Recruiting coxswains for your team
It’s that time of year again when teams are looking to recruit new walk-on rowers and coxswains. Advertising rowing itself tends to be fairly easy but coxing? Well, not so much.
At the beginning of each season there’s always a few threads posted on Reddit asking how to recruit coxswains to club teams or I’ll get emails asking how to get people interested in joining the team. The simplest way to explain how to approach advertising coxswains is that you kinda have to have a “live by the sword, die by the sword” mentality going into it —
The type of flier you create and the way you describe the team and the roles you’re looking to fill is going to dictate the type of people that show up to the meeting and that can either be a great thing or a really bad thing.
Trust me, I love a humorous advertisement as much as the next person but with coxing I feel like there’s a fine line that you have to avoid crossing if you don’t want to attract the wrong type of people (you know who I mean). For example, don’t say this: “Are you small? Do you like telling people what to do? Are you obstinate, arrogant, and ruthless? Join us and we’ll treat you like a god.”
We all joke about coxswains having Napoleon complexes but have you ever actually met a coxswain that acts like that? If you have then you know it’s not a good thing so why would you create fliers asking for that kind of person to join your team, even if you’re just trying to be witty and humorous?
Here’s a couple tips for attracting coxswains to your program (and keeping them there):
Don’t try to reel people in just because you win a lot of races or anticipate winning a lot this year.
Winning isn’t everything. I mean yea, it’s cool, yaaay medals, but hopefully you’ve got a lot more to draw people in than just “we won more races this year than last year”. If that was the only thing you could offer me as to why I should join or continue I’d probably say “pass” and join something else.
Treat them like an athlete rather than part of the furniture.
I cannot stress this enough. You’re likely pointing out all the things the rowers will get out of this (i.e. getting in shape, receiving stellar coaching from Coach McAwesome, etc.) but what can the coxswains expect to get? Advertise something that gets to the core of what coxing is (such as leadership training, for example) and note that they too will receive excellent one-on-one coaching from whoever on your team is most well-versed in all things coxing. Things like opportunities to learn about coaching via weekly rides in the launch with your coach or something like that could also be enticing. I’ve talked before about how valuable riding in the launch can be for coxswains so if you’ve read this blog for awhile then you’ll know what I’m getting at. Basically you want to make sure the people interested in coxing feel like they’re going to given the same amount of attention as the rowers, in addition to being valued just as much as the rowers.
Say what a coxswain is without being cliche or dumb.
Things like “loud”, “short”, “like telling people what to do”, “chief motivator” (yea, I actually saw that once…), etc. are pretty “blech”. Most of you are in college so your vocabulary should be a bit more expansive than that. Consider getting a coxswain’s input on what they feel the most important qualities are for someone who wants to try it out and go from there. You can definitely say that a coxswain is someone who is a leader or wants to develop better leadership skills but be prepared to detail what kind of leader they are and the expectations your team has for anyone considering undertaking that role.
Follow through with what you advertise.
This is probably the most important thing you can do if you want to retain the people you get to come out this fall. At your first interest meeting, make sure you spend an equal amount of time talking to the prospective coxswains as you do the prospective rowers. If you’re going to advertise that coxswains are equally important members of the crew, make sure you stand by that right from the start.
Here’s an example of a flier I made last week when I was talking with someone who asked for feedback on one they were making to try and attract new coxswains. I’m not saying its perfect or what every poster has to look like but it’s an example of something you could do if you’re struggling to get people to consider trying coxing.
Remember, the key to a good flyer is to have just enough white space to keep it from looking too crowded but not so much that the page is practically empty. Keep everything concise and to the point (just like a coxswain would!) but make sure you get across the important details too. You also want to have something that’s visually appealing so that it’ll catch their eye and make them want to read the rest of what’s on the page, hence the text on the photo.
When it comes to posting them around campus or handing them out, consider putting them up in strategic places rather than randomly up on a board in the student center where they’ll just blend in with all the other club sport, “roommates wanted”, off-campus bookstore, and 2-for-1 beer crawl posters.
For example, think of the majors that require the students to possess strong leadership qualities or that aim to enhance them (business, political science, etc.) and post some near that department’s office. If you know of any leadership organizations on campus, email their president and see if you could make a quick presentation at the beginning of their next meeting. Let them know the type of student you’re looking for and why you think their members might also be interested in coxing. Make it mutually beneficial and invite them to give one at your first team meeting too. At the beginning of the year I remember always having team and club presidents pitch their activities at the start of class and the ones that I was always the most interested in were the ones that actually put effort into learning/knowing who their audience was.