Katelin Snyder (FL) – US Olympic rowing teammate, University of Washington U-23 World Championship gold medalist, Loyola Marymount University Assistant Coach and coxswain (the one that yells at everybody…) took some time with BOJ to discuss the mysterious and secretive world of professional rowing. Take a dive into the dark underworld of the coxswain, and the hard work that accompanies this age-old sport.
BOJ: How does one become interested in rowing? Where did your interest begin?
KS: Rowing is so unique because you can pick up the sport at any age. About half of the 2012 USA Olympic Team walked-on in college – NCAA Women’s Rowing is growing and tons of women start at University. I began rowing for my high school team during my freshman year. I’d had two soccer injuries so I wanted to find another sport… my dad said that rowing was too hard and I wouldn’t last, so of course I had to join the crew team!
BOJ: When did you make the switch from rowing to coxing? What is a coxswain? What characteristics make a good coxswain?
KS: I switched to coxing during my junior year of high school. I was a small rower and our men’s team needed coxswains, so it was a perfect fit. The coxswain is the little person who sits in the stern of the boat and acts kind of like a jockey. A coxswain’s most important job is steering! A straight line is the shortest line, so all cox’ns are taught to focus on steering above all. We also call the race plan, execute workouts during practice, make technical calls, and help with motivation. Being able to multi-task is really important because the coxswain has to juggle so many things at once – coxing is much more mental than physical.
BOJ: What was the life of a college coxswain like? Was your free-time dominated by this sport?
KS: I loved life as a college coxswain and am so lucky that I was able to compete in college athletics! The time commitment is kind of like a part time job – we practiced year-round at least once a day, but rowing was definitely part of everyone’s life outside the boathouse. We are all so competitive; the drive to win is always present. Rowers put on extra miles to build fitness, they focus a lot on recovery and nutrition, and even as a coxswain I spent a lot of my off-time trying to sharpen my skills. Since we had similar schedules, we usually lived with teammates… so I’m sure that helped fuel our free-time rowing talk.
BOJ: What was is it like to be a part of the USA Olympic team?
KS: I made the USA team in 2009 for the World Championships and in 2010 for one of the World Cup stops, and having the opportunity to represent my country on the international scene was amazing! It is so cool to line up next to Canada, Great Britain, Germany, China, etc., and I loved being able to hold up the American Flag on the medal stand. The lifestyle is much different than that of a collegiate student-athlete, because we are no longer “students”. Everyone is singularly focused on rowing, and everything is intensified – we have more practices a day and are focused 24/7 on nutrition and recovery. Professional rowers make very little money, and getting a part-time job can be difficult with our schedules, so many of us live with host families. There are a ton of AMAZING families in the Princeton area that take in rowers. That lifestyle is definitely unique, but very cool, too, because most of us wouldn’t be able to train full-time without the support of the community.
BOJ: What was your daily routine like at Loyola Marymount? How much of your time did you spend yelling on a boat?
KS: Collegiate coaching is much different than I thought it would be – 90% of the work is done off the water. We rowed from 6 a.m. – 8 a.m., and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. I’d spend time on rigging and equipment maintenance, recruiting, budgeting, academic support, training plans, fundraising and alumni relations, and TONS of paperwork! My job at LMU was Assistant Coach and Recruiting Coordinator, so I spent most of my day emailing or calling high school athletes, searching for talent, setting up official visits, and I even got to travel a few times a year to watch high school practices and meet prospects. There are tons of NCAA regulations on recruiting, so I also spent a lot of time on paperwork and administrative tasks. I now realize why my coaches seemed so busy all the time… there is so much more that goes into running a team than just coaching for two hours a day!
BOJ: How does it feel to be back in Princeton? How will your daily schedule change now that you are back with the US team?
KS: I am thrilled to be back in Princeton and have the opportunity to train for the 2016 Olympics. I am excited to get back in the boat and be a competitor and teammate again. We all love racing so much, I am looking forward to every racing opportunity I will get. My daily tasks will change now that I am back with the team – as an athlete I won’t be responsible for training plans, travel logistics or anything else that goes into running the team. But rowing will be my “job” in another capacity, I’ll spend time practicing, working out, helping my host family around the house, and doing whatever it takes to improve.
BOJ: How much travel have you done with your careers in rowing?
KS: Most all of my travel has been rowing related – in school we traveled across the country to race scholastic and collegiate teams, with LMU I traveled to Eastern Europe and Australia for recruiting, and with US Rowing I’ve competed in Switzerland, Poland, Scotland, Belgium and Germany. I also got to race with UW in London and Moscow. I love traveling, but I think I enjoy meeting all the international rowers even more. Especially other coxswains… we all have the same “coxswain problems” to relate to.
BOJ: What are you looking forward to regarding the 2016 games in Brazil?
KS: I am really about being part of kicking off the 2016 Quadrennial. I have yet to spend an entire 4-year cycle training, and I am really excited to be part of that process.
BOJ: What advice would you give to those looking to enter the world of rowing?
KS: Try it! Rowing clubs and teams range from elite and highly competitive, to recreational and low key. Learning a new sport or skill can be frustrating, but once you get the hang of it, you can get anything you want out of rowing. It can be a team or individual sport, it can be a competitive outlet or just a great workout, and since rowing is a non-impact sport, you’ll be able to row at any age!