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A Coxswain’s Perspective


Photo provided by Stefano Balbusso

Coxswain Sarah Dresser began rowing in Spring 2014, and switched to coxing this Fall. This was her first race as a varsity coxswain as well as her first 5,000-meter race.


By Sarah Dresser

Varsity Coxswain

Every morning, I wake up (or rather, get pulled out of bed by my roommate) and put on a sweatshirt. And then another. And maybe another. This is because I am a coxswain and get to sit in the cold while everyone else is sweating away.

While it might seem from the outside that I just sit in the boat, steering and shouting, it is actually a much greater performance than many realize.

For those who do not know me, I am hardly a person who is pushy, demanding, or controlling; I am actually rather quiet, preferring to be in small groups and in relaxed settings. However, this changes as soon as I call, “hands on,” signifying to my rowers that it is time for business, a hard day’s practice. I command and direct those dedicated people to make them stronger, to make them faster, and to make them win.

This confidence to command does not come naturally to most people. It was perhaps my hardest challenge as a new coxswain. Although I had rowed for a semester before becoming a coxswain, it was an uncomfortable transition from bow seat to ninth seat Being the one person responsible for an entire boat’s welfare, being the one person under a microscope and having your voice projected through a speaker system for each and every word to be heard is extremely daunting. It is easy to act meek under these circumstances. But to my rowers, that is completely unacceptable.

This is a coxswain’s “performance,” the attitude and behaviors that build the rowers’ connection to the boat.

A coxswain chooses their words carefully, aimed at channeling the rowers’ energy into the same goal. To do this, I must be confident in myself and my acquired skills in order to push them past their perceived limits and bring them closer as a team.

The best reward as a coxswain is not hearing your own praises from fans, coaches, or teammates; it is hearing your rowers say they’ve never had a better race. When my boat finishes a race, and every rower feels they’ve done their best, I beam with happiness at their success and thank them for the hard work they put in each and every day. I work just as hard for them because I know that the better I perform in the coxswain seat, the harder they will push themselves to be competitive against other teams and against themselves.

With the team’s determination and drive for success, I have no doubt that together, Long Beach State Rowing is prepared to have their best season yet.


Photo provided by Stefano Balbusso