The Point of Summer Camps for Coxswains

By Sparks Editorial Staff | May 15, 2014

Ok. So this will obviously be biased given we run the most coxswain camps in the world, but nonetheless it will be entertaining - and we'll cover getting the most out of your camp experience regardless if you're at our camps or someplace else.

What's in a summer rowing camp for coxswains? You could argue that some summer rowing camps may be more beneficial for coxswains than rowers. Because whereas rowers cannot improve on the whole (physiologically) at five day camps, coxswains can. Depending on how they use the experience.

So, should you just show up and hope for the best? No. Good coxing relies on a proactive, organized mindset. Showing up at camp and hoping someone else will do that for you is like getting in the boat and thinking someone else is going to steer. So, here are some points to get the most out of camp this summer:

1. Humble thyself. You may have had to do everything yourself up until now, and you've just managed to make it to camp.You may have coxed an 8+ to a medal at junior nationals. It doesn't matter. Good coxing is a fairly subjective art form, and while you must find what style works best for you (a point we emphasize constantly on this blog), you should be deeply thankful for other peoples' opinions on how you're doing regardless of whether you agree with them or not. You may even mod your style and improve after the camp, who knows?

2. Show up at camp with goals. These should be small and specific. An example of a good goal is "understand how to steer better in a tailwind" or "learn about how to call a move" - things that can be accomplished in 5 days. Vague, overarching goals like "learn how to relate to my athletes better" or "make better calls" won't work.

3. Calls are not the most important thing about coxing. We hope you understand this already, but if you put an extra 30m onto a race your crew (nor you) will care if you inspired them. Despite what your rowers may think, it's not your primary job to provide their motivation. You have enough to do, and so should they.

4. Get to know specific coaches and what they want from coxswains. This is a huge plus for coxswains at five day multi-coach camps. Coaches generally want similar things from rowing athletes, but things become completely subjective when coaches interact with coxswains. This can be helpful in understanding how (and who) they recruit.

5. Regardless of the situation, be present.  Some camps are harder to be a coxswain at than others. Time in the launch can be extremely useful if used to explore some of the things above - or you can also succeed in convincing the coach you're riding with that you're not engaged. Our number one piece of advice to clients who compete for things like junior national team selection is to stay present to their everyday as opposed to thinking about whether they're going to make the boat or not - awareness not just in the seat but outside of it will result in better perspective, which will allow you to set better goals and continue to enjoy coxing.

There's a lot of pressure in being a good coxswain - that's basically because you're your own boss - and people who are successful at that aren't known for being easy on themselves. But they still have fun with it (or they should), and so should you. To really get the most out of camp, you need to come with an openness to reordering your priorities (some camps will review audio (see the article below re: recordings), but there's a lot more to good coxing) and an interest in gaining perspective on the sport to bring back to your own style of coxing - most importantly, you need to understand that no one style of coxing is "best" unless it works best for the specific individual using it and their crews.