I was a nationally and internationally competitive coxswain for adult men's and women's crew teams for 10 years. It was a great way to establish lifelong friendships, get onto Seattle's gorgeous waterways, and develop my leadership and public speaking skills. Not to mention a habit of waking up way too damn early.
Those are the words I use to describe a great coxswain, and they are the characteristics I've taken back into life. Humility and unflappability became the foundation of how I facilitate and coach.
There is no place for ego in a boat, and no where is that more true than the coxswain's seat. After all, it's THE MOST uncomfortable seat in every. single. boat. The coxswain literally gets the leftover space that isn't being used by the rowers. But humility isn't just about being ok with bruises and getting splashed in the face. It's servant leadership at its finest.
When you do it right, the rowers get the credit.
When you get it wrong, you're the one to catch hell.
Imagine attending a conference where they keynote speaker screams at you and talks only about themselves. *SIGN ME UP*
Coxing - like public speaking - is more than just shouting commands. It's knowing which words are motivating, how to pull the team out of a rut, and when to shut the heck up. None of this is possible without humility.
And with any luck, you’ll win a race and your reward is getting tossed in the drink.
For a great article on the impact and importance of coxswains,
check out NPR's "The Secrets of the Coxswain."
Join me in the coxswain's seat for the 2012 San Diego Crew Classic
with the talented women of the Pocock Rowing Club.