Summer Coxswains Only

The focus is exclusively on coxswains

This is a rowing camp where coxing skills are the only focus.

Sparks ‘rents’ the team: boats and athletes (and they win too, with a fundraiser.) Entire on water practices are spent on absolutely everything that goes with being the ninth seat. The art of steering, command structure, docking, dealing with conditions, and interpreting drills are only the tip of the iceberg. Coxswains only gives us a chance to focus more intensely on the advanced curriculum (see below) we’ve developed and use at our summer camp and fill a need we’ve seen from many coxswain and college counseling clients.

Advanced coaching from elite coxswains

As coxswains know, there’s very few elites out there – and even then, the education received can be hard to come by because it can’t be done on the water in the course of a normal practice. Our coxswain coaches are some of the top in the world. They have been to the world championships and the Olympics. They’ve given years of their lives – both young and adult – to the seat.

Even though we could hold a camp similar to this without this staff and make it revolutionary given the concept of exclusive coxswain focus, we believe our staff rounds camp up to the best level of coxswain coaching in the world.

A curriculum years in the making

We made a decision early on at Sparks to help coxswains by taking a serious look at creating a concrete system for coxswain education and employing it via our camps and virtual coxswain coaching and college counseling. After years of fine-tuning and employing this system we’re happy to utilize the best pieces in person.

Coxswains can expect to learn in much the same way doctors do rounds in teaching hospitals. They will be put in small groups with their attending coach and present to the group during on water exercises throughout the week.

  1. Awareness: We believe awareness is the most important aspect of coxing because all coxswains are self-taught. We learn from our surroundings – from what our coaches and athletes are saying, and what we’re feeling and seeing inside, outside, and around the shell. Our curriculum emphasis awareness via daily, detailed analysis of everything from digital recordings to inward reflections during training.
  2. Steering: Steering is absolutely essential for coxswains: the fastest distance between two points is a straight line. Beyond that, safety and shell integrity are at stake. We utilize buoyed and non-buoyed courses as well as teach steering in different wind conditions. The curriculum also addresses turns for head racing.
  3. Organization: We teach coxswains how to organize their boats effectively on the water and off to make sure they’re running efficient and effective practices and maximize potential boat speed. We measure organization by making sure that coxswains communicate clearly and effectively to achieve objectives and goals established by coaches and the team.
  4. Direction: If you can’t hear your commander on the battlefield, chaos will ensue; coxswains must construct clean and effective command structures. Coxswains are shown how to most effectively give a command and execute it in real-time scenarios on the water. Coxswains are also taught how to evaluate their audio recordings to find their own personal structure.

If you have questions, we're happy to speak further. 

Click the bottom right corner to send us a message, or setup a time to talk below.

Set Up A Call To Talk Further

Summer Coxswains Only

Vera Terlouw

Coxswain, Dutch Development Program

Vera Terlouw is a Dutch native and national team hopeful. She hails from one of the most successful countries in our sport. Her coxing experience includes Henley and much of the European circuit with Dutch development and elite level crews. She was attracted to Sparks given her interest in coxing education whereby she has coached coxswains and developed coxswain selection procedures for multiple clubs in Holland. She is an engineer by training and is interested in fluid dynamics. We’re excited to bring an international perspective into a game that can suffer from local bias.

Peter Wiersum

Men’s Olympic Coxswain, Dutch National Team

Peter and the Dutch 8+ won bronze in the 2015 World Championships, ahead of the US Men and in a qualifying slot for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. This will be Peter’s third Olympiad after ’08 in Beijing and ’12 in London. Peter coaches juniors and coxswains in the Netherlands, (and for whatever reason found it beneficial to translate some of Marcus McElhenney’s work for Dutch coxswains!). He is a coxswain with a level of racing experience that less than five coxswains on the planet have enjoyed.

Leigh Carroll

US National Team
Sparks Coxswain Associate

Leigh Carroll is a former Division 1 and National Team coxswain who has coached on both the junior and collegiate levels. After a successful career coxing the Brown Men’s varsity 8+, she held coaching positions with Wayland-Weston Rowing Association and the Harvard-Radcliffe lightweight women’s team. An experienced international racer, Leigh also coxed the US women’s 8+ to a second-place finish in Australia at the Samsung World Cup after helping the U23 national team to a bronze finish at the World Championships and Brown to a second-place finish in the Grand Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta. Leigh holds a Masters Degree in Education from Stanford University with a concentration in Secondary School Teaching.

Marcus McElhenney

Men’s Olympic Coxswain, US National Team
Sparks Coxswain Director

Marcus is a Philadelphia coxswain who’s found victory on the Schuylkill and many places elsewhere. After a successful scholastic career in Philadelphia, he coxed the USA Men to three world championship titles and the Olympic Men’s 8+ to a bronze at the 2008 Beijing Games. Marcus is an experienced junior coach and possesses a personal knowledge of many of the country’s former US team members coaching on the junior and collegiate levels. Marcus holds a JD and “moonlights” in corporate litigation.

Laura Simon

Coxswain Coach, US Jr. National Team
Asst. Coach, Yale University

Laura Simon has accumulated experience at the international, national, and division 1 levels of women’s rowing. The former associate head coach at UMass and current assistant coach at Yale, Laura also served on the US national team. In addition to her coaching duties, she is also a Coxswain Education Coordinator for The Foundation for Rowing Education and the US junior national team’s coxswain coach. Laura co-authored The Coxswain’s Encyclopedia. She enjoys presenting to her peers at the US Rowing Annual Convention and smaller conferences on coaching the coxswain and has been integral in Sparks’ development of our coxing curriculum.

Hadzo Habibovic

Head Coach at Oklahoma City University

Hadzo began coxing for the Chicago Rowing Foundation in 2007. During his high school club days, he qualified the Varsity 8+ for the Youth National Championships 3 years in a row. Hadzo attended the USRowing Men's Junior National Team Development Camp in 2010. Hadzo was recruited to cox at Oklahoma City University where he earned the first IRA National Championship berth in program history in 2015 in the Men's Varsity 8+. Hadzo attended the USRowing World University Games Selection Camp in Boston in 2013 and the USRowing Under-23 National Team Selection Camp held in California in 2014. The summer after his Senior year, he coxed the USA Men's 8+ to a Gold Medal at the World University Games in South Korea in 2015. After college, Hadzo continued to work with the Men's Lightweight National Team High Performance Center in OKC. Hadzo then began his coaching career at the Junior and Collegiate Level while also coaching the Men's Junior National Team Development Camp in the Summer of 2018. Hadzo is now the Head Coach at Oklahoma City University and continues to work with the Junior National Team in the summers.

Summer Coxswains Only

  • Who:  The camp is open to any and all entrants, limited only by number, age, grade level and/or gender, designed for experienced coxswains aged 14-19
  • When: 
    • July 20-24, 2020
    • July 27-31, 2020
  • Cost:  $2,250* | same calendar year and day camper discount codes available. 
  • Where:  Oklahoma City's Boathouse District, a $50M+ development of boathouses (most notably Chesapeake and USRowing's Devon) and water sport facilities on Oklahoma River. Campers will stay at the Marriott Residence Inn within walking distance of the boathouses. Shuttles will run between OKC airport and the hotel on the first and last day of camp.
  • Important Times and Dates:
    • Registration is 1 PM - 3 PM on the 27th and 3rd
    • Camp ends at 2 PM on the 31st and 7th; we recommend allowing two hours prior to scheduling flights.
    • Times for Day Campers generally run from 8 AM to 8 PM 
    • More specific information is available in the registration packet - though we're always available in the lower right hand corner for questions. 
  • Questions: We'd be glad to speak with you; click on the live chat in the bottom right corner.
  • Supervision:  The staff lives amongst the student athletes, and has oversight 24 hours a day. Unhealthy substances and/or behaviors are strictly prohibited.
  • Payment/Refunds:  Payments may be made in full through our registration portal by using the table on the registration tab. Refunds minus a $500 deposit are available until a month before camp.
  • Camp Forms: Camp Forms may be found on your dashboard within 6 weeks of camp. 
  • Staffing:  Some coaches are active US athletes; their availability may be subject to change. To find out about a particular coach, shoot us an e-mail.
  • * on Cost:  Reflects athlete rental expense. Funds support developing and scholarship junior athletes in Oklahoma City.

If you have questions, we're happy to speak further. 

Click the bottom right corner to send us a message, or setup a time to talk below.

Set Up A Call To Talk Further

Summer Coxswains Only

Coxswains, start your engines! Click below to Register.

Are you a same calendar year repeat camper or day camper? Click on the live chat below and get a discount code. 

Jul 20 2020 - Jul 24 2020

Week 1
Good Availability
Week 1 Good Availability OPEN

Jul 27 2020 - Jul 31 2020

Week 2
Good Availability
Week 2 Good Availability OPEN

Summer Coxswains Only

You'll fly into Oklahoma City and recognize a number of other small, intelligent people as you gather at the Marriott Residence Inn. You'll register with the Program Director prior to meeting your coaching staff and touring the amazing facilities in Oklahoma City - and during this time, it will become very apparent why you're there. You'll meet your small group leader and the others in your cohort as you settle in for your first lecture.

The next few days will be an intense mixture of lectures covering the concepts of steering, organization, and commands followed by water sessions to practice each concept. Full days at camp will all be double water sessions unless the coaching staff decides otherwise. This is followed by lectures and small group activities at night - down time will be precious. 

You'll have your small group to crystallize the learning from each day, and this is a good thing in that the concepts of steering, commands, and organization are very broad insofar as determining your personal style and educating your ability level.

Entire sessions can be spent on docking and steering bouyed race courses, as well as head race turns. Commands and audio review of elite coxswains is a typically very popular part of camp for many. Some also appreciate the recruiting information (yes, a limited number of coxswains are recruited every year).

You'll also have the opportunity to meet one on one with coaching and leadership staff at camp in order to ask questions that pertain to your specific performance and objectives. 

By the end of camp, the goal is for you to have more self-awareness around your skill sets. You need to be able to analyze what you did well and what you need to improve during water sessions with your team back home. Camp will end shortly after it begins, but it will seem like a long time given the volume of information you receive. You'll say your goodbyes to the coaches and small group leaders as well as other coxswains you've met and shared learning with at camp to head away with your folks from the hotel or back to the airport. 

Important Dates and Times

  • Registration is 1 PM - 3 PM on the 20th and 27th; an airport shuttle runs on the first and last day of camp.
  • Camp ends at 2 PM on the 24th and 31st; we recommend allowing two hours prior to scheduling flights.
  • Times for Day Campers are generally from 8 AM to 8 PM
  • More specific information is available in the registration packet - though we're always available in the lower right hand corner for questions.
  • Don't miss the details tab for more information

    If you have questions, we're happy to speak further. 

    Click the bottom right corner to send us a message, or setup a time to talk below.

    Set Up A Call To Talk Further

Summer Coxswains Only

Coxswains - Why Sparks? 

We've developed an internationally recognized coxswain curriculum in coordiation with American and foreign Olympic coxswains (amongst others, including a number of national team coxswains) and typically see over 100 coxswains through our camp system per year.  

The curriculum at base teaches coxswains to be aware enough of themselves to be able to evaluate current skils and structure expectations for improvment in three critical areas: steering, commands, and organization. This video covers the curriculum as provided at our coxswains only camps, though campers at our collegiate and international camps also use the same curriculum. 

What level of experience is necessary for camp?

We typically recommend at least a season of coxing experience for this camp whereas the average is 2-3; novice coxswains should take a look at our collegiate camps. 

I’m a coxswain and can’t decide between camps - help?

This very much depends on where you are with coxing, your goals, and sometimes your college search.

The collegiate camps have their own coxswain coaching staff and coxswain curriculum off water, but are integrated with the rowing camp on-water and provide no specialized on-water coaching for coxswains.

At our coxswains only camps, the rowers are rented such that the on-water coaching is entirely devoted to the coxswains and this allows an extra amount of intensity and learning. Typical participants have been coxing for more than two seasons and average around three.

Our international coxswain camp in Holland is a much smaller cohort of 6 with the same resources as coxswains only insofar as on-water time being devoted to coxswains; the program also enables coxswains to race in a large European regatta. Students must apply for this camp and show maturity and thoughtfulness.

Who are your coxswain coaches and why are they qualified to teach coxswains?

Our coxswain coaches are either coxswains with elite-level experience (international or Olympics) or coaches with elite level experience (international or Olympics) - or both. 

Regardless of experience, they are trained to educate within the curriculum covered above and bring their own experience into perspective for coxswains as they do so. 

What differientiates Sparks camps?

We are the only camp in rowing with a full-time staff that has academic and professional backgrounds in experiential education. We also have a summer operations staff (many are returners that teach during the school year) who buy into the idea of personal growth at camp not just for campers - but for themselves as well.

The result is a culture sincerely committed to the power of rowing as a personally transformative experience built on vulnerability, thoughtfulness, responsibility, and initiative. 

This does not mean other camps are relatively inferior; in fact, we feel such a perspective is not helpful. The camp needs to fit the athlete. Our focus is on utilizing rowing to create self-awareness for our camp community.

Do you offer scholarships or discounts?

We can offer day camper discounts for campers not staying in the hotel and discounts for same calendar year repeat campers. Beyond this, we cannot offer discounts that are not open to all due to NCAA regulations.

Touch base with us via the live chat for discount codes. 

Do you honor rooming requests?

Typically, no - unless in the case of a medical issue. We seek to avoid social cliques at camp. These requests do not allow the camp to meet each camper on an individual level - a level of educational quality we're serious about providing. The requests also unintentionally disable the fun and according growth of meeting new people (everyone feels awkward at the start of camp) and gaining new perspective on the sport. That said, there's plenty of time to hang out and experience camp with one's friends (the ones from before camp) during the day at camp. 

Where are camp forms found?

Camp forms are issued at least six weeks prior to camp on our site via your dashboard.

Tell me about safety at Sparks

We employ safety and risk management practices from the adventure education industry, where some risk is inherent but must be quantified insofar as educational value. These practices are initially employed in program design and we work hard to train operations staff to seek to maintain an awareness of specific risks at all times. No outdoors programming can guarantee safety, however professional management of risk is key to the art of providing consistently excellent experiential education programming.