Recent NCAA Rules have been adopted which change dates for recruiting.  This allows recruits to begin communication with coaches as early as June 15th after sophomore year in high school.

Below are specific dates for coach contact and face to face meetings.

Correspondence/Private message: 6/15 after sophomore year

Incoming/outgoing calls: 6/15 after sophomore year

Unofficial/Official visits: 8/1 before junior year

Off campus contact: 8/1 before junior year

Verbal offers are not leglislated.  Note that 6/15 after sophomore year is the first allowed recruiting interaction

The recent Wall Street Journal article “Colleges Mine Data on Their Applicants” (WSJ January 26, 2019 by Douglas Belkin) describes colleges tracking of applicants “demonstrated interest” in a school.  The goal of this tracking is to protect  the schools “yield” or number of students who enroll after being accepted.   This became more important with the use of the Common Application when students could easily apply to a larger number of schools but obviously could only attend one school-thereby leaving schools offering acceptances but lower enrollment percentages.

Colleges can track an applicant’s response to an email from the school including but not limited to how long it takes for an applicant to respond after reading the email as well as determining if the applicant sought further information by clicking links to college materials.

Colleges “score”  an applicant’s interest in the school which is part of the process of determining whether to accept the applicant. It has always been important for applicants to establish a relationship with a school -which includes visits to the school, attending information sessions and tours, and emailing.  Applicants should take seriously establishing this relationship since it can make the difference in the admission results. 

This is similar to a potential recruit developing a relationship with a coach so that the coach has a good idea of the level of interest that a potential recruit has in the rowing program.  Coaches want recruits who are genuinely interested in the rowing program rather than those who are just seeking an admission.  Potential recruits should take these contacts seriously since this can make the difference between being recruited and being passed over by a coach.

Two rules have been changed since May of 2018 that will have a strong bearing on recruiting going forward. One pushed the unofficial visit time date to junior year while the other moved forward the official visit to the athlete’s junior year. The NCAA has claimed this rule change was meant to mimic the rest of the student bodies experience.

Unofficial Visits: September 1st of Junior Year.

The first and most damaging is that coaches are not allowed to have unofficial visits with athletes until September 1st of their junior year. Prior to this, coaches could meet sophomores on campus and discuss their program. This makes recruiting more challenging since competitive athletes have substantially less time to travel when they compete or train year round.

What is the best way to learn about a program before September 1 of your junior year?

Do your research. Follow their instagram and social media accounts and their team site. This is an easy way to learn about their program and understand their culture as a whole.

Take this time to understand the difference between DI,DII and DIII and the scope of the DI. DI is able to provide scholarships to athletes and they require a substantial amount of time in comparison to DII and DIII. However, within DI teams, they can range substantially as well. Any team in the Top 15 at NCAAs is going to require the majority of your time in college. If you are more interested in academics than rowing, check out the CRCA Scholar-Athlete Awards. Athletes must have a 3.5 or higher A high number of athletes can tell you where the priority of the team may be in respect to academics and rowing.

With these new rule changes, the best time to visit a school for an unofficial visit that works with your schedule is the winter between Late January and Early March. Even if a team is on the ergs, it can tell you so much about the program, the staff and the culture of the team. It is important to see how a team handles an erg day because it speaks volumes about where the program wants to go. Not only that, it is a great way for you to see erg times and see where you may fit in.

Official Visits: September 1st of Junior Year.

Prior to this year, official visits were only allowed to occur after September 1 of a recruit’s senior year. This rule change predominately helps other sports who make verbal commitments with athletes at a much younger age. Rowers tend to establish themselves as talents at the end of their sophomore year and through their junior year. Because of this, most schools, I assume, will not significantly change their official visit style. The top 15 teams in the NCAA will most likely begin to use official visits for the Top 40 recruits. High schoolers who are already sub 7:25 for females may start getting official visit offers. Major state universities and some of the Ivys who tend to recruit foreign rowers will most likely use this time to get these students on campus. However, college teams are just as busy as you are doing your spring season so it is unlikely there will be many official visits occurring past the first weekend of April.

This means you have to learn more about these programs sooner and do your research about the school themselves. Don’t wait for the coach to answer all your questions.

Official visit 101

Official visits can be stressful. Most students are traveling further from home perhaps alone for the first time in their lives to impress coaches and find the right school for them. Here are some critical tips you may not think of to help you during your 48 hours on campus. Remember, it is an interview! 


Outside of drinking and partying on your visit, nothing will end your recruitment to a school like falling asleep on a launch. 

Do your research.

Know where the team finished last year in their conference. Ask a coach how they felt about last years results and about this years chances. Asking what last years results were will suggest you are not serious about the school or rowing for the team long term. Also be prepared to answer “why are you interested in ______ University?”  you need to know about the school as well. 

Your host is as important as the coaches 

Coaches always speak to a host athlete after an official visit about their recruit to get a thumbs up or learn of any potential red flags. All behavior is discussed, for example I once had a recruit who made the athlete late for practice and spent time talking about the other schools she would rather go to. I ended communication with her after that weekend. You don’t have to be best friends, but know a bad review from from your host can end your recruitment.

Your host is not there to singularly entertain you. Some hosts may want to show off the school and bring you around the college town or the area but they are not obliged to. Some have work or group projects or tests so be prepared to potentially sit around. It is a part of being a college student.

Plan ahead.

Bring proper clothing to sit on a launch. Check the weather, bring extra layers. If it is in the 60s during the day, a morning practice will be below 50 and sitting on a launch is an extra 10 degrees colder.

Watch what you eat with the coaches.

If you are sharing a meal with the coaches be smart. If you are being recruited as a women’s lightweight, coaches can worry about anorexia so if you order a salad and eat three bites of it that is a red flag to coaches. If you are a heavy openweight or lightweight ordering a hamburger and fries also suggests you aren’t taking being an athlete seriously. 

Make things easy on the coaches.

Don’t miss your flight or check bags or be wishy washy with plans. Coaches are planning 30 or more of these for 4-5 weekends,  the easier you make it for them by sending all the details needed shows you are smart and organized. 

Coaches need the following for official visit paperwork:

  • NCAA number
  • Picture of your SAT or ACT score with your name in the image
  • Up to date high school transcript

Coaches will also want the following details to organize your trip and itinerary:

  • Flight/train number and your arrival and departure times
  • Classes you are interested in
  • If you have allergies or health issues, tell the coaches ahead of time so your hosts can adjust. A lot of athletes eat peanut butter before practice so if you are allergic it is good to know.

Prepare goals.

Every single coach will ask you about your short term and long term goals. Have a goal for your senior spring and a goal for your time at that university for both a 2k and boatings. Coaches can tell you if it is realistic to compete at that on the team or what it takes at that level. Do not make your goal 5 seconds faster than your high school PR. You may not be able to imagine yourself just yet at sub 7:10 but coaches want to hear that you want to try to get there. Coaches don’t want to have to convince you to go fast. 

There are many different levels of high school rowing teams across the country. Some teams have national reputations and are in the elite group of teams who are top finishers in regattas each season. Other teams are less developed, may draw from a much smaller population or are located in areas where rowing is less popular.

While college coaches will recognize the names of some teams, they may have no familiarity with the smaller or newer rowing teams. As a rower or coxswain, it is important for you to communicate both about yourself and your team when you are developing a relationship with a college coach. If you are a member of a less developed team, you should seek out any opportunity to further develop your rowing/coxing skills. Use the summer season to row/cox for another team. Joining a masters team is also a possibility if there is no junior team that is available to you. If you are a member of a masters team, explain how this came about to the college coach. This will give the coach a more complete picture of you and your motivation to improve your skills.

College coaches look at more than rowing stats when thinking about a potential recruit. They want to “know” as much about the rower/coxswain as possible to help them determine if the athlete will be a good match for the team. While rowing performance is of primary importance to a college rowing coach, recruits should understand that coaches will look beyond rowing in their decision making. Behavior on official visits can impact a coach’s determination about recruiting an individual athlete. Likewise, coaches will search social media to learn more about an athlete. Inappropriate social media posts can be detrimental to the recruiting of an athlete. Remember that everything you post is public and assume that it will be seen by the college coach with whom you are trying to build a relationship.

High school athletes who want to try to get recruited need to be proactive to “get on a coach’s radar”. Coaches are interested in fast erg scores, strong academics and good water performance. Individual schools and coaches have their own parameters for each of these categories and it is important for recruits to understand the specific standards for each program.

Beyond the “numbers”,  coaches look for intangibles in their evaluation of potential recruits. These can include getting to know about the recruit’s character, intrinsic drive, attitude, and passion for rowing. Coaches want recruits who can will be able to handle unexpected and difficult situations, are willing to do what they need in order to progress, are willing to challenge themselves, are able to take constructive criticism and strive for excellence.

A very important factor in the process is that the recruit must “own” each step. Parents are obviously active participants, however, the student athlete must take charge and do the work at each step along the way. Just as parents cannot row the boat, so they should not do the recruiting work for their child. This is important from the college coach perspective since coaches want to communicate and develop a relationship directly with the recruit. Recruiting takes time and effort and the most successful recruits take ownership of each step including important strategic decisions along the way.

It is a given that parents want their high school athletes to succeed in everything they attempt. For a high school athlete the strain of competition both in the classroom and in athletics can be particularly stressful. While there is no way to relieve all of the stress for your high school athlete, there are some things to think about in an attempt to avoid creating more.

It is important to remember the messaging that you give when communicating with your high school athlete. The message of disappointment or lack of confidence can be particularly difficult since building confidence as well as skill are critical in athletics.

Recognition of a mistake by the student athlete is very important. Owning up to the mistake and figuring out how to learn from it is a way to improve for the future and avoid repetition. It can be difficult for parents not to “defend” their child’s action but stepping back is often the best course of action in the long run. Student athletes should communicate directly with their coaches about individual issues as well as any issues on the team and parents should steer clear of involvement in this area.

Student athletes need to be realistic about their abilities and try to improve while working within the team structure. It is expected that there will be frustrating practices and disappointing races. There will also be instances where athletes see coach treatment as unfair and there can be dramatic competition between members of the same team. This is the nature of a sport where athletes are competing for limited spots in a particular boat. Student athletes sometimes complain of lack of encouragement by a coach and may feel like the coach does not notice their hard work. Coaches in general know what is happening with each member of the team (even if they do not communicate this) and will certainly notice if there is a lack of motivation because of an unsatisfactory boating. Giving 100% at each practice is the best way to show individual potential and demonstrate commitment to the team.

Rowing teams have different levels of performance both among divisions as well as within Division I, II, or III. Likewise, individual coaches have a wide range of expectations of their athletes based both upon their expertise as well as their determination about what works best for their individual team.

Some teams expect individuals to cross train throughout the year and may specify additional land workouts on a regular basis. Other teams may not expect additional workouts beyond practice time. Training while off campus during school breaks also varies widely. All coaches will want their athletes to stay in shape during vacation times so that when they return to campus, they do not have a lot of “catching up” to do.

Ask college coaches about their expectations when you are visiting college campuses and meeting with coaches. Do not hesitate to ask specific questions. The more you understand about the details of a program, the more prepared you will be when you join the team.

The erg score is very important. College coaches are interested not only in your PR but in the progression of your erg training. They may also want to see erg tests of different distances.

It is critical to prepare for each and every erg test since there may not be as many opportunities to erg test as you would like. It can be very difficult to erg test during racing seasons since coaches prioritize being on the water in the fall and spring. Winter is the best time to focus on the erg -depending on where you row and whether or not you can row on the water throughout the year.

Figure out what works best for you for the test:

Do you perform better in a familiar environment or in a big indoor erg event?

Does having a coxswain help you or does this create more stress or distraction?

Have you prepared a race plan and how able are you to stick to it?

What anxiety do you have about erging and how can you address this in anticipation of the test?

Do you have (or can you create) a pre-test routine that helps you?

Just as studying for an academic test is critical to good performance, so is  “studying” for the erg test. Finally-while many of you may have a goal in mind when you take the test, take time to evaluate the experience regardless of the result. Be sure to learn from each test so that you can improve the next time.