Seat Racing Coxswains

By Marcus McElhenney | January 20, 2014

Recently I was asked my opinion on seat racing coxswains. Over the years I have been involved in several and have witnessed many more.  I actually have done quite well with them, but regardless I do not support them.  Let me know what you think for my reasons why below.

Okay, generally I do not like or support coxswain seat races.  Mostly because they are not done properly, or to be fair...cannot be done properly.  First thing though, is as a coxswain you should stay away from conversations about how good you are or how the coxswain should be selected.  As a coxswain you really should not get involved on engage your coaches or athletes in anyway about coxswain selection.  Basically because it is generally not your place to discuss your situation on the team with them.  Getting feedback, sure…but we do not want to be viewed as talking our way into a boat.  Politicking is not a good way to go about being selected.  It might work in the short run, but never pans out in the long run as the boats never do as well.

As for the seat racing, there are just too many variables when switching a coxswain that cannot be accounted for which could have a big impact.  The major one is the fact that you are switching into a boat that is not prepared to have you.  So no matter which coxswain you are, you are not going to be as effective as the other because you did not prepare them or warm up with them.  You will not be the guy who organized (or did not organize) them on and off the water.  So you could be a terrible cox who switches into a boat that had a good coxswain that started the day right and they are 'on.'  On the flip side, the good coxswain who did it all right gets dropped into a boat that cannot dig itself out of a hole.  This is because the terrible coxswain did not do his job in getting the boat organized on the water.  Now the good coxswain effectively beat himself through no fault of his own.  And the terrible cox receives a windfall.  So generally this is a no bueno.  Even a good coxswain will have extreme difficulty in turning that around in only a few short minutes.  (For rowers it is different because the feel of the boat actually changes immediately and it is easier to hit that reset button.)

The other way to do it would be to give each coxswain a day and compare them across days.  But you obviously see the flaws in that scenario.

So no, I do not support coxswain seat racing...unless it is to show basic steering or weight issues.  Even then though it has to be taken with a grain of salt and closely monitored.  Of course this is not even factoring in the fact that you are dealing with hormonal boys & girls who get upset and have wide ranges of performances from day to day and even piece to piece.  (Less so with National Team athletes-but believe me I have seen it, and it does happen!)

You want to be the best coxswain? You become it over time.  You steer better every day.  Your calls must be better and you must be effective.  Every day.  That is how the best coxswains are chosen for the job.  Not because the guys like you, not because the coach likes you, not because you win a seat race.  But because you are the best, each and every single day.

Go fast,
Marcus