The cox is a crucial seat in the boat. As much as every rower and their physical and mental fitness makes a difference come race day, so too does the ability of the cox. The cox's role is multifaceted. Initially, the role will be mainly steering the boat during training sessions, and ensuring the safety of the crew. As your experience increases, the role will additionally require a good technical understanding of rowing: you will be a second coach within the boat. Additionally, you will be a tactician for races, and a motivating influence when your rowers need it most.
Safety: This is the number one most important thing for a cox always to remember! The cox is responsible for the safety of your crew and any other crew on the stretch of river you are rowing on. Remember that you are best placed to know what is safe. Your coaches are there to help you make these decisions, but always remember that well meaning coaches may try to persuade you to do something you consider unsafe simply because they are not placed to see what you can see. Particularly on the
Steering: Good lines make all the difference. In the bumps races, the steering can easily mean the difference between getting or losing a bump. Tight corners and tactical lines can save ground that other crews may lack, and this is all additive. One good line can save half a length or more easily, and particularly in Bumps this really matters. Steering is an art that takes time to get right. Practice is the key. All boats steer slightly differently. Get used to how the boat steers, and find the best balance between using the rudder alone versus using the crew to steer you round and all combinations of the two. Remember when thinking about steering that lines will be affected by two external factors: the wind and the stream- neither of these should be underestimated.
Technical coaching: More experienced coxes will know that you are an ideally placed set of eyes able to pick up on many technical inconsistencies in the rowing. Good coxes will learn to spot these, find a way to convey to your crew a way to improve technical inconsistencies and provide them with feedback as to how that change went. A large proportion of both training and competitive coxing can be summarised by four thought processes: 1. What, at this moment in time, is limiting the speed the boat is moving?; 2. What must be changed to improve the boatspeed?; What must I tell the rowers to (as succinctly and quickly as possible) implement this change?; 4. Did this change provide the desired effect? Remember that as you get better at spotting these mistakes, you may start to identify multiple issues going on simultaneously. Of course it isn't possible to act on all of these at the same time, and may be worth using a whole crew focus at a particularly problematic part of the stroke to try and bring the stroke back together.
Motivation and tactics: I have grouped these together since they are perhaps the two hardest things to 'learn' as such. They are incredibly subjective, and every different crew that you cox will have different goals and motivations that push them to succeed. Over time you will hopefully pick up on things that members of the boat respond well to, be that them acting as a leading figure within the boat, being a big personality or quietly getting on with the work etc. It will take time to refine these things you pick up on, and be able to put them into calls that really make a difference to the boat speed. This is something that coxes must talk with their crews and coaches about before races, and even then it will probably take several races with a crew to start to suss out what works well for individuals. In terms of tactics- again this is very important, and in races can again determine the outcome. For example, and simplifying greatly to make the point, in a side-by-side race should I try and get ahead off the start line to demoralise the other crew or is it better to try to hold them and then sprint to the finish? Or where and when should we put in our pushes? Or in bumps- shall we go off particuarly hard from the start to get the early bump or play the long game? These decisions will very according to the ability of the crew, crew and coach preferences and aims/goals of the race. General pointers for both motivation and tactics: Rowers like information- essentially they want to know is, 'are what they are doing working well?' Give them information: time into the piece, splits, cover on the boat, distance to the finish etc. Remember also to use your strokeman to help you- they may be able to help decide the best time to put in pushes.
Coxing at the University is overseen by the Oxford University Coxing Society (OUCS). This is administered by the Captain of Coxes and overseen by Dr. Rachel Quarrell.
To cox in any of the University's clubs you must obtain a coxing licence. These are obtained by attending a coxing registration meeting of which there are normally two at the start of each term. Should you enter the University with a large amount of previous coxing experience you may be exempted from this meeting (details can be obtained from the Captain of Coxes).
Every registered cox has a status which should represent their experience. There are three different statuses:
- Novice (N)
- Experienced (X)
- Senior (S)
Please email coxing[at]ourcs.org.uk if you have any coxing related queries.
For a list of frequently asked questions regarding coxes, please visit this page.