row2k Features
row2k Coxswains Corner
In the Driver's Seat, with Antonia Stutter
May 7, 2024
John FX Flynn, row2k

Coxing her crew on to Sunday in the semis, HRR 2023

Next up In The Driver's Seat--where we hear from the folks who keep the shells straight and the crews on target—-is coxswain Antonia Stutter.

Antonia coxes in the UK, where she recently won the Wargrave Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta with Thames Rowing Club. She is the club's women's captain at TRC, and before coxing there, she raced with the Tideway Scullers School and the Oxford University Women's Team.

In all, Antonia's been driving shells on the Tideway for a decade, including the Reserves Boat Race with Osiris in 2016.

At Prizegiving, with the Wargrave Challenge Cup
At Prizegiving, with the Wargrave Challenge Cup

Let's hop In The Driver's Seat with Antonia:

row2k - What do you see as the three most important things for being a successful coxswain?
Antonia Stutter - I think it has to be:

1) Humility - try as everyone might to change the coaching situation, learning to cox remains learning by failing, this means you will be the weak link in a team more than you want to be and you have to carry that whilst still being a leader.

2) Resilience - if you do it right, coxing places a lot of decision-making pressure on you daily and can be exceptionally lonely. To be good you have to build a layer of resilience.

3) Curiosity - if you’re not interested in what makes everyone tick and what makes the boat faster, you won’t be successful. The phrase ‘student of the sport’ is used a lot because it’s entirely correct.

row2k - What is your favorite drill to run with your crews? Any tips on how to the drill well, for maximum effectiveness?
Antonia Stutter - You’ll never beat feet out square blades. The reduction of margin for error forces a focus and a composure that usually prevents it being a 'drill for the sake of doing a drill.'

It’s run best if it’s the first thing you do when you boat, and if you don’t take a long break after putting the feet in to get going again.

Crossing the line as winners on the Sunday, HRR 2023
Crossing the line as winners on the Sunday, HRR 2023

row2k - What's some of the best coaching advice you've received about your coxing?
Antonia Stutter - Talk less say more – it’s the first thing I think about when I listen to other coxes’ recordings.

So many people needlessly fill the silence that, in coxless boats, exists naturally and happily. You can run a better race/practice if you steer safely and offer the key information at regular intervals than if you do neither of those things but fill every second with a call for 'legs' etc. It’s sometimes referred to as podcast coxing because it just becomes background noise.

row2k - What is a mid-race call or move that you've made that you'll remember for the rest of your life?
Antonia Stutter - I don’t really believe in 'moves' per se: if you look at boat speed in eights, you tend to win by maintaining boat speed while others pace incorrectly, or wobble psychologically and slow down, rather than ever winning by sporadically increasing boat speed.

It is therefore about maintaining a singular focus and purpose to maintain the speed, even in adverse circumstances. I think our Wargrave crew did just that in our final at Wallingford Regatta last year. I just remember keeping everyone very calm and driven towards really making the rhythm comfortable. then only letting everyone get excited when the row from behind into 1st place was almost complete and we could taste clear water at the 1k.

Coxing the Head Of The Charles in 2019 with the Tideway Scullers in the Champ Eight
Coxing the Head Of The Charles in 2019 with the Tideway Scullers in the Champ Eight

row2k - Can you tell us anything about what you've learned about how to make motivating calls
Antonia Stutter - I’ve almost entirely coxed women, and I’ve found that because of how society treats women day to day, we often need a purposefully permissive environment to be truly aggressive and competitive.

That makes it more fun, and I find I get to cultivate the environment on the water where they can race viciously, channel aggression and really unleash their most competitive sides. I think winding people up, getting them angry, and then throwing them a very personal and specific target for that anger – that’s key. A lot of people need sport as an emotional outlet, so it is totally OK to make it emotional – but never vague.

Aerial view of Antonia's Charles crew in 2019
Aerial view of Antonia's Charles crew in 2019

row2k - Tell us about the best race/practice and the worst race/practice you've ever had?
Antonia Stutter - Best practice I’ve had was a row on a quiet Tideway a fortnight before Women’s Head of the River this year. No one else was out, it was perfectly flat, and we made such tangible and positive changes that everyone’s body language was visibly different after landing. There was a levity to the way we interacted that wasn’t there previously.

Worst practice is a column easily filled up by countless evening rows in the dark on the Tideway in 5 degree weather, with wind against yellow flag stream: grim but character building. Rowing is a repetitive sport, and I’ll never say I learned something from every session because some I just survived!

With her Thames RC boat mates at Prizegiving, HRR 2023
With her Thames RC boat mates at Prizegiving, HRR 2023

Thanks for riding along with Antonia -- and, remember, this column is open to all "drivers" out there, so if you are an experienced coxswain at any level--from juniors to masters--and would be willing to invite row2k to join you in your ride, just contact us here. We’d love to hear from you about what you see from the Driver's Seat.

If you enjoy and rely on row2k, we need your help to be able to keep doing all this. Though row2k sometimes looks like a big, outside-funded operation, it mainly runs on enthusiasm and grit. Help us keep it coming, thank you! Learn more.


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