All participants of WRA are required to act as coxswains from time to time. In general, members are expected to cox one time for each three to four times that s/he rows.


What does a Coxswain do?

Most every time you go out in a four, a quad or an eight, you will have a coxswain.

Their basic responsibilities include:

  • Safety of the boat and rowers on and off the water
  • Launching
  • Steering (most important – concentrate on this to start with). This includes directing rowers to power up or down on port or starboard to achieve a course change.
  • Executing Drills as directed by the coach
  • Landing
  • Taking care of equipment (eg cox box, lights)

Your coxswain also will:

  • Give individual feedback to the rowers to help them towards better rowing style — as a coxswain, you are a member of the coaching staff!
  • Always listen to the coach, and don’t ask the crew to do anything you are not sure about.  Coaches will generally have a “theme” of the day” for their drills.
  • Add drills during warm ups or when rowing on the paddle to fix a problem in the boat .
  • Provide enthusiasm/motivation for crews, particularly during race training. Call power tens to bring attention back onto the power in the stroke. If the boat is beginning to fall apart, call a concentration ten to bring your rowers’ attention back onto their technique.

What the heck is a coxswain?

Urban Dictionary

Coxswain n. Characteristics of the coxswain:  
  • • stands around 5 ft 2 in
  • • weighs no more than 110 lbs
  • • directs and steers the boat for crew
  • • sits normally in the stern but in certain 4 person crews, in the bow
  • • has a voice that can be heard for miles
  • • is seen toting around water bottles, shoes, socks, and the ever popular cox box
  • • has a mysterious tan line in the middle of his or her forehead from the strap attached to the microphone on the cox box
  • • upon winning a race, the coxswain is thrown into the water
  • • the coxswain is in charge of directing practices, calling races, and making certain that the $30,000 boat does not hit any other objects such as a bridge, floating log, another boat or a dock


Dot Nichols, an experienced coxswain at WRA, describes her experience:

I began my WRA experience as a rower and loved it from the start; the precise movement of the oars and necessary body control, the tranquility and beauty of the boat on the water, the friendships and group dynamics and of course the healthy activity were addictive.

We rowed at 5:30 in the morning at that time, and that was exhilarating and cool.  Early that  year I found myself looking forward to my turn to cox.

I enjoyed the challenge of steering, docking and maneuvering through what ever our boat encountered.  The cox of a boat is the technical, strategic and emotional leader of the team.

The job requires confidence, a willingness to learn, a calm disposition and a bright mind.

The gratitude of the crew and the joy of meeting the challenge as best I can will keep me motivated as a WRA cox.

My goal future goals include finding a coxswain mentor, become better trained and developing a strong WRA coxing program.