Category: Recruiting

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

College Coxing Recruiting

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

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

Image via // @gchughes96
College Recruiting: The process of being recruited as a coxswain, pt. 1

College Coxing Recruiting

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

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 approach 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. Also knowing what weight, give or take, you’re expected to be around throughout the year would also be good to know, particularly if you’re a coxswain that isn’t naturally at or below racing weight.

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

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

College Recruiting

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

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

Image via // KUOW

High School Q&A Recruiting

Question of the Day

Hi! I’m a junior in high school and I just moved up to the girls varsity team in September. I was on the novice team for fall and spring of my sophomore year and I was in the top boat but now since I moved up to varsity the playing field is a lot more competitive and I am worried about being recruited later this year. I’m also around 5’5 and 140lbs and I wasn’t sure if I should drop to 135 to be considered for “lightweight” considering my height. I was invited for winter training on our team (just finished our first full week) and I feel like I’m already burning out. My family and I are making over a 40 minute commute to get to practice each day, 6 days a week and I just feel like I cannot get, well, my shit together fully. The days are getting shorter and we have practice at 5:45 to 7:45 three days a week and its just a little tough. Mostly I just needed some re-assurance that all this hard work and commuting will be alright and I will get recruited. I was also wondering if its even possible for a 5’5 girl to get into a D1 program in college? I’m also looking at D2 and D3 possibly, but it seems if I want a scholarship D1 is the choice to go. Also I’m taking my SAT’s and ACT’s in about 2-3 weeks and I’m worried that this too late for colleges to see my scores? I heard some girls my age sending them in October for colleges but I think if I send them in December it’s still pretty early…? And should I shoot some coaches an email now about being interested in their team for the fall of 2017 before I even have my SAT scores? Thank you thank you thank you.

There’s no way I can reassure you that this will all work out and you’ll get recruited. There’s a lot that goes into being recruited (if you haven’t been following along check out all of these posts), not to mention getting a scholarship, so it’d be impossible to say whether or not this is all worth it. I know that’s definitely not the answer you wanted/needed but I can’t imagine anyone else out there would say differently.

If you’re 5’5″ I think you might have better luck (in terms of the boats you’d be able to compete for) at a D3 school but I definitely know of some women at D1 schools that are your height or shorter and they do fine. They usually settle into the 2V or 3V, which can be tough if you’re super competitive and being in the 1V is your goal, but of the ones I’ve talked to through here it’s just something they’ve accepted (in a positive way, not that they feel like they’re settling or something) and they’ve refocused their personal goals to suit the lineup they’re currently in. Regardless of where you are I think that’s a good mindset to put yourself in but when you’re in high school and looking at colleges it’s definitely something you need to consider. You might talk to your current coach and get their opinion since they obviously know a bit more about you as an athlete and can probably give you more specific advice based off of that.

Related: College recruiting 101

The recruiting process for most people tends to start in their junior year so  you’re not super late to the party since that’s where you’re at now. If you already know the schools you’re interested in then I’d fill out the questionnaires on the athletic departments’ websites and then shoot an email to the coaches introducing yourself and letting them know when they can expect your test scores. Once you receive them, forward them on to the coaches and keep them updated on your progress from there. (I talk about contacting coaches a lot in the recruiting posts I linked before so I’d really recommend spending some time reading through those, as well as any of the posts in the “recruiting” tag since there have been lots of similar questions asked in there.) The only time it’s really too early to be contacting a coach is if you’re a freshman or sophomore (or a junior with little to no notable results) so you should be fine assuming you have a solid rowing resume and appear recruitable on paper. That’s something else you should discuss with your coach too – based on what they see in you as an athlete, your 2k time, your grades, etc. what do they think your chances are at being recruited by the schools you’re interested in.

As far as getting burned out, I get where you’re coming from. Obviously it’s a little different but when we were practicing in the afternoon this fall it would take me anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to drive eight freaking miles across town to get to the boathouse. By the time October rolled around I was beyond over it because it just ate up so much time … 45+ minutes to get there, 2 hours at practice, and then 45 minutes to get home. Like I said, obviously it’s not the same but trust me when I say that I get how mentally exhausting a long commute can be. Eventually you’ll get into a groove where it doesn’t feel so overwhelming but you do have to spend some time planning out what you’ve gotta do, how you need to allocate your time, etc. Since you’re not too far into winter training yet I’d try to do that sometime this week when you’ve got some free time. Take advantage of your commute to/from the boathouse too – if you’re not driving, bring some earplugs to block out the noise and get some reading done in the car. When I was at Syracuse I would review flashcards for my anatomy + physiology class on our 25ish minute drive back to campus. It didn’t require a ton of mental effort to do and it was something I wouldn’t have to find time for later in the day when I was a lot busier (and a lot more tired).

I wouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket as far as all this being worth it though. If your only measurement of success is whether or not you get recruited then I think you’re most likely setting yourself up for disappointment. If you make that a big picture goal though and set smaller goals for each month of winter training (i.e. drop your 2k by 2 seconds by New Year’s, increasing the length of your planks by 10 seconds per week over the next six weeks … stuff like that) then I think you’ll be less likely to feel burned out and more likely to feel like the sacrifice was worth it if you see yourself achieving in other areas that are more relevant to where you’re currently at in your career.

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

College Recruiting

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

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

College Recruiting

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

Time 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

Image via // @washingtonrowing
College Recruiting: When scholarships aren’t an option

College Recruiting

College Recruiting: When scholarships aren’t an option

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

For most people, the hardest part of college isn’t getting in or making it through, it’s figuring out how to pay for it. This may involve the institutions getting involved in the form of need-based financial aid, an athletic scholarship, merit scholarships, academic grants, or some combination of all the above and while it’s easy to think that getting any one of those things will eliminate those worries, it’s not always that simple.

Several of the coaches, particularly the ones from men’s teams, stressed that you need to do your research on financial aid, 3rd party scholarships/grants, student loans, etc. before talking to coaches so that you’re not blindsided by the cost of school if/when getting a scholarship isn’t an option. You can’t always count on getting financial aid either (this is where I got bit in the ass) so make sure you explore any and all options so that when talking to coaches you don’t put them in an awkward position by saying “I can’t/won’t come here unless you give me a scholarship” (because apparently that’s an actual thing that kids say to coaches … seriously??).

So what about the schools that don’t have scholarships to offer in the first place, like MIT, the Ivies and all programs at the D3 level – do they still recruit kids? The answer is yes but the money the teams lack in scholarships is usually made up for with need-based aid from the university. With the Ivies in particular, their large endowment funds allow them to offer pretty generous need-based aid and academic grants which has in turn allowed them to offer spots to prospective athletes that might have otherwise turned them down due to the cost and getting better offers from other teams/schools.

This really started to come into play a year or so after I graduated from high school (naturally…) and actually ended up being one of the reasons why one of my friends who graduated two years after me came to row at MIT. If you’re looking at schools that have scholarships to offer (i.e. a Big 10 school) and ones that don’t (i.e. an Ivy), make sure you weigh the scholarship money against the need-based aid you’re being offered because it’s possible that your financial aid package can end up being superior to the scholarship offer.

Related: If you want to read more about this, check out this article from the New York Times on how increased/smarter financial aid practices by the universities changed the game for Ivy League schools and the kids applying there.

Another thing to keep in mind too is that women are going to have far more scholarship opportunities than men thanks to Title IX. That doesn’t mean you’re going to get a scholarship, just that you have more chances than men to earn one. There are lots of ways that coaches divide up the 20 scholarships they have (some put their whole 1V on full-scholarship, others split them into 40 half-scholarships, others vary the percentage depending on the amount of aid you’re getting, etc.) so that’s another thing you should talk with them about.

Related: To see a list of schools that sponsor varsity-level rowing programs (at all levels of competition), as well as stats on cost of attendance, average athletic scholarship award, roster size, financial aid assistance offered to undergrads, SAT percentiles, etc. CLICK HERE.

The point to everything I’ve said so far is to know your family’s financial status going into the recruiting process because at some point it’s going to come up and you’re going to need to know how you’re paying for school. Keep in mind too that “paying for school” isn’t just a four year thing, it’s literally something that will effect you and your lifestyle for the next 20-30+ years. The thing I and lots of other people my age learned the hard way was that student loans are evil, soul-sucking, bank account-draining pains in the ass so do. your. research. so that they are your absolute last resort for covering your tuition costs.

Next week: Managing your time as a student-athlete and narrowing down your list of schools

Image via // @rowingblazers

College Recruiting: Official/Unofficial Visits + Recruiting Rules Recap

College High School Recruiting

College Recruiting: Official/Unofficial Visits + Recruiting Rules Recap

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

There are three main rules regarding recruitment that you should be aware of, regardless of whether you’re looking at men’s teams or women’s teams.

1. Most athletic departments apply NCAA bylaws to all sports, including men’s crew even though it is NOT an NCAA sport due to Title IX.

2. Depending on what division the school/program competes in (Division 1, Division 2, or Division 3) the bylaws can/will differ. There may also be variances across different leagues (i.e. no “dead periods” for men’s rowing in the Ivy League).

3. Outside of providing general info, contact from the coach to the athlete isn’t allowed until July 1st following the completion of your junior year of high school. This means that coaches are not allowed to initiate contact or return phone calls to students who are not seniors. (You however, as has been mentioned many times before, can initiate contact.)

There’s a lot of comprehensive and limiting rules that govern the different types of permissible contact and evaluations during the recruiting process and while it’s good to be aware of the rules, it’s not imperative that you know all the nitty gritty details. (And trust me, after having to read the NCAA handbook (all 470+ pages of it) and take a test on it all last year, be thankful you don’t need to know a lot of this.)

Alright, so official and unofficial visits. I’ve talked about these before and given details on what each is, what they entail, etc. so since the majority of the info shared at camp is the same as what I’ve already written, I’ll link that post down below and you can check it out on your own.

Related: Official vs. Unofficial Visits

There were a lot of good questions that came up outside the general stuff, most of which had to do with unofficial visits. As long as the school isn’t paying any of your expenses, you can stay with friends on campus, sit in on classes with them, watch practice, etc. as many times as you want at any point during your high school career.

One thing that many of the coaches (and college athletes) said was that visiting when school is in session is your best opportunity to see what real student life is like and get a general sense for the pace of people’s daily routines. It also gives you another chance to meet the people who make up the overall community. As convenient as going over Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring, or summer break is, you won’t get to experience the same “energy” that you would if you went when classes were going on so it’s worth it to miss a day or two of school if you can make it happen.

Related: Can a coxswain back out of a verbal commitment? I want to tell a very good D1 school that I will commit to go there but my coach said I should wait until after HOCR because I might be able to go to a better school if I do well. What should I do? Can you still go on an official to another school if you verbally commit?

If/when you go on unofficial visits, reach out to the coaches to let them know you’re coming too. Do this at least a week or two in advance of your trip (the sooner the better) and try to look at the team’s schedule before contacting the coaches instead of sending an email asking “will you be around”. If they’ve got a race lined up for that weekend, bets are that Thurs/Fri/Sat/Sun aren’t going to be ideal days to visit because the coaches will either be busy prepping or on the road. You can obviously still go on your trip if it’s something you already have scheduled but just know that you might not be able to do anything rowing-related while you’re there. (And if the coaches are able to make time for you, thank them.)

One of the athletes on the NRC panel who rows for the women’s team at Yale said that she sent a short email to each coach of the schools she “unofficially” visited that contained a brief intro (who she was, where she rowed, filled out questionnaire on [date]) and said that she’d be coming to visit campus on [date], would it be possible to meet up, see the boathouse, etc. From the coaches point of view, one (from the women’s team at Bates College) said that unofficial visits are a good opportunity for coaches to put faces with names and learn more about your interests in a slightly more low-key environment than an official visit provides (since they’re not just learning about you on that trip, they’re learning about 3-5 other people as well).

Related: What to wear on official visits, part one and part two

Something that was stressed by several of the coaches was that not being offered an official visit doesn’t necessarily mean they’re uninterested in you. Some teams can’t afford to bring kids out because they’ve either maxed out their budget or the money wasn’t there to begin with. I heard several stories from coaches who had to deal with situations like this during the recession when their budgets were cut. Keep in mind too that even though that was seven years ago, not all programs are back to the level of funding they were at before the downturn so if a coach tells you it’s not in the budget, don’t automatically assume that they’re just trying to soften the blow or feed you a line because it’s very likely they’re telling you the truth.

Related: What can I do during an official visit that will help my chances of being a recruit? I am one out of 35, and they choose about 10. Also, do you have any links for previous posts on this subject? Thanks!

At the end of your official visit(s), you should spend time talking with the coaches about where you stand, the role they feel you could play on the team, and the likelihood that you’ll be admitted and/or supported through the admissions process. Coaches should be up front and honest about this so don’t be afraid to straight up ask them these questions – just be respectful and casual about it. Coming off like an entitled douche is a great way for a coach to go from interested to uninterested really fast.

Next week: Recruiting without scholarships

Image via // @joseph_hollow
College Recruiting: Highlight videos + the worst recruiting emails

College Recruiting Teammates & Coaches

College Recruiting: Highlight videos + the worst recruiting emails

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 have become a big thing in the last couple of years but they’re mainly geared towards teams or specific crews to highlight their season, training trips, or specific regattas (Henley, for example…). They can also be useful during the recruiting process too if you take the time to compile some good footage of yourself. All it takes is asking your coach to shoot some video from the launch (of you specifically, meaning the camera is focused on you and you can’t see anyone else other than the rowers directly in front of and behind you) or if you can’t get some on-the-water video, setting your laptop up to record yourself while you row on the erg. Each clip only needs to be about 15-20 seconds long and the video itself doesn’t need to be more than 90 seconds to 2 minutes max.

Some examples of clips that coaches said they like to see are:

Ones shot from the side you row (duh/obviously – i.e. if you’re a port, video shot from the port side)

From directly behind the coxswain so you can see all eight blades (this lets them look at your catch angle and finishes)

Clips of drills (there were no specific drills mentioned but ones like cut-the-cake, top 6 inches, etc. are always good go-to’s)

Slow-motion footage that shows you/your blade going through one full stroke-cycle

By no means is that a complete list either, those are just the ones I remember being specifically mentioned. Additionally, if you participate in any kind of lifting program, getting footage of you doing cleans, deadlifts, etc. are also good because it gives the coaches another opportunity to observe your form. If you don’t know how to do these lifts or don’t do them on a regular basis though, don’t worry about this.

Something else to consider is asking the coach if they would like some video of you rowing and when they would like it. (This also applies to coxswains who want to send along recordings.) I thought this was a good point to bring up because there’s a convenient time to get video and an inconvenient time and giving the coach the opportunity to say “yea, I’d love to see some video but I’m swamped right now while we prep for HOCR – can you send it to me sometime next week?” just shows a good sense of awareness and respect for their time.

For coxswains wanting to compile a highlight video, I’d consider doing something like this (below).

Coxswain highlight reels weren’t brought up during the discussion with the coaches but it’s definitely something I’d encourage you to do in lieu of just sending one or two race recordings. Not only does it let you segment out the parts of each recording that you think showcase you at your best but it also lets you include more footage, thus giving the coaches a more complete idea of who you are as a coxswain. If I were putting something like this together I’d include…

Three to four race clips, 90sec long max (one from the body of a head race, one from the start + first 500m of a sprint race, one from the middle 500m of a different sprint race, and one from the last 500m of another different sprint race)

One or two clips (no more than 90sec max each) of you going through a warmup or drill (preferably both but if I had to choose I’d go with a drill, particularly one that shows off your ability to actually call the drill while providing good, effective feedback at the same time)

One or two clips of practice footage, be it a race piece, steady state, etc.

The video I linked above was almost 10 minutes long which should be fine as long as you’re varying what you include (hence why I posted the examples of clips I’d include). I would also include a “stats” page at the beginning and end like the coxswain in that video did, as well as putting in the description box the times that each new recording starts.

If you don’t have a GoPro then regular recordings are fine but if you do have a GoPro, definitely include some of that footage in there. When I’m watching GoPro video I’m always looking to see if the coxswains are making calls for the things I’m seeing with timing, blade work, set, ratio, positioning on other crews if you’re doing pieces/racing, etc. so whatever footage you use, make sure it shows you doing all of this. Don’t put it in there just because it’s from a GoPro and everyone would rather see actual video over  traditional recordings set against a montage of pictures. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that … it’s just that video from your point of view gives a better indication of how technically sound you are, something that is obviously an important part of being a good coxswain.)

The second part of today’s post is about the worst recruiting emails the coaches have received from prospective recruits. I’ve heard so many good stories about the awful, awful, awful emails kids send but since one of the #1 rules of coaching is “stories told on the launch and/or after hours at the bar stay on the launch/in the bar”, I can’t share them. Suffice it to say though that kids say some dumb shit and yes, you are endlessly mocked for it … in one case, six years later … so just keep that in mind as you start reaching out to coaches. Spell check, proofreading, humility, and common fucking sense are your friends.

Also keep in mind that coaches talk (a lot) so there’s a reasonably good chance that if you’re looking at a certain school and that coach sees the coach of another school that you might also be looking at (think the Ivies or other grouped schools like that), they might say “Hey, have you heard from a kid named ____? Let me tell you about the email he/she sent me last week…”. You’ve been warned.

Ivy League, top-3 men’s lightweight program

The email started off “I’m writing on behalf of my grandson…”. If your parents emailing coaches on your behalf is bad, getting your grandparents to do it (or them doing it on their own) is even worse. I can’t remember how this coach said he responded but it was something to the effect of “please have your grandson email us if he’s interested in our program” and that was it.

Email sent to several Ivy League men’s coaches with ALL THE COACHES included on the email

This email, which was the first email any of these coaches had received from this person, began with “Hello coaches, this time next year I will be rowing for one of your programs…”. I think the coach who brought this one up said this came from a female coxswain, which almost doesn’t surprise me. Almost. Yea, it takes a certain amount of balls to be a female coxswain on a top men’s collegiate team but including 5+ coaches on the same email and then starting it off like that is pretty damn presumptuous and definitely doesn’t convey whatever “confident” tone/message that person probably thought it did. The coach said this was a huge turn-off and needless to say, they didn’t pursue her to join their team.

Emails from parents

Nearly every coach at both NRC and Sparks (meaning men’s and women’s programs from both D1 and D3) said that they’ve had numerous parents email them over the years to talk about how great their kid is, what a great fit they’d be for their program, how much they love the school, etc.  That’s cool … except if your kid really did love the school and really did want to row there they’d probably be taking the initiative to contact the coaches themselves. All this communicates to the coaches is that your parents want you to go to that school, you’re not interested enough to reach out on your own, or both. Do not ask or let your parents email coaches on your behalf. It’s lazy and you’re basically a freaking adult. Do the work yourself and show some interest in the process.

D1 men’s heavyweight program and D1 men’s lightweight program

This apparently is not an uncommon occurrence since I heard one of these stories at Sparks and the other this past spring when I was talking to a coach at IRAs. Basically it goes like this. Kid is looking at Team #1 and Team #2. Kid emails Team #1 and begins the email with “Dear Coach [of Team #2]” and includes mentions of several things related to Team #2 … despite sending the email to the coach of Team #1. Coach of Team #1 forwards email to coach of Team #2 and says “I think this was supposed to go to you”. Coach of Team #2 says “lol delete“. Kid does not get pursued by Team #1 coach or Team #2 coach.

I wish I had some examples of bad emails sent to women’s coaches but luckily for us/unfortunately for the guys, I haven’t heard any … yet. That one from the coxswain though just made me cringe so hard when I heard it so as far as I’m concerned everybody’s even.

Next week: Official and unofficial visits

College Recruiting: Contacting coaches, pt. 4 – Laying out who you are and contacting coaches when you’re not a senior

College Recruiting Teammates & Coaches

College Recruiting: Contacting coaches, pt. 4 – Laying out who you are and contacting coaches when you’re not a senior

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

To put the recruiting process into perspective (and to offer up a dose of reality), Coach Lindberg said the following (talking obviously about the men’s side of recruiting): “Out of the entire country there are on average 60-80 males that are or could be considered ‘highly recruitable’. They’re the ones that all the coaches know about and have interactions with on a fairly regular basis. Beyond that, add in another 100-120 athletes from around the world for programs that do international recruiting and you end up with a pool of roughly 200 athletes that can have an impact on their programs at the highest level.”

Because the pool of people who can have a real impact on programs is so small, it’s not only imperative that you put the work to make yourself a competitive recruit but it’s also important to very clearly lay out who + what you are to the coaches (in both questionnaires and emails) so they’re not left to fill in the gaps on their own. Generic emails like “Hi, I’m ____ from ____ and I’m interested in ____, please call me and tell me more about your program.” will sit in an inbox for a “very, very, very, very” long time because it doesn’t help the coach get to know or  understand you.

As has already been discussed in last few “contacting coaches” posts (here, here, and here), things you should include in your emails are who you are, where you’re from, your coach’s name(s), how many years you’ve rowed/coxed, one or two notable accomplishments, your weighted/unweighted GPA, SAT/ACT scores (or the dates you plan on taking them if you haven’t already), applicable physiological data (height/weight), your most recent erg score(s), etc. Coaches are turned off by having to guess this info so don’t hold back or assume your stats aren’t good enough.

To quote Coach Lindberg again, “it’s better to know what you are than what you think you might be”. Obviously you need to be realistic about it (aka don’t email D1 men’s heavyweight programs when your 2k is 6:58 as a junior) but if the trend of recent 2ks for recruited athletes falls between 6:04 and 6:12, don’t assume they’re not gonna look at you if you’re at a 6:16.

Another one of the many common questions that comes up is contacting coaches if you’re not a senior. The rule is that you can email/call them anytime you want, they just can’t contact you directly before July 1st of your senior year (which is why such a big deal is made out of that day). They can reply to emails and talk to you on the phone if they answer it when you call but if they miss the call for example, they’re not allowed to call you back. Similarly with emails, they can reply to emails you send them but they can’t be the first one to make contact. It’s a little confusing but it’s not like it’s some big secret that the NCAA rule book is convoluted and annoying.

It’s unlikely that you’re going to have any real need or reason to contact them as a sophomore and maybe even as a junior depending on your level of experience but if you feel the need, you can reach out and say that you understand they might not have time or be able to reply to you but you wanted to introduce yourself, you’re a [whatever year you are], and then include height, weight, GPA, year in school, a goal (trying to make 1V, working on 2k time, etc.), etc. and that you will follow up with updates in the future. If you’re going to be at races they might also be at (particularly head races), let them know what event you’re entered in, your bow #, what seat you’re in, and the time of your race. This will allow them to scope you out if/when they’ve got time and make a mental note of who you are and what you looked like.

Similarly, go to camps. The coaches do remember you, it’s a good way to make initial connections (particularly if you haven’t begun the recruiting process yet or aren’t a junior/senior), and it gives you something to reference in your emails when it does come time to reach out to them.

Next week: The worst emails coaches have received and what they think of “highlight videos”…