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
Now that the fall recruiting season is winding down I wanted to share this video that I came across a few months ago. If you’re not familiar with him, Geno Smith is the coach of UConn’s women’s basketball team (always one of the top programs in the country), as well as a former head coach of Team USA’s women’s basketball team. What he says in this video might be in the context of basketball but it’s applicable to any sport and something to keep in mind as you progress throughout your career and the recruiting process.
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 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.
Hi Kayleigh! I’m a bit confused on filling out recruiting forms as a coxswain. A fair amount of the schools I’m looking at have men’s heavyweight, men’s lightweight, and women’s rowing; if I’m open to coxing all three, do I fill out all three even though it’s at the same school? Thanks so much!
Yes, just be prepared for them to ask you early on which one you want to cox for. Even if right now you’re open to coxing any of the three, don’t just say “I don’t know” or something equally vague because that just makes coaches (at least the ones I’ve worked with and heard say this) think that you have no clue what you want. You should prioritize them based on your level of interest (and ideally narrow it down to two before you get too far into the process), that way you can tell coaches that you’re interested in all three, right now this is your order of preference, you’re hoping to learn more and narrow it down further over the next few months, etc.
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.