Never Give Up – A Cox’s Story

All our blogs are special, but this blog is extra. Shauna, Cox and friend of the Queen B Royal Family was brave and dare we say plucky enough to agree to write about how it feels to be dropped from a squad. This is the reality of elite sport. It doesn’t always go your way. What is important isn’t when or how you get a knock but what you do next. Shauna, in true Queen B style went on to rock it and is representing her country in the Homes International Regatta – nice one Shauna!!

Read on for an insight into the reality of high-level sport and what it takes to truly succeed.

Shauna, you got a seat in our boat every day of the week.

From all at Queen B, thank you for sharing and writing this blog for us.

 

The Cox

2014/15 my third season in UCD Boat Club. Every rower endured a tough few months of winter

training and of course it was cold. Very cold. We’re all familiar with those long miserable

mornings in a bow loaded four, getting splashed while you slowly lose all feeling in your limbs as

well as the pain of trying to keep some feeling in your fingers and your hands so you can get some

video to analyse with the crew. At least it didn’t feel like someone had replaced my blood with

battery acid as some little pipsqueak tells me to “draw it up, get the legs down and stride it out

for ten”

 

With former Olympian Giuseppe De Vita on the scene, our training was hugely increased. As

the coaches expectations for us grew, the role of the Cox became more demanding.

Then, I broke my foot in January at the end of our Seville training camp. Yes, that’s me! I’m the

one fumbling around on crutches and sporting the yellow ski pants and blue coat.

As if the training wasn’t tough enough, the stroke woman was often burdened with the task of

lifting me into the boat. For that, I have to thank Kara O’Connor, who proved that she is not just

a beauty but an absolute beast too!

 

Colours was approaching fast. (Annual races in Dublin City Centre between University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin) I could hear “seat racing, erg tests” ringing in my ears. The

pressure was definitely on.

 

As a Cox you have various responsibilities, the most straightforward is to be on weight target.

Obviously as there is no weigh in for colours it’s essentially “how low can you go”. I spent some

time swimming and doing upper body weights to help the weight loss as it was the only exercise

I could do at the time and then I took full control of my diet to get my body fat down. I hit 46kg

the week of colours. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard, I genuinely never want to eat another

vegetable ever again! But I never lost focus, I was doing it for my crew and I would never let

them down.

 

Then came the bombshell: “You won’t be racing the Corcoran Cup”. I had to walk away

immediately. I couldn’t look at anyone. I remember trying to just get away from the boat house

as quickly as possible, before the tears streamed down my face. Being on crutches made the

ordeal a little awkward as storming out gracefully was not an option.

 

I wanted to just scream. The pain had totally consumed me.

 

As I had come to training with the girls that morning , obviously not being able to drive, I felt a bit

trapped at the boathouse. I went out in the launch with my first coach at novice level for a

second session, he was training the men’s London Head crew. It was probably the best way to

clear my head and get out and just watch what I loved. I think it one of the best ways for a Cox

to learn, go out in the launch and listen to all the small things a coach says under his breath or

the explanations he gives behind what he says out loud and you’ll find there’s a lot of method to

that madness.

 

Of course, that same night I received a call from Bríd about writing for Queen B. I felt a rotten

choked up feeling and a painful lump in my throat when I was forced to say the words “I got

dropped” out loud. It made it very real and pretty painful very quickly.

Fortunately, Bríd pushed me on with words of encouragement and now I know that “it’s not about getting knocked down. It’s your attitude to getting back up again – that’s what makes you a Queen B.”

 

I think it really hit me when I had my last hospital appointment three days later. I’d been pushing

myself with physio to make sure my foot would be strong enough to get over the weir should I

make the colours boat.

Obviously the Doctor knew this and when I had to say I didn’t get it, there it was. That lump between your throat and your ears that swells up to your eyes.

I acted like not getting it was not big deal but I knew this was something that genuinely knocked me

down to the ground, and stood on me… several times. It’s funny writing this, comparing pain.

I broke my 5th metatarsal, took a chunk out of the bone at the joint, cracked the bone down to

my toe and snapped a tendon, painful to say the least. But when I think of the pain I felt those

few days after getting dropped nothing compares. I still feel that lump, very clearly in my throat, I

can feel my eyes water and my heart race right now even remembering it. I have come to

accept the pain but I genuinely will never ever forget it. Anyone who rows will know, you give it your all. I was spent, everything had been given. It was my lowest point.

 

I completely shut down for about 2weeks. I didn’t want to do anything, I didn’t want to talk to

anyone. I just wanted to delete the rowing world from my life.

 

I slowly came around, chatting to different members in the crew, it was odd, training with these

people every day, several times a day, on the water, at the erg, doing yoga, in the gym and then

not seeing them at all. I missed them.

 

I remember sitting down for coffee with the Captain several days before colours to chat. She’d

asked me to come to the colours dinner. I had to decline. I felt so selfish but I knew I’d feel like a

complete muppet! She told me the crew wanted me there and I was a big part of the squad but I

just couldn’t do it. It was a kind gesture, a thoughtful gesture, but it was one of those sporting moments where you need to do what’s best for you. And I’m glad I did.

 

I reassured her that they’d have the loudest supporter on that bank. The lump comes on again, because these girls were still my crew, the late night chats with individuals, where they’d share their worries about erg scores, or injuries or colours. I had watched them over every session get stronger, faster and even more hungry for that win. I was nervous for them, I knew what it meant to them, I knew what it meant to me and I wanted it for them – the win.

We didn’t get the colours result we wanted but the girls came back ready to kick ass at uni

champs and won by clear water.

Of course, I pushed on. I picked myself up, dusted myself off and gave it all to the sport I love. I continued looking for ways to improve and become a better Cox. I began training as much as possible, with novice, club and inter men in UCD and inter women in Commercial. I then stepped away from UCD LBC, not completely but I needed to. I needed that clean slate.

 

The Captain mentioned that Commercial inter women’s four were wondering would I Cox if I had the time. So I did, and to get back up again and learn more was fantastic, we competed over in London

Metropolitan and took away so much from it. The girls in the crew then made it into the Homes

International Senior Crew and this time the surprise was all good – I was going to the Homes! I was representing Ireland, I would be wearing my countries colours!

 

These crews all contrast greatly and certainly keep me on my toes. From each crew I learned more, I pushed harder and I regret nothing.

 

I’m looking forward to National Champs and Homes International Regatta with my crews – haha, who am I kidding?! I am chomping at the bit, cox box ready, cap pulled down, we mean business! Most important of all – I know that I wouldn’t be the Cox I am today without the setbacks I’ve had in the past.

 

So whats next for me? Well, to say I am gunningggggggg for the 2015/16 season would be an understatement! Whilst there are elements to the year I would like to forget; I can’t and won’t let go of what I have learned this year and am geared up, pumped and ready to learn more next year. Come on rowing, bring it! I am ready for ya!

 

What makes me a Queen B? Isn’t it obvious? Never. Give. Up.