I am A Rower ...
LISTEN TO MATT’S STORY
“Being a good cox involves leadership and thinking on your feet – you’re the thing that makes or breaks it for eight other people”
I got the opportunity to try rowing at school when I was 15 but I wasn’t big enough to make it into the 8+. The experience was enough for me to get the bug though and when I went to university, I found myself in the cox’s seat of a boat and realised that I could be small and skinny and still have a big impact.
At its most basic, the cox is responsible for steering, making sure the boat doesn’t crash and that it follows the rules of the river – you can't have an off day where you’re half asleep as it might not end very well. Being a good cox also involves leadership and motivation, strategy, thinking on your feet and elements of being a teacher – and you are the thing that makes or breaks it for eight other people.
My favourite feeling is in a race when you say ‘right, we’re going to go now’, the boat starts moving, and before long it’s flying. As the cox you’re sitting there thinking, well, I made that happen and I’m going to keep it going. Sometimes I do wonder why I want to get up at six o'clock for morning outings. But I've come to realise that doesn’t matter, because if you do want to get up at silly o’clock to do something, you probably shouldn’t question it.
If you look at the Boat Race or Henley from outside the sport it's easy to form a certain view of what rowing is ‘like’. And to some extent that's historically true, but actually, when you get involved, you realise that there are people in all walks of life that row – and not all of them have amazing facilities and expensive equipment.
If I get elected again it will be my third year as Lea Club Captain and my attitude to rowing and increasingly to sport in general is that the future is in really thinking about what the word community means and about the inclusion and diversity aspects of that.
I think sports people have sometimes been guilty of seeing diversity and inclusion as something to pay lip service to. But going forward, the most successful performance sports programmes will start to think and talk differently, particularly in rowing. Because ultimately the more people you get involved with the sport — from all backgrounds — the more chance you have of finding the next Henley winner or Olympic gold medallist.