The high point of 2021 for me, hands down, has been returning to the water with ROW and my Recovery on Water teammates. After a nearly 19 month extended indoor season of Zooming and Ergs, we were back in the boats again May 2nd and it has made a world of difference to return that one area of my life to some sliver of near-normalcy.
This has been my seventh spring/summer/fall here in Chicago with ROW, my sixth water season. Prior to COVID, I took pride in my being willing to sit in any seat on the boat, to the point that I got a Slinky Award a few years ago for always demonstrating flexibility and going where I am needed. I even took on the role of coxswain, basically the person who steers the boat and calls commands for the crew to follow, a few times during the 2018 and 2019 seasons. This water season, I’ve continued rowing with the Masters rowers; however, as a member coach, I’ve also stepped in to a more active role as coxswain and have frequently coxed for both the Novices and Masters. Looking back over the past 6 months, I’ve actually coxed more this water season than I have rowed!
While there is a coach in a launch riding nearby during practice sharing in the responsibility, there is a lot riding on the cox getting it right. I have found that my sailing experience really helps with coxing, from making sure we go where we are headed to understanding wind direction (and how it effects the boat). One of the challenges all crews face, is keeping the boat set and stable and it is the coxswain’s job to help make that happen. Calling commands like “starboards raise your oars, ports lower yours” and “everyone sit up tall” help, but once in awhile, things fall apart to the point the coxswain has to call a ‘way enough’ (which sounds like ‘wane off’), stopping the boat so she can call a reset and restart the piece. No one quits or jumps in the water to swim back to the dock by themselves (and you certainly wouldn’t jump in the Chicago River or Bubbly Creek the two rather dirty waterways where we row!), but it is the coxswain’s job to figure out what is wrong and make adjustments before calling everyone back to The Catch and restarting the piece.
After a busy summer, losing Zora, and the first six weeks of the 2021-2 school year providing its own set of new challenges and anxiety, the set in my life is way off and I’ve decided to do a ‘reset’ during October and November. I need to refocus and reprioritize some things, including writing and photography–and getting a good night’s sleep.
And now, everyone back up to The Catch.
Here are a few links to check out about the role of the coxswain:
The Business Insider-