Drivers Wanted

By Bill Manning

Henley, Great Britain. Elite Women's Eights. E8+. Princeton University Cox, makes the calls Third and Finals day, of the annual Women's Henley Regatta raced on the River Thames at Henley Reach. Photo by Peter Spurrier.

Recruiting for coxswains is difficult for two simple reasons: college teams need far fewer coxswains than rowers, and coxswains don’t have erg times. One advantage, however, is that at some colleges a coxswain can be a candidate for multiple teams. These differences make the path to college unique for prospective coxswains.

If a college you are targeting has multiple teams you could cox for, reach out to each of them. Males should contact both the heavyweight and lightweight teams. Females should make contact with both the women’s and men’s coaches. Also make sure you’re the correct weight for the team. Women’s coxswains need to weigh a minimum of 110 pounds and men’s coxswains at least 125 pounds.

After figuring out if you’re the right size, the coach will typically try to determine how good you are in the boat. One clear indication is whether or not you’re the top coxswain on your current team. Another indication is a coach’s recommendation. These are vital. Winning a few races helps too. It’s that simple.

Be an athlete. Every coach would prefer a coxswain who has competed in other sports. Proven competitiveness counts for a lot.

With your correspondence, show you’re organized, responsive, and on top of your game. Your conduct must give coaches confidence that they can trust you to lead their crews. Nothing will torpedo your chances faster than being undependable or your parents doing the communicating.

Do not send a resume filled with extra-curricular activities that are non-athletic. College coaches are looking for athletes who want to row or cox; not do a million different things on campus.

Some coaches want recordings of your races. Others don’t. Steering matters much more than your calls. Don’t boast that you’re a “great motivator.” It shows a complete lack of understanding of the coxswain’s role.

Finally, if you want to get recruited, make it easier for the coaches to recruit you. Coaches want coxswains who can gain admission with little or no help. Be an above average academic candidate for their college. Rarely will coaches use their limited admissions support for a coxswain. The same is true for athletic scholarships. If you’re not looking for an athletic grant in aid you will have more opportunities, even at scholarship schools. Unfortunately, sometimes the same is true for need-based financial aid. Ask.