adrenaline rush while racing and speeding by another boat on occasion. Maybe its the feeling of belonging somewhere and finally fitting in. Most definitely it is from the desire to win and make my teammates proud. Crew, this is my message: sorry, but I’m not going anywhere. You’re not getting rid of me that easily! No matter how cliché this is, I will not back down from obstacles that come my way, no matter what it takes.

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