A nagging hip injury forced Elizabeth Boyle ’19 to stop rowing for Culver Girls Academy, but she found her true calling on the other side of the White-DeVries Rowing Center – as a coxswain for the CMA varsity eight and four boats.
And this winter, she officially committed to be a coxswain for the LaSalle University men’s rowing team. She actively sought out the position by posting her information on a recruiting website. But she had to register as a man to get before the men’s coaches.
“My photo and videos were on the profile, so it wasn’t a secret,” Boyle, who goes by Izzie, said. “But the site just wouldn’t let me register unless I said I was a guy.”
The videos are also different because you don’t see Boyle. She strapped a GoPro camera to her head, so all you see are the rowers in front of her. But you do hear her voice, which is the most important part.
Being a coxswain, Boyle explained, “is very tactical. You are the eyes in the boat.” With the team facing the coxswain, she is the one who must direct them, get them to focus on her voice, call out the commands, and provide the magic to push them harder as a team than they thought possible as individuals.
“You must get them to push through that mental and physical wall,” she said.
The injury that stopped her rowing career after six years was a pinched nerve. The doctors had trouble diagnosing the exact location and it has only in the past month that she has felt 100 percent, she said.
Switching to the men’s side was a matter of weight. When it comes to coxswains, the lighter the better. The minimum for women’s boats is 110 pounds. “I’m never going to see that,” she laughed. But the minimum for the men’s boats is 120 pounds.
Plus, she added, she really enjoys hanging out with her new-found brothers. She trains every day with the CMA varsity teams. “It really is a family,” she said. “You are pulling for each other. When you lose, we all lose. When we win, everyone is responsible for your success. We are literally all in the same boat.”
Plus the goofiness that comes with being one of the “guys” is infectious. They will be training and someone may break into a little dance, she said, keeping things light. It is those moments that she enjoys the most.
Boyle understands that LaSalle will include more duties, but she is looking forward to bonding with a whole new set of “brothers” next year. She was recruited by three colleges but found LaSalle to be the best fit academically.
Plus, the historic Boathouse Row on the Schuykill River was the icing on the cake, she said. Boathouse Row is where several Philadelphia boating clubs have their 19th-century boathouses, including LaSalle. Rowing on a river is a little different than on Lake Maxinkuckee, she said, but she is looking forward to spending time on the new water.