Paddles in the Water: Coxswain

When you hear the words "paddles in the water," what comes to mind?  For me, it's all about leadership.  

I had this idea for you yesterday but had to do some research on Olympic Rowing and Boating.  This sport is not something I have ever observed or experienced in Texas.  However, the procedures used can be linked back to our role as principals or administrators and school leadership. 

U.S. Olympic Team
Take a look at Mary Whipple in this image.  Mary sits at the stern and is the only person facing forward in the boat.  She appears just along for the ride.  Her title is coxswain (pronounced cox-en).  Coxswain means boat servant.  This person is a coach in the boat.  Mary Whipple coaches her team, steering, executes race strategy, keeps the crew synchronized and motivates the rowers to pull harder on their oars.  The coxswain wears a microphone and the sound is piped through speakers throughout the boat.  Whipple must steer by grasping and moving a string attached to the boats rudder.  She has the ability to get eight women all working together.  When they start to fall behind in the race, she knows the exact words to make them go faster.  Her words say it best here- "My teammates rely on me to lead and unite them with my words, and I love that my words make the boat go fast."

The role of a coxswain in a crew:
1.  Keep the boat and rowers safe at all times by steering the boat.
2.  Be in command of the boat at all times.
3.  Coach the crew.
4.  Provide motivation and encouragement to the crew.
5.  Provide feedback on the crew's performance both in and out of the races.
6.  Make necessary tactical decisions.
7.  Organize and direct the crew at all times.
8.  Be responsible for the vessel. 

I believe there is a great lesson we can all take away from Mary Whipple's position in the boat.  Her role and our role are very similar.  We have the ability to say just the right thing to get our crew moving in the right direction.  We are responsible for our team's safety.  We must be in command.  Coach from the front of the school.  Provide feedback on the performance of our teachers and staff.  Make tough tactical decisions when necessary.  Organize and direct at all times.  Not just in times of good but also when times get tough.  We are responsible for the school and everyone inside it.

Get your paddles in the water and let's go for a ride.  One voice...one message- Mary Whipple



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