Rowing experience for coxswains

If you can row with some skill, especially in a single, and then describe that feeling to your rowers, your street cred will go up about 100x.

Dear Mr. Cipollone,

Thanks so much for that excellent guidance! I’ve been coxing in high school for 3 years now and we hope to return to Youth Nationals this Spring. I have one brief question. I have the opportunity to row this Summer at Navy Crew Camp, rather than cox, as I did last year. Do you think this would be a valuable experience for me? What should I try to focus on when I row in order to better my coxing? Thanks for your insight.


Yo Jack,

Yes. I think this would be a great experience. Cynically, I would say just listen to your coxswain and see what he or she does/says that annoys the crap out of you. Then when you go back to coxing, don’t do or say that stuff. Seriously, if you did nothing else, that would make you a whole lot better.

But on a less jaded note, focus on learning how to row really well. Listen to the instructions and see what helps you improve and what makes no sense (from coaches, too). Feel the motion and learn the sensations of when the boat is moving effortlessly.

Then when you go back to coxing your team, you will be able to describe how your arms should feel like you are hanging off monkey bars at the catch, or whatever the sensation felt like to you. Basically, if you can row with some skill, especially in a single, and then describe that feeling to your rowers, your street cred will go up about 100x.

Have fun out on the water, and best of luck!

– Pete Cipollone

'If you can row with some skill, especially in a single, and then describe that feeling to your rowers, your street cred will go up about 100x.' - Pete Cipollone Click to Tweet

Enjoy reading this? Read the full collection of coxswain tips.

Interested in taking an even deeper look at how national team athletes train and race? Check out The Longest Odds.

Pete Cipollone
Pete Cipollone was a coxswain for the US National Team from 1997-2004. He joined the team after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, and his career highlights include gold medal wins in the M8+ at the 1997, 1998, and 1999 World Rowing Championships, as well as a gold medal from the 2004 Athens Olympics.

The Longest Odds Inside the Olympic Journey

The Longest Odds

Go behind the scenes of the Olympic Journey with The Longest Odds, a photo-documentary that goes inside the Beijing and London Olympic journey of the US Olympic rowing team. 

This book illustrates what you do not see on television – it’s a raw look at what athletes go through during their years-long journeys much before anything appears on television.

The Longest Odds allows us to see those highs and lows, the conflicts, joy, exhaustion, elation, fear – and most of all, the bonds of friendship being indelibly forged.

Introducing Roving Cosmos

Dear friends, I’m excited to share my latest adventure. With Covid-19 and the lockdown keeping me homebound, I realised I was going to need to find a new way to satisfy my need for epic adventures and people trying to achieve big goals. 

I traded my camera for a paint brush, and spent the better part of 2020 learning how to draw. And by the end of the year, Roving Cosmos was born.

Come join me on a new adventure as we go exploring the world beyond earth, following NASA and SpaceX, as we go reaching for the moon, Mars and the stars (all without leaving home)! 

More galleries you may be interested in

Ned DelGuercio coxinng
Ned DelGuercio Shares Tips on Coxing a 2k

Anything that comes through your microphone should be useful information. Thinking out loud can make you a liability to your crew’s performance.

Marcus McElhenney coxing
Marcus McElhenney’s Tips for When You’re Behind

Remember the rowers are listening to you and no matter what the situation you can always take a positive tone.

Marcus McElhenney
Marcus McElhenney Discusses Getting Involved

Do as much as the rowers and then more.

Pete Cipollone
Losing weight as a coxswain

Team USA coxswain Pete Cipollone shares his thoughts on losing weight as a coxswain

Send this to a friend