College Recruiting: (More) Questions to Ask Coaches

Previously: Intro || The recruiting timeline + what to consider || What do coaches look at? || Contacting coaches, pt. 1 ||  Contacting coaches, pt. 2 || Contacting coaches, pt. 3 || Contacting coaches, pt. 4 || Highlight videos + the worst recruiting emails || Official/unofficial visits + recruiting rules recap || When scholarships aren’t an option || Managing your time as a student-athlete + narrowing down your list of schools || Interest from coaches + coming from a small program || How much weight do coaches have with admissions + what to do if there are no spots left || Being recruited as a coxswain, pt. 1 || Being recruited as a coxswain, pt. 2 || Technique + erg scores

fl2wyzh
This list of questions was compiled by Jim Dietz (current women’s coach at UMass and pretty notable guy within the rowing community) and includes two things – questions you should ask and questions you can figure the answers to out on your own (aka questions you shouldn’t ask because if you do it just shows a) your lack of initiative and preparation and b) that you’re not really interested in that school/program).

I’ll start with the latter, questions you shouldn’t ask…

Are they club or varsity? (Know the difference.)

Are they D1, D2, or D3? (Know the difference.)

What conference do they compete in?

Who do they compete against? (Just look at their racing schedule to figure this out.)

How often to they race? (Look at their schedule.)

Those things you can find out very easily via Google so don’t waste the coaches time by asking them during the limited period of time that you speak on the phone or through email. Now, questions you should ask…

What kind of academic support is available to the athletes?

Is the team limited to rowing eights and fours or is pairs rowing/sculling also an option?

How are the facilities and what are the conditions normally like where you row?

Do you recruit coxswains? (Obviously an especially important question if you’re a coxswain.)

How are coxswains evaluated?

What is the team atmosphere like in general and how are things handled when the environment is tense (i.e. during selection, the dead of winter training, etc.)?

Another great question to ask is what the freshmen → sophomore retention rate is, as well as what’s the number of four-year athletes that graduate compared to the number of people who were in that class as a freshmen (aka how many athletes make it all four years?). Athletes who quit during or after their freshman year usually do it for one of two reasons, culture or academics. (Both of those played a factor in my decision when I stopped coxing.) Athletes that quit later in their careers (juniors + seniors) tend to do so purely for academic reasons.

With freshmen, culture tends to be the bigger of the two unless you’re at a very academically intensive school (like MIT, for example) where balancing athletics and academics can be a challenge from the get-go. All of the freshmen that we’ve lost the last two years (which was … four or five rowers, I think) left for academic reasons, not necessarily because they were falling behind or anything but because they wanted to be able to devote more time to school and other activities (Greek life is huge here so that’s one of them) and they felt like it wouldn’t be possible to do that while balancing 20+ hours a week as an athlete.

Related: What questions should you ask coaches during the recruiting process?

I think I’ve mentioned this before but you should also ask if there are any rowers on the team currently majoring in whatever it is you want to major in. (This is also a good question/topic for conversation when you go on your official visits and have some time to interact with the athletes outside of practice.) This is especially important if you’re interested in pre-med/pre-law, engineering, architecture, chem/bio/physics … basically anything that is lab or project-intensive.

Related: College recruiting: Official/unofficial visits + recruiting rules recap

One of the main reasons why you should ask this is because it just might not be feasible to do that major due to scheduled lab times and practice times. My major was very lab-intensive since it was a research-based science major and more than once I had classes and/or labs that were only offered at one specific time once a year or once every other year. It’s also good to learn how athletes in those majors manage their schedules with crew and all their other commitments (i.e. clubs, research, study groups, etc.).

Another question that is important to ask is how committed the coach is to their program, particularly if one of the reasons why you’re looking at the program is because you want to row for that coach. Barring getting fired or other unforeseen circumstances, are they planning on sticking around for (at least) the next five years? Most coaches that I personally know would be totally cool with being asked this question, mainly because if they’re asking you to commit four years to them it’s only fair that you ask the same in return. If they have young kids who might be starting school in two years, are they going to stay in their tiny condo in the big city or are they planning on moving to an area with better schools where they can buy a house with a yard and actually settle down? What about if you want to row for a legendary coach like Steve Gladstone, for example? He’s been in the rowing game for decades … it’s not unreasonable to think that maybe he’s eyeing retirement within the next three years. (That’s not to say he is, it’s just an example.) If rowing for a particular coach is one of the reasons you’re drawn to that program, asking these questions should be part of the conversation you have with them.

Related: What questions should you ask coaches during the recruiting process?

The last thing is questions that can/will be asked by the coach to you that you can/should also ask them.

How the season went (Obviously you can look up their results but specifically, what was the biggest lesson learned from … I donno, Washington’s loss to Cal in the spring, or what was the most meaningful experience from this past year?)

What are your/the team’s goals within/outside rowing? (Our team, like I assume most teams do, has two meetings each year – one at the end of the fall and one before the start of the spring season – to lay out our goals and then discuss our progress towards them.)

Why are you interested in this school or if you’re asking the coach this, what attracted you to this school and why have you stayed there for 3, 5, 12, 40 years? (This is one of my favorite questions to ask when I’m interviewing with coaches.)

That’s it, the last recruiting post in this series. I hope the last seventeen weeks worth of posts have been helpful for you guys and have answered some of your questions about the whole process (or ones you didn’t know you had) and everything that goes into it. If you want to check out previous posts in this series you can check out the “college recruiting 101” tag. All other recruiting posts can be found in the “recruiting” tag.

College Recruiting: Technique + Erg Scores

Previously: Intro || The recruiting timeline + what to consider || What do coaches look at? || Contacting coaches, pt. 1 ||  Contacting coaches, pt. 2 || Contacting coaches, pt. 3 || Contacting coaches, pt. 4 || Highlight videos + the worst recruiting emails || Official/unofficial visits + recruiting rules recap || When scholarships aren’t an option || Managing your time as a student-athlete + narrowing down your list of schools || Interest from coaches + coming from a small program || How much weight do coaches have with admissions + what to do if there are no spots left || Being recruited as a coxswain, pt. 1 || Being recruited as a coxswain, pt. 2

fl2wyzh
This was an interesting question that came up at NRC – does your on-the-water technique matter during recruiting or is it all about your 2k? The answers from the coaches were split with some saying yes, others saying no, and some saying yes and no. A lot of recruits will send video clips for coaches to evaluate (the importance of having a few good quality ones on hand can’t be emphasized enough) but the coaches can/will also get in touch with your high school coaches to ask how your technique is, amongst other things. They might also go out and watch practice to see for themselves how you look. In that sense technique matters because it’s not something you can hide and get away with not having.

On the other hand, what most coaches are looking for is if you know how to row in general. They’re assuming that you fit the basic parameters (i.e. you’re physiologically suited for the team and academically suited for the university), know the basics of the sport, and have a fundamental understanding of the stroke. At the end of the day though, your adaptability and coachability matter far more than your technique. Each program you’re looking at likely has a certain style or definition of technique that they try to bring their athletes around – think of Harvard and Washington’s “finish pause that isn’t really a pause” as an example. Your ability  – not even that really, more like your willingness – to be coached and make technical changes will be a highly valued trait so if you haven’t been rowing long and/or aren’t the most technically proficient rower, don’t think that you’re automatically out of the running to be recruited.

Pro tip though, don’t ever, ever say to a coach “that’s not how we did it in high school” or “in high school we did it this way…” when they’re trying to coach you on something technical. If you want to get on a coach’s bad side, this is the best and fastest way to do it. Coxswains, this absolutely applies to you too. One of our coxswains did this so many times last year and my eyes still hurt from rolling them every time she did it.

Moving on to the holy grail of recruiting – your erg score. They’re not the only thing coaches look at, obviously, but they are one of (if not the) most important. First and foremost, do your research before asking coaches where you should be or at the very least, reference your research if you want specifics with regards to times. Your best resource will be the times from CRASH Bs, especially if you’re a lightweight guy since the league has been getting markedly faster over the last few years. You can also search the rowing sub on Reddit. This question has been asked numerous times so it’s not hard to find info if you just spend a few minutes searching and reading the threads.

Similarly to each person’s rowing background, every erg score has a narrative. An eight-season rower with a 7:43 2k vs. a multi-sport athlete with four seasons of rowing and a 7:43 are two different narratives. On paper the latter is going to look more favorable so that’s something to keep in mind – if you’ve been rowing for 6-8 seasons, makes sure you’ve got the erg scores to show for it.

Related: College recruiting: Interest from coaches + coming from a small program

Many of the top programs won’t offer official visits to kids until they’re under a certain benchmark (for example, you have to be <7:20 during your junior year to be offered an official from the Wisco women) so if it’s not obvious already, simply “loving” the sport and having done it for several seasons isn’t enough. You also cannot hide behind the whole “my technique is better than my erg score” logic. It doesn’t fly with college coaches and as Kerber from Cornell said, hope is not a strategy. That goes back to the earlier discussion of how important is technique – it’s important and you need to be decent but erg scores are the most objective form of evaluation coaches have so if it’s not up to par, you’re gonna have a bad time.

Also, never say you don’t know your 2k. It’s ridiculous that you’re even entering into this process without knowing what it is so before you start filling out questionnaires, emailing coaches, etc. get on an erg and do one so you have an idea of where you’re at right now. You basically need to know two times – your PR and your most recent time. They may or may not be from the same test, it doens’t really matter. If you haven’t 2k’ed in awhile, do some training on your own and test before practice. Make sure you have a coach or your coxswain (but preferably your coach) there to verify it too. 4x500m at your goal splits with 2min rest between the pieces was one of the workouts suggested by a couple of the coaches so that would be a good starting point if you’re planning to test soon.

Next week: (More) Questions to ask college coaches

 

College Recruiting: The process of being recruited as a coxswain, pt. 2

Previously: Intro || The recruiting timeline + what to consider || What do coaches look at? || Contacting coaches, pt. 1 ||  Contacting coaches, pt. 2 || Contacting coaches, pt. 3 || Contacting coaches, pt. 4 || Highlight videos + the worst recruiting emails || Official/unofficial visits + recruiting rules recap || When scholarships aren’t an option || Managing your time as a student-athlete + narrowing down your list of schools || Interest from coaches + coming from a small program || How much weight do coaches have with admissions + what to do if there are no spots left || Being recruited as a coxswain, pt. 1

fl2wyzh
If you’re a (good) coxswain then you know that recording yourself isn’t something you can avoid doing, particularly if you want to be recruited. Here’s a few tips and things to remember as you prepare to send your audio to college coaches.

Audio recording vs. GoPro

I always prefer GoPro footage because it lets me see how you interact with the blades, i.e. are you paying attention to what’s actually happening in/around the boat or are you just talking and running through a script? Ultimately I think it’s keeps coxswains honest and forces them to be more accountable. Coxing isn’t just about sounding good so if you have a GoPro I would always default to sending that over a regular recording.

When sending audio, include tightly clipped recordings from both practice and a race

“Tight” meaning the recording is cut down to just the important stuff. For the race, don’t send a 20 minute long mp3 with 14 minutes of unnecessary noise on either side of the actual race. I can’t even begin to tell you how annoying it is to receive recordings like that. The same goes for practice – follow the JNT rules and cut your practice audio down to 10 minutes.

My suggestion is to include clips of you calling your warmup (actually coxing it, not just saying “stern pair out in two, bow pair in”), a drill or two, and then 3-5 minutes from the actual workout pieces. A brief description (meaning a sentence or two max) of each section is also helpful. Also, for races make sure to note the race/regatta, the event, and how you finished. This is important for context purposes so don’t forget to include it.

Get a second opinion

Don’t send out just any recording – you want it to be a reflection of your best efforts as a coxswain. Narrow down what you have to your top two or three and then ask one of your coaches, a fellow coxswain, etc. which one they think represents your skills the best.

Be mindful of the swearing

Swearing in recordings doesn’t really bother me personally but I do roll my eyes when it’s obvious how gratuitous it is (and trust me, it’s always obvious). My advice to coxswains who ask if they should send a recording that has swearing in it is to just use your judgement but err on the side of caution when possible.

Coaches that get all high and mighty about a 17 year old saying “fuck yea, that’s it…” in the last 250m of a tight race also make me roll my eyes because a) rowing coaches literally swear more often and more gratuitously than any other group of people I’ve ever met and b) as long as you’re not saying “see ya later motherfuckersss” to the crew you’re walking through, who cares. Maybe that’s just my millennial showing but I really don’t think it’s that big of a deal. Still, you have to recognize that some coaches do care and it can be a turn off for them.

If the recording you’ve chosen has swearing in it but it’s the one that you feel is your absolute best recording and none of your other ones showcase your skills better than it does, then at the very least try to bleep it out. As long as it doesn’t end up sounding like the radio edit of a NWA song, you’ll be fine.

Next week: Technique and erg scores

College Recruiting: The process of being recruited as a coxswain, pt. 1

Previously: Intro || The recruiting timeline + what to consider || What do coaches look at? || Contacting coaches, pt. 1 ||  Contacting coaches, pt. 2 || Contacting coaches, pt. 3 || Contacting coaches, pt. 4 || Highlight videos + the worst recruiting emails || Official/unofficial visits + recruiting rules recap || When scholarships aren’t an option || Managing your time as a student-athlete + narrowing down your list of schools || Interest from coaches + coming from a small program || How much weight do coaches have with admissions + what to do if there are no spots left

fl2wyzh
Most of you have probably been wondering if/when I was ever going to talk specifically about coxswains and that’s what this week and next week’s posts are about.

One of the counselors at Northeast this past summer is currently a coxswain on the women’s team at Brown (who I also met three years ago at Penn AC) and she talked a bit about what the process was like for her, with the biggest point of emphasis being that being recruited as a coxswain is about letting coaches know who you are as a person. Obviously things are a bit different for us than they are for rowers because we don’t have an objective 2k time on our resumes but having accomplishments within your team (being named captain, most improved, etc.), having won races (actual races, not duals and scrimmages), the boats you’ve coxed, etc. … that’s about as objective as it gets for us.

Reading that, a lot of you are probably thinking that that puts you at an automatic disadvantage because your team isn’t very competitive or by the time you start looking into recruiting you’ve only coxed the novice and JV crews and … yea, obviously, that is going to put you at a bit of a disadvantage compared with other coxswains who might have the 1V or 2V and won Youth Nats, HOCR, etc. but as discussed previously, coaches take that kind of stuff into consideration when looking at where you’re coming from. (You should still be working hard from Day 1 though to work your way up the ladder so you can compete for the strongest boats on your team.)

Related: College recruiting: Interest from coaches + coming from a small program

So where do recordings come into the picture? They’re a lot more subjective than any of the things I just mentioned because every coach has different preferences in what they like and look for but they’re still an important factor when it comes to getting noticed. I’ll talk about this next week though so check back for more on that.

Related: What would you want to hear in a coxswain recording? Is there something that really makes a good recording?

Another important part of the coxswain recruiting process was being aware of the intangibles – things like being on top of completing paperwork (i.e. your applications, NCAA Clearinghouse stuff, etc.), responding to emails, submitting test scores, etc. Those things are huge for coxswains because tiny details like that are our bread and butter. It’s automatically expected of us to be meticulous and detail-oriented so if you’re lazy when it comes to communicating with coaches or you miss deadlines (or cut it unnecessarily close), coaches notice that and it can hurt you. Maybe not a lot but at the very least, it certainly doesn’t make the best impression or give the coaches confidence in your ability to stay on top of tasks (a skill that’s obviously very important when we’re on the water). The intangibles let the coaches see your personality, your ability to execute, etc. so don’t overlook this opportunity.

If you’re a junior or senior who attended the Sparks camp then you’ll probably remember Marcus’s talk on recruiting. He made mention of the fact that coxswains typically need to email coaches twice because some use that initial email as a test to see how interested you really are (i.e. are you interested enough in that school/program to reach out again if you don’t hear back from them). Granted, that’s kind of frustrating and personally I hate games like that but if it didn’t help coaches weed out those who are just throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks, they wouldn’t do it.

Related: Let’s say I want to be recruited onto a D1 college team. I just emailed the coaches, how long should I expect to wait until I get a response back? Will they email everyone back the first time or only the ones they’re interested in?

Coach Lindberg made the point that developing a relationship early on with the coach(es) is a critical part of the process for coxswains. They’re who you’ll be communicating with on a daily basis and both parties have to feel like you can work together. This is why it’s especially important for coxswains to ask questions (both to the coach and the athletes on the team) about their communication style, are weekly check-ins a thing/something that’s encouraged, how is feedback exchanged, etc.

To use current events as an example too (without delving too deep into the drama), asking how they tackle the issue of weight would also be very beneficial to know, regardless of whether you’re male or female or where you currently are in relation to the minimums. Weight fluctuates, as most college freshmen can attest to, so while it’s something you obviously need to be aware of before it’s brought up by someone else, you should also know how and in what style it’s handled if the coaches feel it needs to be addressed.

Related: Coxswains + weight management

Anyways, going back to developing relationships, on the coach’s end they’ll learn about your communication style through their interactions with you but also through letters of recommendations from and conversations with your high school coaches. More so than with rowers, college coaches rely heavily on insight from your high school coaches because they were the ones (theoretically) working the closest with you and can speak to your abilities the best. As tough as it may be sometimes, this is another reason why having a good working relationship with your coach is important … college coaches can and do ask how well you work with the coaching staff and you don’t want your high school coach to give a “meh” response when asked about how well you worked together.

One last thing – if you’re a girl who is 115lbs or under, you should first and foremost be looking at coxing women’s programs because there are way more scholarships and opportunities for you there than there are on the men’s side. This was mentioned by Marcus during his recruiting talk but also echoed by several of the coaches at NRC so even if you coxed men in high school, don’t automatically rule out coxing women’s programs in the future.

Next week: Audio vs. GoPro

College Recruiting: How much weight do coaches have with admissions + what to do if there are no spots left

Previously: Intro || The recruiting timeline + what to consider || What do coaches look at? || Contacting coaches, pt. 1 ||  Contacting coaches, pt. 2 || Contacting coaches, pt. 3 || Contacting coaches, pt. 4 || Highlight videos + the worst recruiting emails || Official/unofficial visits + recruiting rules recap || When scholarships aren’t an option || Managing your time as a student-athlete + narrowing down your list of schools || Interest from coaches + coming from a small program

fl2wyzh
Today’s topics are based on two really great questions that were asked at NRC. The first is about how much weight coaches really have with the admissions department. Rowing coaches will be the first ones to tell you that what you think you know about how coaches work with admissions departments is likely based off of what you hear about college football and basketball … aka how they do things and how we do things are very different.

It’s important to remember that each coach’s relationship with their respective admissions department varies. Some places will have a little more pull than others (we have practically none here at MIT…and that’s being generous) but Coach Lindberg actually said it best when he said that none of the coaches work in admissions because it’s not their job to get you into college. What their job does entail is identifying capable men and women that would be good fits for the institution and, as an added bonus, help their team create fast crews and win championships. That info is communicated to the admissions committee and the rest of the decision is made based on your actual application.

So what if the coach says they think you’re a good fit for that school and team? Is it unrealistic to think that they have enough weight in the admissions office that they could give your application a boost? This is where you’ll need to find out how the relationship between the coaching staff and admissions committee works.

One of the things they might do is write letters in support of your application, which is what happens here at MIT (and other places too I’m sure – you’ll have to ask and find out!). The coaches will summarize your high school experience (both rowing and academically), how that makes you a viable candidate for the team and addition to the academic community, etc.

Related: Letters of recommendation

They’ll also get in touch with your high school coaches (I’ve heard our lightweight women’s assistant do this at least four or five times this fall) to ask for anecdotes that can bolster their recommendation and make each letter more personal. This is another reason why it’s important to keep your coach in the loop, particularly if/when the college coaches ask for their contact info or you include it in the questionnaires you fill out.

Related: How involved should my coach be in the recruiting process? I know it sounds bad but I haven’t really talked to him at all about this.

Every coach-athlete relationship is different – by no means is it a scripted process that is the same for every person in your recruiting class – but eventually you’ll reach a point in your conversation with them where it’ll be appropriate to ask if they can see themselves supporting you through the admissions process (either academically or financially), are you on their list of athletes that they plan on supporting, if your application needs their support will they give it, etc. This isn’t a conversation you should force either so if you’re wondering when you’ve reached this point, it’ll be when it just feels natural to bring it up. It’s one of those things that every coach reiterated where you’ll just know when it’s an appropriate question to ask.

One other thing to remember is to follow up with the coaches once you’ve submitted your application, transcripts, test scores, etc. to the admissions department so that they can then follow up with them to get an idea of where you stand.

Related: I know a coxswain who just applied and got into UCLA. I heard that all she had to do on her application essays was write “athlete”. Does this ever happen? Or is it just like huge colleges if they really, really want you…

Moving on, the next question was one that got a lot of attention, mainly because it’s something everyone wants the answer to – what’s the best course of action when your #1 school comes back to you and says we don’t have any spots available, we don’t recruit coxswains, etc.? It might sound surprising but this is a situation that actually happens a lot. Many of the coaches agreed with that and said they’d definitely been in situations where they’ve had to say that to kids they were talking with.

Related: I am a senior in high school and have only been rowing for about 8 months. I was wondering if I should fill out the recruiting questionnaires if I plan on walking on to a rowing team next year.

Kate Maloney, from Williams College, said that if that’s the place you want to be at then you apply anyways … and honestly, that should be the most obvious “next step” when you’re in that situation. If you love the school as much as you’ve (probably) told the coach up to that point, not being able to be recruited shouldn’t change that (unless there’s financial issues at play but again, that should be obvious).

Once you’ve applied, ask about walking on to the team as someone who didn’t go through or complete the recruiting process. No team is ever going to turn away experienced walk-ons, especially – I cannot emphasize that enough – if you’re an experienced coxswain. (Everyone’s definition of “experienced” varies – I personally consider it at least two years of experience, meaning you have something beyond your novice year – but like I said, no one’s going to say “nope, sorry, you can’t sit with us”.)

Related: I am currently a senior in high school and have been rowing for a while. If I am interested in walking on to a team in the fall, should I fill out the questionnaire on the website? I am a senior in high school and have only been rowing for about 8 months. I was wondering if I should fill out the recruiting questionnaires if I plan on walking on to a rowing team next year.

You have to keep in mind that there’s nothing to be gained by being discouraged at not getting recruited. It’s never personal … it’s just business. Coaches have to draw a line in the sand somewhere and there’s always someone on the other side of the line that gets left out. Coaches have to consider which athletes will have the biggest impact on their program and those are the ones that they’ll go after first. That’s why it’s important and worthwhile for you to not burn your bridges and keep the conversation going if possible because you never know what might happen.

Related: I chose not to go through the recruiting process but I am interested in walking on to a team next fall. I am still deciding between a couple schools and I was wondering if it would it be worth it to email the coaches about walking on? Thanks for everything you do!

Katelin Snyder (Team USA women’s coxswain) has talked before about how her stroke seat was recruited to UW and the coach asked if there was anyone else that might be interested in going there because they had an open slot available. She’d already committed to Bates, to the point of having a roommate lined up and everything, before she switched to Washington. I’ve said before too that not getting recruited really isn’t that big of a deal because once you’re on campus, the playing field is leveled and no one cares that you got recruited. It’s fun to talk about when you’re in a high school because it’s a big deal then (I was one of only 5-10 kids, if even, from my graduating class that was recruited to play sports in college and the only one I think that was recruited to a D1 school so you can bet your ass that I bragged about that when I could) but once graduation has passed you’re back at the bottom of the totem pole and it doesn’t matter anymore. Don’t define your worth as an athlete (or person) by whether or not you get recruited … you’re just going to make yourself miserable.

I’ve talked about letters of recommendation before and if there was ever a time to ask your coach to write you one, being “turned down” – for lack of a better phrase – by a college coach is a really good time to consider doing that. Don’t ask for this lightly though … it shouldn’t be your automatic response if a coach says they can’t/won’t support you. If you’re that guy that falls just on the other side of the line drawn in the sand (and most times coaches will tell you this too) then having your coach write a LOR can help get you out of “purgatory”, as Coach Lindberg defined it, and encourage the college coaches to give you a second look. It might not make a difference but if there’s a chance it will, isn’t it worth the effort?

I would probably consider doing this if I were applying to an Ivy (or similar caliber school) and my application had a 50-50 chance of surviving on it’s own (meaning the coach’s support through admissions would probably give me a better shot at getting in than try to go at it alone). At the very least, it might take you from being the first one off the list to the last one back on it if your coach’s recommendation is strong enough to make the college coach reconsider and support your application through admissions.

Next week: The process of being recruited as a coxswain

College Recruiting: Interest from coaches + coming from a small program

Previously: Intro || The recruiting timeline + what to consider || What do coaches look at? || Contacting coaches, pt. 1 ||  Contacting coaches, pt. 2 || Contacting coaches, pt. 3 || Contacting coaches, pt. 4 || Highlight videos + the worst recruiting emails || Official/unofficial visits + recruiting rules recap || When scholarships aren’t an option || Managing your time as a student-athlete + narrowing down your list of schools

fl2wyzh
If you’ve ever sent an important email to someone then you know how annoying/agonizing it can be sitting around waiting for a reply. There’s a lot of “most common questions” when it comes to recruiting but one that I hear a lot is “I emailed the coach on this date, it’s now this date, have they not gotten back to me because they’re not interested…”? Short answer, no. Long answer, a coach is never not interested until they say so. Obviously one of the key parts of the recruiting coordinator’s job is to get back to you but you should keep in mind the following things:

Rules and standards

There are regulations on when they can contact you and individual programs may have their own policies in place with regards to when they reply or reach out to athletes. As an example, one of the Ivy League lightweight women’s programs won’t start talking to a rower until they’ve broken 7:40. (I overheard another coach who has pretty solid knowledge of that program say that so without naming specific teams, trust that I’m pretty confident in that number.) They’ll keep tabs on the athletes but won’t reach out themselves until they’ve hit that minimum score.

I’ve heard other coaches say similar things too so make sure that before you’ve contacted the coaches you’re aware of what the erg standards are for each program and are making an effort to keep the coaches regularly updated on your progress, even if you aren’t getting replies back yet. (Finding out the standards for a given program is not hard nowadays either. Search old Reddit threads or start a new one, pull up Concept 2’s rankings, etc.)

The coaching carousel

Every year around mid-May the “coaching carousel” starts turning and programs start making changes to their staff. This can have an obvious impact on getting replies out to athletes because if one coach is leaving and other is taking over, there’s going to be a latency period where literally nothing is happening as they get settled in.

You’ll almost always know when a coach is leaving (if you don’t see the press release or read/hear the gossip first, you’ll likely/hopefully get an email from them saying that they’re moving on from that program) but during the summer months this can be a key reason why it takes awhile to hear back from them.

Another question in that same vein is “will coaches be interested in me even though my team isn’t that well known”. I asked this question too because even though I came from a very good team that was well known in the Midwest, we lacked the national recognition that teams like Marin, CRI, Atlanta Juniors, etc. have. I was lucky in that the Syracuse coaches knew of my team because the siblings and mom of one of my teammates had rowed there but with the other schools I looked at, my resume, recordings, and letters of recommendation from my coaches pretty much had to do all the talking.

Related: Letters of recommendation

I don’t believe that coming from a small team is a disadvantage (although it certainly doesn’t make things any easier) but it’s not like you’re being recruited on the strength of your team, you’re being recruited based on your strength as an individual rower or coxswain. Having big results like a Henley appearance or a Youth Nats win is obviously a huge help but it’s also entirely possible to have a 6:19 2k and never make an appearance at a major regatta. In situations like that, you have to recognize that and say “OK…we’re not a Youth Nats level team but this is the score I need to get on these coaches’ radars so I’m going to work my ass off outside of practice to get there”. It’s really that straightforward. Don’t use your team’s level of competitiveness or success as a reason why you can’t do something.

A point that was made and reiterated by several of the coaches at Sparks was that standards will be adjusted too based on the level of program you’re coming from. This was always something that I assumed had to be the case (but I never knew for sure) so it was good to hear it actually confirmed by several high-profile coaches.

This conversation should always begin with you asking “what do you want to see from me” so that the expectations are clear but basically if you’re coming from a team like, for example, Marin – a well known, successful program that produces a lot of successful/recruitable athletes – then the coaches are likely to respond by saying “we want to see you sub-6:20 by Christmas”. If on the other hand you’re coming from Marietta (my high school team) then they’ll likely look at the team, where/who we race, your current stats, etc. (all things that might not be known right off the bat like they are with larger programs) and say “we want to see you sub-6:35 by Christmas”.

Related: College recruiting: Contacting coaches, pt. 4

You have to be up front about who you are (as previously discussed in the post linked above) and realistic about your goals but if you’re someone that shows interest in the program and has the work ethic to achieve said goals, the coaches will work with you to give you the best shot possible.

If you have the opportunity, apply to and row for a different program during the summer. This can really work in your favor and gain you a lot of respect (especially if your erg score drops, your technique gets better, etc.) because it shows you’re willing to go from a big fish in a small pond to “a minnow in an ocean”. Camps are great but full summer-long programs (i.e. Penn AC) are where you’ll gain the most in this regard.

Another thing to keep in mind is that trying to make excuses or oversell yourself in order to “make up for” not being part of a large/successful program is only going to hurt you. If you’re a lightweight, don’t send an email saying “I rowed in the lightweight eight but we had to enter heavyweight events so we always lost which is why I don’t have any notable wins under my belt”. (Apparently that was a real thing that someone said to a coach.) Instead, talk about what you learned from the experience (this is what the coach said they would have liked to have seen):

“This past year I rowed 6-seat in the lightweight eight. Not many other programs in our area field lightweight crews so we were often up against heavyweight crews in our races. Despite finishing 6th many times, we were able to close the gap on the 5th place crews from 18 seconds at the beginning of the season to 10 seconds at the end. Being in this position taught me XYZ which I’ve been applying to my own training and hope to continue using as I work towards breaking 6:40.”

Next week: What’s the best course of action if there are no spots left, they don’t recruit coxswains, etc.  and how much weight do coaches really have with admissions…

College Recruiting: Managing your time as a student-athlete + narrowing down your list of schools

Previously: Intro || The recruiting timeline + what to consider || What do coaches look at? || Contacting coaches, pt. 1 ||  Contacting coaches, pt. 2 || Contacting coaches, pt. 3 || Contacting coaches, pt. 4 || Highlight videos + the worst recruiting emails || Official/unofficial visits + recruiting rules recap || When scholarships aren’t an option

fl2wyzhTime management is a skill that, luckily, rowing teaches us early on in our careers. Managing your time in high school is a lot different than managing it in college because you go from having a very structured schedule to an abundance of free time and no structure. Whatever structure there is is there because you created it. Knowing how much time you want to spend rowing (and all that that entails) ahead of time can go a long way in helping you keep your head above water once you get into the grind of classes. D1/D2 is obviously going to take up a larger chunk of time than a D3/club program so that’s something to keep in mind as you look at schools and consider how capable you are/need to be at regulating yourself accordingly.

To give you an idea of the time commitment, the NCAA limits the number of hours you can practice per week at 20 when you’re in-season with no more than four hours per day and at least one day off per week. We – a D1 men’s team – are usually around 15ish with 7-8 rows and two lifts per week (which is on the lower side for the Sprints league). To keep track of this, there are time sheets that the captains sign off on that indicate how many hours we practiced that gets turned into the compliance office at regular intervals. Our “off-season” (winter training) starts today so we’re down to eight hour  weeks until sometime in late February-ish, which means that the only mandatory practice time is our 90 minute erg/tank sessions on M-F mornings. Our lifts, which were previously mandatory, are now “on your own” and there’s more responsibility on the guys to get a second workout in on their own time to make up for not having a second row or Saturday practices. All of this is done on top of an incredibly rigorous course load, going to regular office hours, part-time jobs, UROPs (undergrad research), flying all over the country for job interviews, etc.

One of the biggest challenges in managing your time is being disciplined enough to take advantage of little opportunities, like breaks between classes or, if you’re a coxswain, land workouts where there’s not much coxing to be done, in order to get some reading done, start homework, etc. Your schedule will ebb and flow a lot more too than it did in high school so there will be times when everything is manageable and pretty low-key, other times you’ll have “hell weeks” where you’ll be pulling your hair out as you try to balance your responsibilities with the team and your responsibilities as a student. There’s no sense in pretending that doesn’t happen either or assuming that because no one mentioned it during the campus tours that no one at that school has to worry about it. You quickly learn that, for better or worse, all the “free time” you have isn’t actually free time if you want to stay on top of everything.

Transitioning now to narrowing down your list of schools, one of the most important rules of this whole process is to not tell (or think you have to tell) multiple schools that they’re your #1 choice because, as I’ve said many times already, coaches talk and word can/will quickly get around that you’re just fishing to see who takes the bait. If it’s early in the process and you don’t know where certain schools stand or which one is your favorite, don’t say “I don’t know” or be non-commital if the coaches ask … just say that “it’s still early in the process, I’m still researching places, etc.”. Obviously if it’s later on and you kinda need to be ranking your schools, you need to have a better answer than that so if you’re still struggling to determine where schools fall, say something like “I’ve narrowed down my top two to Dartmouth and Penn but am having a tough time naming a true #1 because I could see myself being a part of both schools/programs.” If that’s the case in your situation, many of the coaches all said that your ultimate decision must be based on the school, social scene, and the community at large because rowing is just rowing and it isn’t/shouldn’t be what makes or breaks your college experience. You will be a lot happier choosing a place based on how you feel as a potential member of the community vs. choosing a school based on who tells you your’e the best (which is the trap people fall into with recruiting).

Next week: Coaches interest and being recruited from small programs