early morning row

What Rowing Has Taught Me

FSU scrimmage at UF Original photo by Sarah Thornton Let me start this off by explaining I am not a rower. This is one of the most confusing parts of telling people what I do. I could say I do crew but no one knows what that is, I could tell people I’m a coxswain but that’s just worse. So I just tell people I row. In reality, it is so much more and different from that. I have been a coxswain since my freshman year of high school and have fallen in love with the beauty of the sport. Going on six years of coxing, it is impossible to not have some takeaways. First I should probably explain what exactly I do. As a coxswain I am in charge of steering, motivation, facilitating practice, race plans, etc. What I usually hear when people find out I am a coxswain is, “Oh! You’re the one who sits in the boat and yells at them.” Well technically, yes but I wish it was that simple. I like to say that rowing is a physical sport and coxing is mental. While the rowers are physically moving the boat I am figuring out ways to make them move even faster and more efficiently. 

The absolute worst part of coxing that no one told me is there is no book, coach or fellow coxswain that can teach you what to do. They can tell you what to do, what to say, and how to say it, but to really learn anything as a coxswain you have to fail and fail again. I am the type of person who likes to have things all laid out for me so I can accomplish tasks just like checking off a list, but it’s not that linear. You have to have days where you steer straight, where you run into buoys, where you get praise from your rowers, and where you get yelled at from your coach. I learned how true the saying, "Everything happens for a reason," really is. You fall and you pick yourself right back up. You learn from every mistake, coxing taught me not to be afraid of those mistakes.  

Elie and i at regionals Original photo by sarah thornton I remember my freshman and sophomore year of high school I was so scared to make the wrong choice so I just wouldn’t make one. I was so scared of being wrong and getting yelled at that I just stayed put. For example, if I didn’t know whether we were staying out on the water or going back in I would just have the rowers stop rowing all together and just wait for my coach to tell me what to do. In reality that just made things worse. I remember my coach coming up to me after practice one day and telling me, “The wrong choice is better than no choice at all. You are in charge out there, you need to be decisive and make a decision.” Since then I have translated that to all things, not just coxing. I learned you can’t just sit and wait for anyone in life to tell you the right thing to do. 

My experience with the sport has been invaluable. I can confidently say it has shaped me into the person I am today and I don’t know where I would be without it. The sport, the coaches and the people throughout all the years at First Coast Rowing and Florida State Rowing have shaped me. So thank you!

1st place states Original photo by sarah thornton

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