Spoiler alert, this is basically what we do all fall to determine who we’re gonna offer a spot to. Now you know our secrets.
Since we haven’t had an assistant coach for the past 4.5 months I’ve been filling in to help with the heavyweight recruiting, which has meant fielding a lot of emails of varying quality from prospective rowers and coxswains. Most haven’t been too bad (although several have genuinely made me question the state of education in our country based on how awful the grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, and spelling was) but I got one last week that got me kind of excited to join the circle of coaches who have received emails like this. Initially I was like “really??” and definitely had the urge to roast the kid in my reply but I didn’t have the time or energy so instead I’m using them as a cautionary tale for the rest of you.
Personalize the email
You know our names because you looked up our emails. Instead of just saying “Dear Coach”, which is a dead giveaway that you’re just copy/pasting a form email, say “Dear Coach Durm” – it literally takes no extra amount of time to do that and it at least gives the impression that you’re putting a modicum of effort into this.
Also, I don’t know how many other women there are on the men’s side right now (I can’t possibly be the only one but I honestly don’t know) and frankly it doesn’t even matter but if you’re emailing a male and female coach in the same email (which is fine), don’t say “Dear Coach Alwin and Mrs. Durm”. Just … don’t. First of all, “Mrs. Durm”, l-o-freaking-l. Literally can’t even with that one. Second of all, we’re all coaches dude. There are way more qualified/#woke individuals than me that would have a field day unwrapping how sexist that comes off so if you want to avoid making a shitty, eye-roll inducing first impression on both the men and women who are recruiting you, just address everyone as “Coach [last name]”.
Don’t send form emails
If you are that lazy that you’re just copy/pasting the same email to a list of coaches, you better have a solid reply ready to go for when you send an email to a coach at School X that says “I’m interested in School Y“. Cool, good luck with that, bye. And when the coach at School X replies and says “just so you know, you sent this to the coaches at School X, not [other university that starts with the same first letter]”, don’t reply back and say “Sorry I was tired”. (There was another sentence or two after this but I’d honestly already stopped reading so I don’t remember what they said.) You already self-sorted yourself into the group of people who probably aren’t gonna get a reply but that just confirms it. If you’re not gonna take this process seriously I’m certainly not gonna push pause on the other 26 things I’m working on to email you back.
“Please get back to me if you are interested.”
Wording makes a difference. A big difference. “Looking forward to hearing from you!”, “Hope we can connect soon – thanks for your time!”, etc. are great ways to close an email. “Please get back to me if you’re interested” is not. First of all, this isn’t football. We’re not chasing you and the odds are pretty good that you’re not one of the handful of kids that literally everyone wants so we’re definitely not gonna chase you. The ball is 10000% in your court here so unless you’ve filled out the recruiting questionnaire online (and indicated that in your email), laid out all your stats (and not your hypothetical stats, your actual stats), said you’d like to set up a time to talk to learn more about the school/team, and just straight up given me a reason to be interested in you, you’re not gonna get a reply.
Second of all, this is another glaring indication that your strategy/approach to the recruiting process is throwing shit at a wall and seeing what sticks. Super vague emails with nothing specific about the university and a closing line asking us to contact you if we’re interested just screams “I copy and pasted this exact same email to 18 other coaches”. Unless you wanna join the ranks of kids who have become coaching office and/or rowing camp fodder, set aside an hour or two to craft some well-written emails to schools you’re actually interested in instead of firing off the first thing that comes to mind to every coach in the rowing-sphere.
Image via // @pittsfordcrew
What type of contact is permitted during the dead period? If I’m doing a 5k this week and want to send my time to a coach is that something that would be allowed?
During dead periods coaches can’t have any face-to-face contact with you, meaning they can’t visit your program to watch you row and you can’t come on visits during that four-day period. You can still communicate back and forth via phone or email though so it’s not a problem if you want to pass along your updated times.
Do you have any advice on how to deal with getting offers during official visits (particularly when you have more in the coming weeks/month)?
Just approach it the same way you would when you’re going on job interviews (which I get you might not have done a lot of yet if you’re only in high school) – say thanks, let them know where you’re at in the process with the other people you’re talking to, and find out when they would need an answer from you.
This past weekend was, for most teams, only the first or second weekend of official visits so if you got an offer then the coaches have to know, or at least assume, that you’ve got a few more scheduled in the coming weeks. I can’t imagine they’d push you for an answer right away but they’re probably hoping that by putting it out there before everyone else that that will help sway you a little bit. I’d keep that in mind, assuming it’s one of your top choices, but don’t let it influence your other visits. Collect as much info as you can from all the teams you visit/coaches you talk with and give yourself plenty of options so you can make the best decision possible.
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.
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.
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!
Image via // @kmillerottier
Hi! I currently am a female rising junior in high school, and I am hoping to be recruited for college for coxing. My normal weight floats between 105-110lbs without me doing anything special or extra to hold it there (ex. dieting, working out, etc). However, I am very tall at 5’7″ and I am worried that coaches will overlook me because of how tall I am. Do you think that it is possible for me to cox in college knowing that I can healthily maintain sub the minimum weight, but am really tall for a coxswain, and that I don’t fit the short 5′ coxswain stereotype? I have been a girls’ coxswain for the past two years. This summer I am doing two coxswain camps and am coxing the men’s’ team (they do not have enough girls to fill a boat) for a club that practices in the same boathouse that my school does for about half of the summer.
Shortest/simplest answer ever – nobody cares how tall you are as long as you can make weight.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Image via // @rowingrelated
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
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.
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
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
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