Question of the Day

Hey! I am a high school senior interested in rowing in college. I have committed to attending a school, but I did not go through the recruiting process. Before committing to the school, I was in contact with one of the assistant coaches, and met with and spoke with him. How do I go about getting in contact with the coach again about joining the team in the fall? Thanks!

Also, (unrelated) do you have any tips for rowing a single? I know the stroke, but keep having trouble with one of my oars getting caught under the water. (One day it was port, another it was starboard). Thanks again!

Just email them, re-introduce yourself, say you’ll be attending that school in the fall, and you’re still interested in joining the team. Assuming you’re already an experienced rower, they’ll probably just lump you in with the rest of the recruits once you get all the compliance paperwork done. (I talked about this a bit in the post linked below.)

Related: What it means to be a “walk-on”

Whenever that would happen with our walk-ons (getting the oars caught) (literally, without fail, every. single. time.) it would be because one (or both) of the oarlocks were backwards. So, out of habit, my first suggestion is to make sure you’re got everything set up correctly and facing the right way. Also make sure your hands are always left over right.

The main thing I’d keep in mind though is to make sure you’re drawing through level with both hands and keeping both elbows up at the finish. Really focus on squeezing the lats through the finish and maintaining pressure on the blades all the way through the drive so you give yourself the best chance to get a good, clean release. Also make sure that your posture is on point and you’re not shifting your weight all over the place. Relaxed upper body, engaged core, etc. This will help you maintain your balance and give you a more stable platform to work off of, which should make it easier to maintain an even blade depth with both oars.

My experience with sculling is (obviously) pretty limited so if anyone else has any suggestions, feel free to leave ’em in the comments.

What it means to be a “walk on”

Now that the start of a new school year is fast approaching, I’m getting a lot more questions about being a walk-on. Based on emails I get throughout the year it seems like something that not a lot of people are aware of or know is an option … despite the majority of college programs being made up of walk-ons. Today’s post is going to quickly highlight what it means and how it compares to being a recruit.

There are two types of walk-ons: the ones that have no prior experience with rowing and pick it up for the first time in college (a good number of the rowers in Rio right now did this) and the ones who rowed/coxed in high school but weren’t supported by coaches throughout the admissions process (meaning you can be actively recruited and still be a walk-on) or didn’t go through the recruiting process at all.

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?

Athletes who do this are also sometimes known as “preferred walk-ons” or “experienced walk-ons”, which basically just means that they get lumped in with the recruits once the coach knows you’re interested in the program. A lot of coxswains tend to fall into this category since most coaches use their available slots on rowers and their grades are typically good enough that they don’t need that boost from the coaches. The only disadvantage in not having the coaches support you is that you don’t get that extra boost that could get you into your reach/”dream” school if you’re on the bubble.  In most cases though after talking with the coach (and doing a pre-read, if that’s an option) you’ll have a good idea as to whether or not your reach school is actually within reach, so it’s not like you’re applying while being completely unsure of where you stand.

Related: College Recruiting 101

It’s important to keep in mind that coaches can only support so many people. An example is one of the (Ivy League) coaches I worked with over the last couple of weeks. They’ve got 350+ athletes in their current recruiting database and of the 200-250ish that remain once those without the grades or erg scores are eliminated, only 14 will be offered slots. That doesn’t mean that their incoming class will only have 14 rowers, it just means that anyone outside of those 14 will need to have the grades to get in on their own. If they’ve got a strong academic resume then they’ll probably be told that they’re wanted on the team but there’s not really a point in using a slot on them since they don’t need the help, whereas someone who has a more “average” academic resume (accompanied with big ergs and a solid rowing background) might be offered a slot so the coaches can wield their influence (I use that term very loosely and borderline sarcastically) to ensure they get who they want.

If you already know as a junior or senior that you want to row in college but don’t want to go through the recruiting process, don’t have the erg scores, etc. you should still loosely go through the process anyways. All that entails is reaching out to the coaches once you’ve been admitted and saying that you’re interested in walking on to the team. Not only does this help them get a sense of what their numbers will look like, it can also let you get a lot of your NCAA compliance paperwork out of the way sooner.

Related: As a coxswain are you treated differently as a recruit to a D1 college as opposed to a varsity cox who walks on the team? Or is it rare to have someone walk on a crew team who coxed through high school?

The last two years I’ve helped manage the walk-ons at MIT and one of our walk-ons emailed me in July last year to say he was interested in joining the team. Reaching out early like that allowed us to get him set up with the athletic department at the same time our current guys were filling out their paperwork, which we have to do every year. It all has to be completed by a certain date in order to guarantee everyone is cleared to practice at the beginning of the year otherwise you get moved to the very bottom of the list behind all the other teams, which means it’ll take for.freaking.ever. to get cleared. Two to three weeks is about how long it’s taken since I’ve been there and most of you know how brutal it is to miss out on that kind of water time. Moral of the story/pro tip, if you know you want to walk-on, even as someone who’s never rowed before (like the guy on our team I just mentioned), the sooner you reach out, the better.

Related: How hard is it to just start rowing in college, especially at a D1 or Ivy League school?

I anticipate getting a lot more questions about this as we get closer to September so I’ve kept this post kinda vague in order to just cover the basics and leave room for another post in the future that answers your more specific questions. If you think of anything, leave a comment or shoot me an email!

Question of the Day

I’m a junior that’s looking to cox in college. I started as a freshman rower and have had an increasingly difficult time as my team has gotten stronger. I’m regarded as the cox on the team (we race 95% sculls) and want to switch clubs but it just isn’t feasible. If I could switch, I wouldn’t be in the top boat to get recruited. I’m not looking forward to another season as a weak rower this spring, I genuinely love to cox. Would walking on work well for me even if I want to go to a d1 school?

You don’t have to be in the top boat to get recruited, it’s just one of those things that helps because in most cases it’s an indicator of a lot of the qualities and skills that coaches want to see in their coxswains. It’s not a necessity though.

It doesn’t really sound like you’re enjoying it very much so I guess I gotta ask, why are you still doing it? You’re primarily a sculling team, you’re not a strong rower, you’re not trying to be recruited, you’ll probably be a walk-on in college … it just doesn’t seem like there’s really anything keeping you on the team right now. If you’re doing it just to be able to say to a college coach that you did it for four years, don’t. Quality over quantity. Just a thought but it might be worth considering how important it is for you to stay on a team that doesn’t seem to be able to really use you (at least in the way you want to be used) when you could spend your time in other ways, be it doing another sport or just working on your grades, studying for the SAT/ACTs, etc. There’s pretty much no reason why walking on wouldn’t be an option for you though, regardless of how many years of experience you have. Most D1 programs have good walk-on programs (at least the ones I’ve seen do) so it’s obviously something to consider doing if you know you want to keep rowing/coxing when you’re in college.

Question of the Day

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?

It couldn’t hurt. I would follow up by sending a quick email to the recruiting coordinator (usually the assistant coach) as well saying that you’re interested in walking on to the team but you filled out the recruiting questionnaire anyways just so they would have your info and stats on file. In most cases if you walk on to the team as an experienced rower/coxswain (after previously contacting with the coaches while you’re still in high school) you’ll likely get lumped in with the recruits anyways so having an idea of where you stack up against them can be really helpful.

Question of the Day

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!

I’ve talked about this a couple times (here, here, and here)…

Those three posts pretty much say it all but tl;dr yes,  it’d be worth it to email the coaches ahead of time but don’t feel like you have to if you’ve got a lot going on right now and don’t have time. Crew teams almost always have a table at the student activities fair at the beginning of the year where they sign people up who are interested in walking on so if you just want to wait until you get to campus, that’s an option too.

Question of the Day

I have decided not to go through the recruiting process but am going to a college that has a D1 team. What would they think of a walk on with rowing experience?

If you’re a good rower and have decent erg scores they’ll probably love you, to be honest. Experienced walk-ons are great. If you know you aren’t going to go through the recruiting process you can still email the coach(es) and say that you’re interested in rowing at the school and are planning on walking on in the fall. Most, if not all, places will invite you to start at the beginning of the year when all the other recruits start instead of waiting until walk-on tryouts to join the team. There are a lot more experienced walk-ons than you think too so it’s possible you won’t be the only one on your team. Some people don’t want to go through the recruiting process because of the time/effort it takes (which is understandable), some don’t want to make the commitment just yet, and others get to college not planning on rowing and then realize they actually miss it so they start up again.

Nobody’s going to think you’re lame for not trying to get recruited. Being recruited is cool but it borders on being overrated. If you want to row, email the coaches and get some info from them on how being an experienced walk-on will work. Walking on actually gives you a bit more flexibility to decide in the first semester if this is something you really want to commit to for the next however many years so you might as well take advantage of that and just go for it.

Question of the Day

I really want to continue rowing in college but I am 5’3″ and my erg scores are not great. Do you think it would be possible for me to cox in college (maybe as a walk on?) even though I have never done it before? If so, how would I go about expressing interest in it?

Definitely! Coxing as a walk-on is pretty much going to be your only option at this point since coaches aren’t going to recruit someone who doesn’t have any experience. Plus, if you’re a senior right now, I think the recruiting period might be coming to an end so it’d be too late to go that route anyways. If you know that’s what you want to do though you might talk to your current coach(es) and see if you can switch to coxing permanently starting this season. If you’re a junior right now that’d give you roughly three seasons of water time, assuming your team has a fall season, which would put you in a really good position if you decide to walk on wherever you go to school. (I’ve gotten the impression that experienced walk-on coxswains are like gold to freshman coaches because it’s one less person they have to teach and it lets them focus on the rowers rather than worrying about teaching the coxswain how to cox while also trying to teach kids how to row.) You could keep rowing if you wanted and walk-on to a team with no coxing experience but I think that if you already know you might want to cox in college, it just makes more sense to switch now and get that year and a half of experience in before college starts.

As far as expressing interest, all you have to do is show up to the boathouse whenever the team hosts their walk-on tryouts. You’ll likely seen signs posted throughout campus and/or you’ll see the team out recruiting during the first few days of school. If your university holds some kind of student involvement fair where all the groups, clubs, athletic teams, etc. show up to promote their stuff, you can seek out the crew team’s table and get put on their general interest sign-up sheet. Someone from the team will then send out an email with details on when/where to show up. You could also send the coach an email once you arrive and say that you’re interested in walking on.