The Role of the Coxswain

The coxswain or cox steers the boat, directs the crew, and is the only person in the boat who provides instructions to the crew. The main responsibilities of the cox include:

  • Crew and boat safety
  • Steering and command of the boat
  • Organizing, directing, coaching, and motivating rowers
  • Identifying and addressing technical errors
  • Executing the race plan

NOTE: If the coxswain feels that they have lost control of the boat, the crew must return to the dock immediately.


The responsibilities of the cox related to practices include:

  1. Create or work with the coach to create practice routines and drills
  2. Execute the drills and help rowers improve technique and timing
  3. Motivate and encourage the crew
  4. Identify and help correct technical issues
  5. Steer the boat safely, following the rules of the pond
  6. Dock the boat safely and on time


Coxswains should use the responsibilities and the race rules to guide their actions during a race.

The responsibilities of the cox related to races include:

  1. Ensure that the team is ready for push off on time – crews can push off after the last crew in the previous race has past the docks as they are finishing the race
  2. Execute the warm-up
  3. Steer the boat to their designated starting keg and secure the toggle, generally with the right hand (due to wind conditions)
  4. Prepare rowers for the start of the race
  5. Execute/call the race plan
  6. Motivate the crew to focus and work hard on each and every stroke
  7. Make tactical decisions where necessary
  8. Steer the boat safely, especially around the turning buoys, following the rules of the pond
  9. Finish the race on the north side of their designated keg
  10. Dock the boat safely and on time

When you are heading toward the finishing kegs be sure that you are positioned to finish to the immediate right of your starting buoy. Failure to do so will result in disqualification. Examples:

  • Crew A starts with the keg 1 toggle and must finish between keg 1 and the green marker buoy
  • Crew C starts with the keg 3 toggle and must finish the race between keg 3 and keg 2