The coxswain is one of the more unique positions in sports.
Comparisons range from a race car driver to a quarterback or a catcher because of the roles as leader and guide to the rest of the crew.
A coxswain commands control and is the core to successful crews like those heading into the finals of the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships today at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center at Lake Natoma.
Coxswains also are likened to jockeys because of their smaller size compared to the oarsmen.
But like former Jesuit High School student Parker Ksidakis, who is 5 feet tall and 105 pounds, it's not the size of his stature but the leadership he possesses.
"I'm on the smaller side for even coxswains," Ksidakis said.
A sophomore at Washington, Ksidakis is the coxswain on the open four crew that's vying for one of five possible titles for the Huskies.
"Most coxswains like leadership because the better you get, the better you become as a leader," Ksidakis said. "I like it. I have become a better leader through the sport."
In rowing, a crew is only as good as the coxswain.
"It's a leadership position," Stanford coach Craig Amerkhanian said. "As a coxswain, you have to take an athletic role and as a leader. There is a symbolic relationship, like a jockey to a horse as a coxswain to a crew."
Said Cal coach Mike Teti, "You need someone who is bright and can multitask. They need to steer the boat, execute the game plan and, despite sounding like someone who is barking out orders, they need to keep a cool demeanor."
Hometown advantage Folsom graduate Sam Dommer is hoping to win a varsity eight title for No. 1-ranked Washington in front of "a bunch" of family and friends today.
Dommer started rowing with Capital Crew, which is based at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center, when he was a sophomore at Folsom.
Now a junior at Washington, he's the three seat for the varsity eight.
"It's good to get some hometown pride," Dommer said. "I want to go a little bit harder. Not that I wouldn't otherwise, but you just have that other factor involved."
Top Dawgs Washington is the favorite to win a third consecutive IRA varsity eight title and a record seventh consecutive Jim Ten Eyck Memorial Trophy, given to the top overall team at the championships.
The Huskies have won 15 varsity eight titles since 1923, which ranks third all-time behind Cornell and Cal. A 16th title would tie Washington with the Bears but is still a far cry from the 31 titles for Cornell, which dominated the sport with 13 titles in 17 years from 1896-1912 but hasn't won a title since 1982.
Cal and Washington have won the varsity eight IRA title six of the last seven seasons.
"(Washington) is the top crew," Teti said. "They are the best boat."
IF YOU GO
What: Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships
When: Finals today, 8 a.m.
Where: Sacramento State Aquatics Center, Lake Natoma
Cost: Tickest are $15 each day; parking at Nimbus Flat State Park is $10 per day; overflow parking at Gold Point Office Park (near Gold Country Boulevard and Hazel Avenue) is $5 per day, with shuttle service.