The truth is, people don't even know what a coxswain is. I've had to tell people that I'm the person in the front of the boat doing the yelling. Yes, those exact words. So, in honor of that experience that occurs at least once a week, here are a few things that people like me - coxswains - are tired of hearing. Some relate to non-rowing folks, while others are indeed directly related to rowers and things they say to their coxswains.
1. "Do you even do anything in the boat?"
This is a misconception. The fact that you think that I'm just sitting in the boat to sit in the boat is beyond wrong. Obviously there are boats like singles and doubles that don't require a coxswain, but bigger boats do need one. Imagine a 5k at a head race. Who's making that turn? Who's steering the fastest line to the finish? Not a bow seat. A coxswain. In the spring, it's a little easier to get away with no coxswain, but as explained later in the listicle, it's a myth that we do nothing.
2. "You're just a coxswain because you don't want to work out."
Also a misconception. Obviously in the boat there isn't a lot of work that we're doing, but that doesn't mean we don't actually do work like the rowers. We may not be rowing, but that doesn't mean we don't ever workout. Sure, there are some of us who may naturally be small and skinny, but that means nothing when it comes to winter conditioning. That extra 30 minutes of cardio outside the fitness center? Yeah, we're doing that too. Just a few days ago the entire team, coxswains included, did three sets of 20 jumpees. We may not work out as much, but we definitely still do work.
3. "Show me your coxswain voice!"
Okay, no. I can't replicate it, and even if I do, all you non-rowers do is make fun of the voice. Yes, my voice gets deeper. Yes, I sound like I have a sore throat. Yes, I know it's terrifying. No, I will not stop using it, but I won't use it around you.
4. "Are you even considered an athlete?"
So here's the thing: yes, I am. I still have to get up for that 6:15 launch, I still go to regattas, I do it all. There's a lot that comes with being a coxswain and it's easy to be confused on whether or not I am an athlete. Think about race day; rowers have to row, that's pretty much it (well, obviously they have to pull hard, train hard, etc., etc.) A coxswain, while not straining much but vocal cords, have to remember the time of a race, the heat they're in, bow number, lane, who's on either side of them on a course, if the bow ball is on correctly, all the foot stretchers have been checked, etc., etc., etc. Need I go on? Sure I'm not pressing my legs, but I am trying my hardest to make this team kill it.
5. "Wow, you're really short!"
Listen, I know I'm short. I know I'm basically five feet tall, with a short torso and short legs and short limbs and sweatshirts will never fit me right. I get it. I know. I've known my whole life. This does not change once I get on the water. But, thank you for reminding me of how short I am. This is something that I have heard my entire life, and for a lot of people they have heard the same. Imagine how tall people feel about you telling them they're tall. Same thing.
6. "Why are you eating so much?"
Obviously this isn't said that much, but every time we have an overnight (since freshman year of high school), I have heard this. Surprise, we have appetites! Obviously we're not working out as much as you are but we are indeed exerting our voices and there's a lot of stress for a good piece. And personally, I like food. Just because I'm a coxswain will not stop me from eating the same amount I normally do.
7. "Are you really wearing that bracelet in the boat? It adds weight!"
I've heard this one countless times. I personally don't mind hearing it when it's over something like rain boots, or the wrenches in my fanny pack, but a necklace or watch? Really? A little background: yes, things do add weight to the boat. This includes people, water bottles, clothes, etc., etc. But, from what I know, wearing a necklace or bracelet will not kill the boats speed. Tell us to take off shoes, take off the fanny pack, but I need my watch.
8. "What do you mean you ran out of bandaids?"
Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to run out of bandaids. I may carry an entire box in my fanny pack, but there is only so many in a pack. I promise there will be more by the next few practices. Please. Calm. Down. I've seen a lot of rowers also bring their own bandaids, so if you have them, that's awesome. Also, if you do get blisters a lot, feel free to let us know that you need bandaids or liquid bandage. Usually on hand, but if not, please don't freak out at us! We're working on it.
9. "Do you have an adjustable?"
As a common coxswain tool, it's obvious that I would have this. You can adjust the size of the wrench so that you can do top nuts, metric or standard nuts. And yes, some people may not have one, but since I started, I have always had one. So yes, I do have one. And, if we coxies don't have any adjustables, do not be afraid to ask a coach for one! The coaches always have some tools, and it would be weird if they didn't. So, if you're coxswain doesn't have one, ask a coach. It's a great second option. It's what I did until I actually got my own adjustable.
10. "My arms hurt, can we go down to forearms?"
This is a big one when trying to get on the dock or coming into the boathouse. While it does make sense, a lot of rowers need to remember that coxswains are trying to see if you really have to go down to forearms. Sometimes the boats go in faster or leave the dock faster than expected, and sometimes slower than expected. It's times like these that you rowers must be patient; it's bad enough that we're making you hold the boat after a long row. But, as always, the coxswains will go down to forearms. For coxswains in general: this is a better position to go to then down to waist. It doesn't strain the rowers arms as much.
And my all time favorite:
11. "(Name), I really have to pee." (As soon as we push off from the dock)
This is a pet peeve of mine. The bathrooms are literally right there. I think it's a pet peeve because I make sure I go to the bathroom before leaving the dock, and I would hope that my athletes would do the same. My absolute favorite is halfway through a piece, because that's not something I can control. If anything, my motivation for the rower is the faster we finish the piece, the faster we get off the water, the sooner you can go to the bathroom. But please, please, please, go to the bathroom before going to the dock. I also promise that this has happened to me as well, yes, the coxswain. This happens often, but I can only imagine how much more focused the boat would be if everyone went to bathroom before getting on the water. I'm assuming the same strength?
So, there you have it. 11 things coxswains are tired of hearing. While I'm sure there are more, these are just a few of my own peeves. While they could be worse, I don't think anything beats the constant non-rower comments. They happen often. And if they don't, well, you're a lucky one.
Lead Image Credit: Jade Miller