Coxing - an introduction

Admin information

Coxing at the University is overseen by the Oxford University Coxing Society (OUCS).  This is administered by the Captain of Coxes and overseen by Dr. Rachel Quarrell.
Before you can cox, you need to register with OUCS. There are two coxing registration meetings each term, usually in weeks 1 and 2. Anyone wanting to cox in any of the University’s clubs must attend one of these meetings.

Every registered cox has a status which should represent their experience.  There are three different statuses:
Novice (N)
Experienced (X)
Senior (S)

Most coxes register initially at novice status, but if you have previous coxing experience upon entering the university, talk to the OURCs Captain of Coxes at or before one of the meetings as you may be able to attend a shorter introductory briefing and register at either X or S status straight away.

Please email if you have any coxing related queries.
For a list of frequently asked questions regarding coxes, please visit this page.

The cox’s role

The cox is a crucial seat in the boat. As much as every rower and their physical and mental fitness makes a difference come race day, so too does the ability of the cox.

There are many different parts of the cox’s job. The main responsibilities are for ensuring the safety of the crew, and for steering the boat. As a cox’s experience increases, they will also become responsible for helping the rowers improve their technique during training, essentially becoming a second coach within the boat. The cox will also become a tactician and motivating influence for races.

The four main parts of the role are detailed below:


This is the number one most important thing for a cox to always remember! The cox is responsible for the safety of their crew and any other crew on the stretch of river they are rowing on. The cox is best placed to know what is safe - coaches are there to help make these decisions, but the final call is up to the cox. Coaches tend to be very experienced, but can sometimes make the wrong call as they may not be able to see the situation as well from the bank or from a launch as the cox can from in the boat.

Always air on the side of caution. If in doubt, call 'easy there,' make sure the river is safe and then take it off again.


Steering is always important, both in training outings and during races. As well as being necessary to avoid crashing into the bank, good steering can make all the difference in a race. Especially in Torpids and Eights, steering can easily mean the difference between getting or losing a bump.

Every boat steers slightly differently. There will be differences in how much and how quickly the boat responds when the rubber is applied. Get used to how the boat steers, and find the best balance between using the rudder alone versus using the crew to steer you round (and combinations of the two).

Remember that the steering will also be affected by two external factors: the wind and the stream- neither of these should be underestimated.

Technical coaching:

The cox is ideally placed to pick up on many technical inconsistencies in the crew’s rowing. Good coxes will learn to spot these, convey to the crew a way to improve technical inconsistencies, and provide them with feedback as to how that change went.

A large proportion of both training and competitive coxing can be summarised by four thought processes:

What, at this moment in time, is limiting the speed at which the boat is moving?
What needs to be changed to improve the boatspeed?
What is the best thing to say to the rowers to implement this change?
Did this change provide the desired effect?

Motivation and tactics:

What motivates a crew is incredibly subjective, and every crew has different preferences. For example, some crews respond better to a cox who will shout at them to keep them motivated, while others prefer a gentler tone to help them keep calm and focus on their technique. As this varies so much from crew to crew, this is something that coxes should discuss with their crews and coaches before races, and even then, it may take several races with a crew to find the most effective calls to give.

Tactics for races also vary depending on the crew, for example, whether, in a side-by-side race, to try to get ahead off the start line to demoralise the other crew, or is it better to try to hold them and then sprint to the finish? Or in Bumps- whether to go off particularly hard from the start to try to get the early bump or slowly close down the distance over the full course? These decisions will vary according to the abilities and strengths of the crew, the preferences of the coach and crew, and the aims and goals of the race. Talk especially to your strokeman- they can feel how well a change has been made in the boat, and may also be able to help decide tactical things, such as the best times to put in pushes.

As a general rule, rowers need some information- it is very hard to stay motivated when they don’t know what’s going on. Give them this information: tell them the time into the piece, where on the race course they are, the distance to the other crews in the race etc.


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