Rowing Camps for Coxswains

By Ryan Sparks | April 17, 2015

Coxing takes a special type of person. The position is very independent, and often requires the individual undertaking it to develop his or herself as a result of experience and informally gathered feedback. The majority of junior coxswains we see are very intelligent and generally have GPAs in excess of 3.7 on a 4 point scale. The most successful of them are no different than excellent senior executives in their ability to develop and innovate their way to the first boat. Camps can be extremely beneficial for coxswains (more so than rowing athletes) or utterly useless (more so than rowing athletes). Let's look at why and how coxswains can utilize camp to gain extreme benefit.

Some rowing camps may be extremely beneficial for rowers but far less so for coxswains. The coxswain camp "market" has taken leaps and bounds in its effectiveness in the last five years in terms of the options available and the formalization of educational options for coxswains. In the interest of full disclosure, Sparks (the company that maintains this blog) has been a part of the push, holding the opinion that a concrete educational philosophy must exist for coxswains and runs a gamut of coxswain specific camps.

Finding a Good Coxswain Camp

The first thing to consider is whether someone will provide coaching specifically for coxswains. A good camp should have a solid coxswain specific staff and also allow coxswains exposure to more general rowing staff. Shorter, 5 day camps with collegiate coaches may be more beneficial for coxswain than rowers. A specific coxswain staff allows the guidance for coxswains to develop their skill sets and execute ideas. When the “general camp staff” are collegiate coaches and coxswains are receiving executables from a coxswain coach, some collegiate coaches pick up on coxswains who execute well given there are no objective recruiting standards for coxswains, unlike erg scores for rowing athletes.

The second thing to consider is the talent level of coxswains at the camp. While determining the level of your peers before arrival at camp is next to impossible and there’s guaranteed to be a wide arc, the internet makes research possible. Good coxswains (just starting or otherwise) do most things proactively, and you can guarantee that includes camp research. Most camps also seek to differentiate themselves via their marketing and as such, you might also analyze the marketing material of a given camp to get an idea of what type of coxswains the camp will attract. Finding coxswains with similar goals - whether that is to merely get to know the sport better or to be intensely competitive - is extremely helpful for those in what is usually a lonely position.

The third thing to consider is the return on your investment after camp. If you’re reading this article, you’re most likely at least quasi-serious about coxing. As a result, you probably want to find a camp that provides more than just fun without any long-term benefit. You should feel free to e-mail camps beforehand and ask to speak with the coxswain educator. Feel free to ask what will be taught at camp. You wouldn’t goto college without knowing anything about the quality or direction of the curriculum, would you? Ultimately coxswain camps can run in the multiple thousands of dollars and generally start over 1K. As a result, a simple e-mail exchange can be very helpful in clarifying whether you feel you’ll be able to develop over the long-term as a result of your time at camp - and you can even ask about the other types of coxswains they usually get. Don’t be afraid (or too lazy) to reach out. A good camp is going to be happy to hear you’re considering them.

A Word On Water Time

Water time is not the end-all be-all of a good coxswain camp. You get plenty of time on the water with your home teams - the question is whether you learn, not whether you spend time on the water. Spending time in the “classroom” (whether real or at the back of the boathouse) at these camps is valuable; even hanging out with peers from other teams and talking about the sport can be helpful. Ultimately you need to gain awareness of where your current coxswain skill sets are such that you can develop them with the perspective you gain at camp. A good coxswain camp should provide both awareness and perspective as well as the tools to continue moving towards higher skill levels long after camp.