I am a coxswain.
Have been for thirteen years, picked up four national championships and was US Team pre-elite, among other things.
It has nothing to do with being short and loud. Many short, loud people ARE coxswains, but thy are not prerequisites.
You have to know how to row. More importantly, you have to know ABOUT rowing.
Let’s get the basics out of the way:
In order to be adequate:
You have to be able to steer. No matter how small you are, this is a must. If you can’t do this, you can’t cox. And any rower who tells you it’s easy has no concept of drag, position of the coxswain relative to the rudder/stroke delay, disparity between sides, wind/current/tidal conditions, etc.
You have to be able to execute a basic race plan. Know what to do over the course of the race (be it a head race or a sprint race) and how to implement the coach’s basic plan and contingency plans in case of unforseen circumstances.
You have to know enough about rowing to make sure, at the very least, that the blades are going into and out of the water at the same time, and that the rowers are moving at the same rate ont he recovery (the point of the stroke at which the oars are out of the water and they are moving toward the stern in preparation for the next stroke).
In order to be good:
You have to take the quickest line possible from A to B. This means knowing the river on which you’re racing and how to maximize the condtions to benefit your crew.
You have to understand the race plan well enough to anticipate and make a change to it while the race is underway. You have to know your opponents well enough to know what their traditional strengths and weaknesses are, so that you can be ready for their habitual or trademark moves and factor this into your race plan.
You have to know enough about rowing to ensure that the entire crew is applying power at the same time, and accellerating the oars in the same manner, and emphasizing power at the same parts of the drive, depending on which part of the stroke your crew emphasizes. You have to establish and maintain this over the course of the race in order to get the best out of your crew.
In order to be great:
You have to understand that straight-line steering is all well and good, but there is a time to wash your opponents and there is a time to bump and there is nothing that should come between you and your objective. And you have to make that shell do what you want it to do.
You have to realize that the best race plan goes out the window the minute the race begins and you have to be able to accommodate that fact on the fly.
You have to be able to “say how it feels” in small phrases so that you can spit out a three-minute technical explanation of what’s wrong and how to fix it in three syllables.
Being a coxswain is not easy. It looks easy because all you see on race day is the little guy yelling. It seems easy because nine coaches out of ten are ex-rowers who have little to no idea how to teach the position, because they never paid any attention to their coxswains in school or on their club team and so just expect the little people to pick it up through osmosis. It looks easy because a great many colleges don’t have good coxswains because they boat by size and not intelligence, leaving you with the little girl/boy who has no sense of what it’s like to be an athlete or compete at anything.
Being a coxswain is not being a cheerleader. No coxswain worth the name says “come on, guys!” or “who wants it more?” or “pull!” or any of that crap. You’re not the little guy that yells, “stroke, stroke, stroke” either.
It’s hard damn work being a coxswain, at least if you want to be a good one. You do your homework. You learn who’s in your boat and who the opponents are, and you learn how to exploit that knowledge.
If you’re looking for an easy way to the Olympics, coxing ain’t it.