College Recruiting: What do coaches look at?

Previously: Intro || The recruiting timeline + what to consider 

The short list includes 2k time, academic suitability, physiology, experience, coaches recommendations, and finances.

The best way to get noticed obviously is to pull a really good 2k because as Coach Lindberg said, it’s the most objective analysis in our sport and how performances are normalized. In line with your 2k in terms of importance are your academics since those two things together quantify a lot of what the coaches need to know about you. The better prepared you are for college, meaning you’re taking challenging classes, scoring well on your AP tests, ACTs, and SATs, have a competitive GPA, etc., the more options you’ll have when it comes to determining which schools you might be a good fit for. Physiology is simple – height and weight. Regardless of whether you’re a lightweight, heavyweight, or coxswain, you really need to put this out there when you’re communicating with coaches … and you need to be honest about it.

Experience is something that can go either way. Obviously the more (competitive) experience you have the better (four weeks of learn-to-row over the summer in 7th and 8th grade doesn’t count) but coaches might still give you a look if you haven’t been rowing or coxing for long. I know of two high school seniors going on official visits right now at Ivies and other top 10 programs who just started rowing last year and I met a coxswain this summer who is at an Ivy now after having only coxed for a year beforehand. You shouldn’t assume that this will happen to everyone though because the precursor to this is having good enough grades and 2k scores that would warrant a coach giving someone who is relatively inexperienced a look. The majority of recruits are going to be people that have been rowing/coxing for awhile but if you’ve got the grades/times and have only been doing it for a short period of time, by all means reach out to the coaches and start a conversation.

Coaches recommendations are another big thing that college coaches look at, especially if you’re a coxswain. If your team consistently sends kids off to college programs then it’s reasonable to assume that your coaches have established relationships with the coaches of those teams and it’s safe to assume that they’ll be asked about you at some point. Sometimes this happens without your knowledge too which is (partly) why some recruiting questionnaires have you list your coach’s contact info. Other times coaches might ask you directly to have your coach get in touch with them, either by phone or email. The goal here, if it’s not obvious, is to learn about you as an athlete from someone who’s spent time working with you, to see how coachable you are (this is HUGE), and learn about what you bring to the team, both in terms of culture and overall contributions.

Related: Letters of recommendation

The last thing is finances. Don’t jump the gun on this and start freaking out thinking that a coach isn’t going to look at you if your family doesn’t make X number of dollars a year. That’s not it. It goes back to the suitability thing – if a school is completely out of reach for you financially unless you get a sizable scholarship your suitability just went down a lot. (It’s also probably going to make the coach question your intentions.) Talk it over with your family so you know what’s within your budget and how much you’d need in student loans, grants, etc. to cover any additional costs like housing, food, books, etc., that way when the subject comes up you’re not putting the coaches in an awkward “all or nothing” situation.

Another topic that came up at both Sparks and NRC was 3rd party recruiting sites (i.e. BeRecruited) and whether or not coaches actually looked at them. Graham Willoughby, an assistant coach with the men’s team at Brown, said that he’ll get emails 3-4 times a day indicating that someone’s been identified as being interested in the school/team but it’s not his primary source of information. A lot of coaches agreed on that point too that they’re not going to ignore it but they’d prefer to learn about a kid by them taking the initiative to go to the team’s website and filling out the questionnaire (which you can do anytime as a sophomore, junior, or senior). This is the best and most direct way of starting a conversation with the programs you’re interested in (in addition to actually emailing the coaches, obviously).

Related: Hey I’m currently a sophomore & I’m interested in rowing in college. An older teammate suggested I make a beRecruited account. What are your thoughts on the website? Is it helpful? If so, what are your suggestions about keeping it updated? I feel weird writing about myself! Should I list any regatta my boat has placed in or just major races?

Wendy Wilbur (Texas) made another point that all the coaches agreed on in that you are much more likely to get a response when you reach out to individual coaches vs. just creating an account online and waiting for the offers to roll in. You want to avoid having someone else (i.e. parents, a recruiting site, etc.) be what represents you to college coaches and instead reach out directly to let them know that you’ve researched the school, like these particular aspects of it, and are interested in learning more.

Next week: The basics of contacting coaches

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