Who is stroking your boat?

by | May 17, 2015 | Blog, Life Lessons | 0 comments

According to Wikipedia, The “stroke” is the rower closest to the stern of the boat. Everyone else follows the stroke’s timing – placing their blades in and out of the water at the same time as stroke. The stroke can communicate with the coxswain (when in a stern coxed boat) to give feedback on how the boat feels. During a race, it is the stroke’s responsibility to establish the crew’s rate (number of strokes per minute) and rhythm. (In coxed boats, the coxswain will assist the stroke in establishing the rate). Because of the great responsibilities, the rower in the stroke seat will usually be one of the most technically sound members of the boat.

My son rows.  He is a freshman in high school and is part of a very elite group of eight boys.  Elite?  That’s a little arrogant. Perhaps but not how you may think.  They are elite in the common and very strong bond that ties them together.  It keeps them whole, it helps them drive when they don’t want to and it binds them together.  I have been privileged to have that boat of young men in my basement these last few years for pizza parties, sleepovers and pre-race pasta parties.  I love to hear them talk and without knowing it, they have actually become brothers.  Brothers in the boat and in life. The respect each other and the role of the “stroke”.

Wikipedia also defines another critical member of this team, the coxswain. The role of a coxswain is to:

  • Steer the boat
  • Provide motivation and encouragement to the crew
  • Inform the crew of where they are in relation to other crews and the finish line
  • Make any necessary race tactic calls


Very interesting isn’t it? It seems so simple and intuitive yet not so obvious.  I work for a wonderful company providing legal services for law firms, corporations and financial institutions.  We have a small group of managers and directors, eight, I believe, to be exact.  In a recent meeting with them, I referred to rowing and the jobs and responsibilities of each man in the boat.  Now if you re-read the definitions of the stroke and coxswain, you may see similarities between the 8-man boat and the management team in an organization. I find this to be fascinating. Someone leads, others follow but they are all one equal team in the end.

A team can be defined in many ways yet once set in place and functioning, a disruption can be astronomical. A coach or leader can make a change, seemingly for the betterment of the whole and disrupt the natural order and environment of that team. This happens far too often but a great leader will wait and see where his team takes it. No one likes change for the sake of change.  No one accepts change easily yet we seem to be faced with it on a daily basis. How do we sustain the environment and bond led by the ‘stroke’ and encouraged by the ‘coxswain’?  That my friends may be one of the secrets of life.  Far be it from me to questions the how or why of work, life, or in its simplest terms, rowing the boat.

I have stood on shore many afternoons watching my son and ‘the 8’ pull together- laughing, sweating and working, as one. There is no me, there is only we.  If only we all could experience something like that in our lifetime we would truly be blessed. Our work lives could be stronger, our relationship bonds tighter and our boat would be going in one direction, with focus, never to be weakened.

So I will go to work Monday morning and begin my Monday, like every Monday, meeting individually with the people that make up my ‘boat’.  At the end of the day as carpool mom, I will go to the river and silently watch them row and move as one.  There is no substitution or definition for the bond that ties, regardless of what the bond is.  A boat.  A team.  A project at work.  Listen to your stroke and just be thankful when you experience it and pray it lasts for a very long time.

the 8

You May Also Like


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

About Me

KarenHello and welcome.
I am often asked, “What is Pasta on the Floor?”
Pasta on the Floor is different for everyone. It is a recipe that tells a story and inspires them to try something new. For others, stories of family, joy, loss, and hope engage with them. This brings me a great deal of happiness. I do not take myself too seriously, so be forewarned the subject matter is open and truthful. In many ways, Pasta is a tale of life, and I think you will find familiarity and commonality as you scroll through these pages.

Read More

Recent Photos