An Open Letter to College Boat Clubs Regarding Coxes and Coxing.

PostAn Open Letter to College Boat Clubs Regarding Coxes and Coxing.
Posted At22:31, 11th Oct 2014
217 weeks ago
It is Michaelmas again. Boat club committees are, or at the very least should be, stirring from their summerís siesta. And any clubs half organised have been busy rounding up all the novices they can lay their hands on to ensure their legacy, future and propagation. And perhaps this year we shall all be successful. Perhaps this year we shall lay a bedrock upon which we can build many successful future generations. Where we have useful balanced crews. Which the correct number on each side, of the appropriate height and strength so your boat likes to travel in a vaguely straight line. Oh and a cox. Per eight rowers. Who is safe. And responsible. And has the trust of the crew.

In the kindest way possible, the standard of coxing in Oxford is held in fairly low regard from those who occasionally venture to and from waters afar. This may in part be because any cox who has spent a Michaelmas on the Isis has had their Ďstatisticsí, in terms of blade clashes etc., ruined by sheer volume and general Isis factors. Maybe it is because coxing bumps has a habit of instilling a somewhat care free happy slapping attitude to equipment which wouldn't be tolerated anywhere else. Or maybe, just maybe, its because there is a general failure, on the whole, to reliably produce good coxes.

Iíve been a committee person. Iíve had to do my fair share of organising. Iíve been a captain. Iíve been a rower. Iíve been a cox to a high level, beyond college rowing. I flatter myself into believing I have seen this issue from most sides.

Letís address the issues:
We donít recruit enough. - Recruiters tend to be captains. Captains tend to be rowers. Coxing recruitment suffers. After all what rowers tend to offer prospective coxes is exposure to precipitation and a lack of reliable sleep.
Coxes become estranged. - Crews bond. Crews bond through mutual pain and suffering and ergs and pain and suffering. Coxes on the whole are slightly separate. They have to be due to their role and their relationship with the boat and the coach. Every now and then horrific breakdowns occur between crews and coxes. Coxing mistakes tend to be very evident. Rowers turn to one another for support. Coxes donít have that luxury and can often find themselves hung out to dry; Iím sure that the captains among us can think of one or two occasions in recent memory where this has happened. Letís not even get started on the relationship between some of the blues squads and their coxes.
Coxes are Ďdifficultí to coach. - Plenty of the coaches plying their trade havenít spent too long in the ninth seat. Also from a practical viewpoint. When your crew is on the far side of the river, who knows what your cox is doing or saying. So you leave them be. And they make the same mistakes day in day out. And so every day you watch the same crews get desensitised by the same coxes who ĎHold it Hardí every lap as they spin. And every few weeks you see a coach who has paid so little attention to their cox that after two laps they havenít realised that their cox is not wearing their buoyancy aid (this is clearly the coxís issue, but coaches and stern pairs alike, provided they are blessed with the gift of sight, should notice).
Coxes are Ďreplaceableí. - Would like to point out that this isnít belief I subscribe to at all. Its disturbing that this seems to be considered a viable option. It may in part be due to the flag system run for bumps where coxing restrictions are lifted due to conditions (not something I object to). But it seems all to easy, and shockingly common, to parachute in a cox just before racing. I feel this is epitomised by the final Captainís Meeting of last term; try to convince captains you need an associate rower for your first boat and youíll be laughed out of the room, but it seems that with coxes anything goes. If this is deemed acceptable you have to expect captains to play the game.

Solutions. Not writing this to provide them. Mostly due to not having simple solutions to hand. This is an open thread to see opinions. Iím interested if other people feel this way. And how you as individual clubs choose to solve it. It is apparent that some of you out there are better at dealing with this issue than others and would just like to post this as a talking point.

PostRE: An Open Letter to College Boat Clubs Regarding Coxes and Coxing.
Posted At23:38, 11th Oct 2014
217 weeks ago
Whilst ignoring the fairly thinly veiled comments regarding coxgate. Letís face it, no one wants to drag that topic out any further than it already has been, I do agree with most of the sentiment of this post.

I feel in part it is due to just numbers. In an ideal world you need precisely eight rowers per cox. Any more or any less is a complete pain. Thus coxing issues are always magnified. However that is an issue that we can never avoid.

It is very apparent that some colleges fare worse at coxing recruitment than others. A couple of years ago one of the colleges I was affiliated with ended up exclusively with coxes who also rowed. A situation which inevitably ends up with difficulty filling the coxing seats for first boats. And some very low sterns for 2nd/3rd boats, hilarious but by no means that big an issue.

Cox training is also something I feel very strongly about. I, personally, have been coached by a good number of coaches. Including those who have gone on to run high performance squads at the major boat clubs in the UK. And I can genuinely say that very few coaches took a productive or effective approach to cox training. Rather unsurprisingly the most successful of them had most of her experience from coxing.


(Opinions are my own and not those of any boatclubs that I am or have been affiliated to/usual disclaimer).
PostRE: An Open Letter to College Boat Clubs Regarding Coxes and Coxing.
AuthorThomas Bladon
Posted At09:42, 12th Oct 2014
217 weeks ago
I think the punishment for not taking the training of coxes seriously is evident from even a cursory inspection of some of the boats on the Isis. At Hughís weíve previously overlooked coxing however I am proud to say that I think weíre getting a much better handle on it. We have always had a Captain of Coxes - even if that position is sometimes held by a rower. We expect our coaches to invest in improving our coxes and as a result I believe that Hughís generally produces coxes of a higher than average standard on the Isis. As such we will always support our coxes one hundred percent.

Weíve had coxes make mistakes. All boatclubs have. The most recent and serious was a cox getting flustered and calling a pressure change the wrong way causing a crash in the gut - sorry Mansfield. St Hughís paid, in full, for the necessary repairs. This specific cox has now gone on and has become our current Captain of Coxes and, as always, has the full trust and backing of the club.

Unfortunately the lack of respect for coxes is not only at a high level amongst captains as seen in the previously mentioned Coxgate scandal. This week I received a disappointing fine-request (Iím OURCs Treasurer) during which a coach had told a crew to overtake in the gut, The cox rightly overruled the coach yet the crew decided to move to all four regardless. This predictably led to a crash. Crews need to trust and listen to their coxes first and foremost.

Thomas Bladon
St Hughís Menís Captain
OURCs' Treasurer
PostRE: An Open Letter to College Boat Clubs Regarding Coxes and Coxing.
AuthorCaroline Barnes
Posted At16:55, 23rd Oct 2014
216 weeks ago
I row in the Tier 1 womenís squad at City of Oxford and, like most clubs, we are always looking for coxes.
We want to offer coxes the opportunity to come and train with a successful squad (our top coxed four reached the finals of HWR this summer) to provide them with experience to enhance their skills.
We train at Reading during term time on Saturdays and hold our own club Heads races every Sunday morning.
We regularly compete at a high standard in races throughout the year. We believe all of this would give coxes much needed experience off the Isis and provide them with invaluable race practice.
If you're interested in trialling for OUBC et al then this might just be the edge you need!
Please email me if you're interested... and we always provide tea and cake :o)