William Brown knows the coxswain seat isn’t for everyone. Until he was approached by an alum of Orange Coast College, he didn’t know it was for him. A major in Architecture, Brown is in his first full year of crew at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California.

Brown was working in the office of the Orange Coast College alum when he was asked, “How much do you weigh?” His answer, “Not much,” got him a ride in the crew coach’s launch the next day and a microphone and a seat in the men’s four the day after.

William Brown at the San Diego Crew Classic

William Brown at the San Diego Crew Classic


Brown explains that his first few days in a boat made him more nervous than he’d ever been. “I just focused on steering straight,” he says. “I was clueless,” he smiles a sheepish grin. “The second day, I was in an eight. My stroke was The Man. He helped me with timing, switching the pairs, knowing when to make the calls–when the blades hit the water. We jumped into the season inexperienced, but we’re having success and a ton of fun.”


Brown grew up in sport, but was never on a team. A cyclist at heart, Brown spent his high school years on BMX bikes. The intensity of BMX racing has positioned him well for the intensity of the coxswain seat. “Stepping up to the plate is easy,” he says with that slight grin. “Performing is the hard part, bettering yourself is the hard part.” He slows down a bit and looks right at me. “Anyone can sit there and yell, but it takes a special kind of person to communicate with eight people, to take criticism from eight people. I’ve got to be able to say, ‘What did I do well? What did I do wrong? What can I do better?’ Every practice, I’ve got to be able to ask that.”


“You’re allowed to make mistakes, but only if you learn from them. If you don’t learn from them, it’s not acceptable.”


“At 4:45 am everyday I shower, shave, walk the dog, bike to the boathouse, cox, bike to school, go to class, do homework and then work at the bike shop. It’s a really good routine. I have zero free time, which works for me. It’s a good idea to be busy.”


“Get on the guys, they’ll respect you more for it. You have to be assertive. If you’re not, they’re not going to listen to you. You have to be the dominant force. Sometimes you have to make your own decisions.”

Brown wraps up the interview, ready to head back to his boat. Then, he stops. “You know who my biggest fan is?” he asks. “My mom. She’s always been there for me. Now, as a Crew Mom, she’s a part of the group of moms who save the day.”