Coxswain, who are they?

Sitting here in Melbourne, Australia, sipping a beer and watching rowing fours and eights practice on the river. I’m wondering who becomes a coxswain? Someone into rowing but who doesn’t want to row. I understand the role a cox plays but I’m curious what prompts someone to become a cox. Did they tend to start out as rowers but didn’t develop physically, got injured, or were otherwise not competitive, or are the more likely to get into the sport with the intention to be a coxswain from the start? Something else?

Can anyone here provide insight?

I’m going out on a limb and say. Someone who has a Daddy(alumni) who paid for the privilege for his kid

The coxswain is significantly smaller than the rowers. He steers the shell and acts as a motivator, keeps the rhythm and sees to the safety of the crew.
Coxswain - Wikipedia

ETA:no Onebox?

I had a friend in college who was a cox. She wasn’t nearly big enough to be a rower. I think she was just friends with rowers.

Ok. That was mean of me . Ignore

Yes I get that, but what prompts someone to become a coxswain? Do they think to themselves, “I’d really like to be a coxswain”, or do they think “I’d really like to be a rower, but can’t, so I’ll settle for coxswain”? To me rowing is a physical sport so it wouldn’t even enter my mind if I wasn’t interested in the physicality of it. But other people might have different motivations.

They enjoy being part of a team? They value being able to make an essential contribution that others on the team can’t make as effectively?

The value they find in the position doesn’t necessarily reflect the path they took to get there. I’m looking for the latter. I was hoping for some personal experience along the lines of @puzzlegal’s.

The youngest male Olympic gold medalist was Klaus Zerta who was a 13 year old coxswain in 1960.

I read this a couple of weeks ago after watching The Boys in the Boat. There are a couple of explanations in there.

O Coxswain! My Coxswain!

This is Stuart Sim, (BA 2017), coxswain of UW varsity men’s eight. He is a master of this position that is unique in sport. The brain behind the brawn of the oarsmen. Navigator, strategist, analyst, communicator, motivator, coach and commander. All together. All the time.

“A lot of people undervalue coxswains,” says men’s head Michael Callahan. “I almost do the opposite. They have to articulate strategy and tactics, and get people to execute them. They have to analyze and adjust on the fly. But most of all, they have to unify the crew, get everyone moving together. That’s what (Washington’s legendary master boat-builder) George Pocock called swing. It’s the story of rowing.”

Stuart Sim, an Aussie, has been a cox since high school in Melbourne.

Well, no personal experience, but I what puzzlegal says sounds as though it might be common. You have friends who row; they need someone of the right build to be a cox; they look at you and thing “hmm, why not”; they ask you; you give it a go; you find it rewarding; you stick with it. Or, the rowing coach approaches and ask you at an age where you are easily persuaded by authority figures. But I suspect a lot of coxes would never have got into it unless somebody had invited them.

(The other possiblity, of course, in a high school context is that being the cox gets you out of, or avoids pressure to participate in, other sports that do not appeal to you. In an environment where sporting involvement is either required or highly socially approbated, a person of slight stature who can’t run very fast or catch or hit a ball might find being cox a very attractive position.)

I sort of equate it to when I became a goalkeeper in (field) hockey. I wanted to join the hockey team, and it turned out I was just really good at saving goals. It’s a distinctive part of the team which can greatly influence the result, and you have a special role.

I’ve known cox’s at university. My university had a heavy focus on the rowing club, and being a cox gave people who would otherwise never make the teams to take an active, and important, part.

Let’s not forget the tale of the Yeshiva University crew team.

The only cox I know personally is also a rower - she coxes on one oct and does solo rowing. So it’s not like she isn’t sporty or fit. She is by far the smartest person on her team. But also by far the smallest.

When I very briefly thought about joining men’s rowing at my university I was given the impression that the coxswains were typically recruited by their rower boyfriends.

That would definitely not be the case for my acquaintance. Her girlfriend isn’t a rower.

I think she just volunteered to be the cox because she was friends with half the team from school or socially. I know none of the team rowed in school (unlike a few of the boy’s school here) but I think what happened is a few schoolmates signed up for rowing in Orientation Week and they just worked out who did what from there.

While it’s a little different, we had a drummer in our dragon boat races.

The drummer also would snatch the flag as we cross the finish line, so the ldeal drummer was tall and skinny, rather than just be very light as in the case of coxswains.

While I never asked the drummers why they participated, they seemed to very much enjoy being be a part of the team, even if they couldn’t be paddlers.

It does look like coxswains play and even more important role than drummers, so I assume they would get that much more satisfaction.

The only cox knew I used to run with. In HS and college when he coxed he was also a wrestler - so VERY fit. And he used to describe the workouts he did as part of the rowing team.

So it isn’t exactly, “Hey shrimp, put down your book, take a hit on your inhaler and get in the boat!”

Don’t recall ever asking how he got into coxing.

One of my college roomies was a rower, not a cox. He wasn’t especially large as men go, but very well-muscled and super fit. The training was insane. I met the team once and the cox wasn’t a “little person”, but was real small as men go.

As @SanVito said, I’d suggest coxing is similar to the goalie position in many sports, catcher in baseball, and perhaps kicker in gridiron football. It’s the most unique role within the team and requires different athletic abilities and a different attitude to the game. And in the case of cox, different overall size/shape.

Somehow you develop an interest in the sport, give it a try, discover the mainstream role(s) are not for you, but you fit the mold of that oddball position. And you’ve found your home.

For sure in those situations, such as college, where the rowers are male and the coxswains are female there’s the extra spice of boy+girl at that hormone-driven age. Some female athletes would really enjoy being ringleader of their own pack of very fit men. Not that they’d necessarily be having sex with any of them, just that being surrounded by them, and in charge, would be a fun role to occupy.

My friend was straight, but was cox for a women’s team. I had no idea that the men’s teams could have women as cox. I can certainly see a girlfriend being recruited.