Become A Coxswain

Listen to the pronunciation of “coxswain”

The Role of the Coxswain

The coxswain is an integral part of the crew. The coxswain serves as the eyes and brain of a crew, with their primary responsibility being the safety of his or her crew. The coxswain not only steers the shell, but also must motivate and unify the crew. Acting as the coach’s assistant, the coxswain must implement the coach’s plan, as well as identify and correct mistakes of the members of the crew.

smiling coxswain

Attributes of a Coxswain

A coxswain has to be smart, competitive and able to remain calm under pressure while coaching and taking charge of the crew. The coxswain does all this while also concentrating on steering and making adjustments due to various pressures from rowers, waves, and wind that constantly pull you off course. Coxswains are generally on the lighter side, about 130 pounds or less, and can be male or female. Although the cox doesn’t move the boat by pulling an oar, he or she is responsible for making the boat move by guiding and motivating the crew to reach its fullest potential.


Give it a Try

If you are lightweight, outgoing, enjoy a challenge and want to develop leadership and coaching skills, consider being a coxswain. Just like rowers, coxswains learn by doing – and we will help you learn. You will work closely with the coach, and your stroke seat will also be a valuable source of instruction as you get started. If you’d like to give coxing a try, let us know.

Coxswain’s Eye View

Get an idea of what a coxswain sees & says from this video segment of UVRF masters women’s eight racing at the Head of the Charles. This video is the last mile (of three) in the race.

Common Coxswain Commands

Ready All, ROW!
Command used to start everyone rowing at the same time
Weigh Enough!
Means to stop rowing – everyone stops at the same time
Build in three…
Letting the crew know you want them to build up to full pressure rowing over the next three strokes. Like most other commands given when you are moving, this command is followed by counting out the interim strokes and restating the command again. “One, Two, Three, Full Pressure now! – ON THIS ONE!”
Command given after you reach the finish line, or when a workout piece has been completed. You are telling all the rowers to row at an easy pace with no pressure. Proper technique and timing must still be performed by the crew.

More Rowing Terminology

Like anything else, the sport of rowing has its own specific terminology. Check out more rowing terms.