Q&A: OSU coxswain Sami Jurofsky

Ohio State women's rowing won national championships in 2013 and 2014. Get to know Sami Jurofsky, the coxswain for the team's First Varsity Eight.

Ohio State rowing senior coxswain Sami Jurofsky won a national championship as a part of the Second Varsity Eight boat in 2014 as well as team national championships in 2013 and 2014. Now in charge of the undefeated First Varsity Eight, the Westport, Conn., native sat down with BSB to discuss her unique role on the team and the reason she chose to row for Ohio State.

For more information on the role of a coxswain, check out BSB's 2014 profile of the Buckeye coxswains.

BSB: How did you end up as a coxswain?
Jurofsky: “Obviously I’m little, and there weren’t many sports where being little is an asset. I tried gymnastics, but I kicked the teacher in the nose and didn’t want to go back. I went back and finished what I signed up for, but that was short-lived. I used to play soccer and didn’t try out for the high school team because I kept getting hurt. We heard that my rowing club was looking for coxswains. I talked to girls at school who rowed and went over and tried out. I was on the boys’ team in high school and just got into it that way.”

BSB: What was the recruiting process like?
Jurofsky: “My recruiting process wasn’t quite as normal, I guess. Most sports have film to see their skills, but with coxswains a lot of it is based on what coaches want you to do, so it’s very specific and catered to each team. I spoke with (assistant coach Chuck Rodosky) and told him I’m a leader, I’m at weight, energetic and competitive and I’m ready if you want me to send you tapes. It just worked out that way.”

BSB: Why did you choose Ohio State?
Jurofsky: “Ohio State was actually the only school I talked to about rowing. I’m from Connecticut but my grandpa went here for undergraduate and graduate school and my uncle went here. I would always turn on the Ohio State-Michigan game. I was never like, ‘Oh my God, I love Ohio State,’ but I would turn it on and wanted Ohio State to win. I talked to the coach and got really excited about it, came out to see the campus and fell in love with the campus and the boathouse. Everything was what I wanted.”

BSB: For anyone who isn’t familiar, how would you describe your job during a race?
Jurofsky: “We have a race plan that we typically stick to depending on how the race is going. I’ll walk them through the race plan, which needs to be a little different for each race depending on what schools we’re racing and what we need to focus on the most. I have to have a feel for what’s going on in the boat. If we’re down to port a little bit, I have to let you know you have to make sure your blades are coming out of the water clean so we have a stable platform to get the boat running better. I remind every individual what they can do to get the boat running faster.”

BSB: Is there a difference when you’re working with four-person and eight-person boats?
Jurofsky: “It’s very different. In a four, you sit down in the bow of the boat and you’re lower down and pushed up against the boat. In an eight, you’re at the stern and you have to look over all the rowers and you can see all their blades, so it’s very different coxing a four as opposed to an eight.”

BSB: Do the coxswains get a lot of teasing from your much taller teammates?
Jurofsky: “All the time. It’s always like, ‘Oh, you’re so cute. You’re so little.’ We’re like their little babies, but when it comes time to race we’re like, ‘No, we’re your leaders and you need to listen to us.’ They know we’re in charge when it comes time to get hands on.”

BSB: Did you have to work to develop those leadership skills?
Jurofsky: “I’m a naturally loud person that had to convert over to being an effective leader. I think my presence is known. Just being a loud person isn’t enough. My freshman year, all the coxswains were freshmen and it was really hard to gain the respect of girls who are seniors and are like, ‘I don’t know that you know what you’re talking about.’ It takes time and with experience people respect you more and more.”

BSB: What was it like to win a national championship as a boat and as a team?
Jurofsky: “I don’t even know how to explain the feeling. It was just awesome. We get up every morning and we train so hard and it really paid off. It’s really hard – especially in winter – to keep the positive mentality that this is going to pay off. It’s the most awesome feeling to realize that everyone’s hard work paid off. It was really exciting.”

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