Elizabeth “Liza” Folsom ‘21 is a geology major and spanish minor from Can Mateo, CA. She is a member of the women’s rowing team at Bates and was the coxswain for the team that won the Division II National Championship last year. I had the opportunity to speak with Liza about her experience as a member of the Bates rowing team. This article has been edited for grammar and clarity.
Q: Can you provide some details about your background?
A: I rowed for a small team in San Francisco. I started off rowing when my mom suggested I try doing a camp in 7th grade, since she rowed a little in college. I ended up really liking it, so I joined Pacific Rowing Club in my freshman year of high school and absolutely fell in love with the sport and my team!
Q: Could you describe your experience with sports in the past?
A: I did rowing all through high school. I started off as a rower my freshman year then switched to coxing women my sophomore year. Junior and senior year I was a coxswain on the men’s team. Before high school, I had played soccer and swam and liked it, but never as much as I like
Q: How did you decide to become a coxswain?
A: I decided I wanted to be a coxswain after rowing for a year because I always found myself sitting in the boat thinking of things my coxswain at the time could be saying differently and I wanted to try and see if I could do it. While I loved rowing, I felt like coxing was a role that I could fit into better and something that I would enjoy even more.
Q: What is your role on the rowing team?
A: While a coxswain is not actually rowing, they sit in the stern of the boat facing the rowers. When in the boat, you steer, motivate the rowers, correct their technique, talk to them about what the boat can improve on, and make sure they’re rowing well and together. A big part of coxing is knowing what your rowers want to hear and communicating with them so you can say the things that will make them pull the hardest and row the best.
Q: What is your role during practices?
A: One of the first things I do at practice, along with the five other coxswains on my team, is get told the workout and what we’re doing that day by our coach before we get on the water. Then we’ll gather everyone in our boats together and carry the boat down to the water and then meet our coach and the other boats out in the river. Usually we’ll start off with drills and then move into pieces. Depending on the day of the week or what season we’re in, we’ll do one minute pieces, 20 minute pieces, 1000 meter pieces, etc. During pieces, it’s my job to make sure the boat is going straight and to say whatever I need to in order to make my rowers pull as hard as possible while still rowing well.
Q: What is like to be a part of the rowing team at Bates?
A: Rowing at Bates is hands down the best decision I’ve ever made. The team environment is really fun, everyone works really hard, and we all do a really good job of pushing each other to be as fast as we possibly can.
Q: What was it like to win a national championship as a first year last year?
A: Winning NCAAs last year was absolutely amazing. We had been doing well all season, but at nationals there were a couple teams we didn’t get to race that much during the regular season so we weren’t sure how it was going to turn out. Crossing the finish line in front was the best feeling in the world, and doing it with such an wonderful group of people made it even more special.
Q: How did you do in Head of the Charles this year and last year?
A: This year my boat won Head of the Charles which was super exciting! Last year the varsity eight also won it and my boat, the 2nd varsity eight, got 5th which was the best Bates has ever done at that race, which was a really exciting way to start off my freshman year! It was different this year though, because we came down the course first, so we did not have any other teams to base our speed off of because fall races are done by time rather than looking at boats side by side (you’re sent down the course one at a time). We didn’t know we won until we got back to the dock and Mitch, one of our assistant coaches, told us, so it was nerve wracking at first but so exciting in the end. It’s a really fun race course because there are thousands of people along the shore yelling at you and on top of that, there are some pretty big turns so it’s a fun challenge for a coxswain to steer through.