The World's best coxes on "One tip you wish you'd been given when you started coxing"

This article has been one of the most exciting things we've ever got to write, because we got to ask some of the best coxes in the world one question - "Can you please tell us one tip you wish you'd been given early in your coxing career?"

With the new season upon us we thought this was the perfect time to share these absolute gems with you. So whether you are new to coxing, an old hand, the coach/captain of novice coxes, or just interested in the wise words of the best in the world - this article is for you!


Peter Cipollone – Olympic Champion 2004, USA M8+

“Don't talk unless absolutely necessary. Listen, observe, and work to understand the reasons behind the coach's technical calls. Do this until you can identify the root causes yourself, make those same calls and get the same improvements. Every word you say needs to have a positive effect (or at least a chance of it). If what you are about to say does not have a clear purpose and action, say nothing. Go back to listening and observing. Something I *was* told early on that really helped: learn to row a single scull.”

Phelan Hill – Olympic Champion 2016, Great Britain M8+

“So my biggest thing I wish people would have said earlier is... dont be afraid to admit you dont know something and ask plenty of questions! There is a myth in coxing circles that to be good you have to act with authority and be in total control, in practice coxes translate that as meaning you have to be in charge, know everything and silence any rowers who may question your decision. This creates a bad feeling between cox and rower and in many cases there will always be rowers with more experience.

Far better to admit you dont know something and ask questions to get to the root of issue, that way you know better and can provide a better service to your rowers!”

Caleb Shepherd – 2014 World Champion and world record holder, New Zealand M2+

“I wish that when I was younger I had been told to take all criticism constructively and turn it into positive action. Even if the points come across in a negative way, turn it into something useful, and use it to become a better coxswain.”

Rowley Douglas – Olympic Champion 2000, Great Britain M8+

“If I could pick something I wish someone had started teaching me/helping me develop it would have been how to read the signals that the boat and crew emit and can be translated into an understanding of what is going well and what needs improving - in other words, boat feel. I am slightly loathed to call it boat feel as it is not solely down to feel but includes sight and sound as well. Learning to decode all of this and translate it into action is an invaluable ability to making the boat go faster. There is no magic here, you ‘just' need an articulate and quality coach and crew (or just a single crew member) to be able start learning how to do this.”

Francie Turner – Cox of the 1st New Zealand W8+ ever to qualify for the Olympic Games

“My tip would be to find you own style as a cox. Learn calls and tone variation from experienced coxes, but don't be afraid to add your own personality and flare to your calls. When you cox from the heart and are true to you, you will have your best races.”

Henry Fieldman – 2016 World Champion, Great Britain M2+

“Making mistakes is part of the learning process. Each mistake is a golden opportunity to learn something new. Making a mistake once is fine, but making it twice is not.”

Daniela Druncea – 2016 Olympic Bronze medallist, Romanian W8+

“I think the most important tip for me is to know my girls very well at training, but also outside of training/in their normal lives, because we are a team all of the time”

Neil Chugani – World Champion 2001, Great Britain M2+

“Early in my career, I wish I’d been given the reassurance that there is no one “right" way to cox.  There are effective, and ineffective (and of course safe and unsafe) ways of coxing, but no one right way.  Unusually in sport, it is a discipline which offers a lot of lattitude for the character and personality of each cox to be brought to bear uniquely in the way that he or she executes the responsibility.  Knowing this earlier in my career would have helped me to develop my own style more quickly and more naturally, rather than labour for some time under the impression that there was a singularly right and elusive way of doing things, and trying to understand what that was.”


And finally, from a couple extras from the Chattercox team themselves...

Zoe De Toledo

"If I could tell novice me anything it would be to talk less and listen more. I always had difficulty staying focussed during longer sessions, and it probably took me a lot longer to learn about good technique because I often lacked concentration and so wasn't taking in what the coaches and rowers were saying.

One great tip I did get was to say yes to any opportunity - cox any crew that offers you the chance, whether they are elite, masters, or novice. You will ALWAYS find something new to learn"

Katie Apfelbaum 

"I wish someone had helped me understand that you can make a boat go faster and hold a crew to a high standard without being overly critical or negative. You see a lot of bad rowing early on, and it is so easy to become nit picky, reciting laundry lists of things the rowers must change to get better. I wish I had known to listen to the boat, coach, and the crew more so that I could pick out something that was going well and create momentum."


Thank you so much to the coxes above who offered us their top tips. We'd love to hear more from all of you out there, so tweet us (@chattercox1), or leave us a comment below.