This is the critical winter training season for many high school rowers. Critical because this is the best season to focus on improving the all important erg score.

While it is beneficial to have an ultimate erg score goal, it is also very important is to continue to improve each time you “test”. Analysis of each test and understanding what specifically needs improvement will be the best way to continue to progress. Many high school rowers do repeated erg tests without addressing an underlying issue – whether it be: not following their race plan (if they even have a race plan); a mental block/difficulty finishing the erg test; maintaining concentration through the test; pushing themselves hard.  Coaches obviously want to see the fastest erg test that you can produce but they also give weight both to your progress as well as your level of experience. Give coaches an accurate picture of your rowing experience including erg testing and keep them informed of your progress.

The first step in the recruiting process involves figuring out how to direct your college search. The best way to start the process is to gather information about the various colleges and rowing programs that might be a good “match” for you. At the same time, it is important to take your academics and rowing seriously since you will not know what your academic and rowing benchmarks will be until your junior year in high school.

We understand that it is very tempting to put off doing research about colleges and rowing programs because your schedule is so busy. If you are thinking about rowing in college and you are a sophomore in high school, you should use the time during sophomore year to do your research-online, with college books and visiting college campuses. If you are a junior, try to streamline your search by using online research tools before you travel to college campuses. Try to make any travel to college campuses  as efficient as possible by grouping colleges geographically before you leave home. Schedule information sessions and college tours and meetings with coaches before you arrive on campus.

The research you do in advance of your junior spring will serve you well whether or not you pursue recruiting. Your research may lead you to choose not to go the recruiting route but rather approach college rowing as a walk on. Whatever you decide, the knowledge you have gained from the process will help give you clarity about your ultimate  decision.

College coaches want motivated student athletes.  This motivation can be demonstrated both athletically and academically.

Plan your high school courses wisely. The academic courses you pick in your junior and senior year of high school can indicate your ability to push yourself academically but may also demonstrate your academic interests. Recruiting is very competitive and coaches use the recruiting process to determine who will be a good fit for their team and academic institution. Be careful not to ignore the academic piece of the process since strong academics could tip the decision in your favor.

Try to do everything in your control both athletically and academically to make it as easy as possible for the coach to recruit you.

Many of our clients want to send emails to coaches at schools which they have never visited and about which they really have no information. They often feel an urgency about starting to communicate so that they can be “ahead of the pack”. Success in recruiting is not about being first to communicate with a coach but is rather about having the rowing/coxing profile that is interesting to a coach (which we have outlined in other posts on having the academics to gain admission and having the desire to go to the particular school because if it is a good fit.

I want to highlight in this post the importance of gathering information about the school and rowing program before you start to communicate with coaches. There are various ways to gather information that do not involve miles of driving with your parents to walk around a campus. First of all, you should read about the school in a college guide book and look at the website for the school. Look at the athletic department page on the website and the particular page for the rowing team. Read whatever you can about the rowing team to get a sense of the team culture, performance level and goals for the future. Check out the roster so that you get a sense of the particulars of the team. Of course, there is nothing like a walk around campus to really get a sense of the school so it is best to get onto the campuses that seem most interesting to you. Be realistic about how many schools you can visit in one day-we recommend no more than 2 visits in a day depending on the locations of the 2 schools. If you are going to be on campus, you should arrange to meet the rowing coach during your visit. You should also take a campus tour and attend an information session. After the visit you will probably have a good sense of whether the school and rowing team seem like a good fit for you.

Doing your homework before you get in the car or on a plane will save time and energy and will help focus your search. High school rowers have no time to spare so doing your homework about the school and team will help make the search most efficient and productive-and fun too.

Official visits are a great way to get an inside look at a rowing team as well as the life of a student athlete in college.

Just as there are many varieties and different “cultures” among academic institutions, there are just as many variations among rowing teams. It is important to look beyond the excitement of being on a college campus and consider whether the team seems like a good “match”. Watch how the coach interacts with the rowers and coxswains and how team members interact among themselves as well as the level of seriousness with which everyone approaches practice. Look at the university as a whole-both the academic offerings as well as student energy and enthusiasm for the school.

The official visit is a 2 way street-the recruit is trying to determine if the school and team are a good “match” at the same time the coach and team are trying to determine if the recruit will be a good addition to the team. Also-remember that an official visit is not an offer-it is rather the beginning of the next phase in the recruiting process.

The 2K is all important in the recruiting process since this is one of the ways in which college coaches evaluate a rower’s ability and potential. It is what we call the “SAT/ACT” for rowing.

College coaches often have a target 2K that they want to see and they will communicate this with potential recruits. This number can be daunting to a potential recruit depending on where you are in the process, how long you have been rowing and what year you are in high school. It is important to remember that there is a process for getting faster on the erg and it takes time and effort to drop time. Be sure to think about how you will approach your training and take the time necessary to properly train. It can be difficult to fit in erg training during racing season so many rowers plan to do 2K’s during non racing seasons. There is no particular time by which you need to have your PR 2k but the better the time, the more interest you will get from college coaches.

Also-depending on your individual circumstance, it can be beneficial to show college coaches your previous 2K’s so that they can see your progress.

The NCAA regulates many aspects of the recruiting process and allows for 5 official visits by a prospective recruit. See NCAA rules for more specifics. Official visits (OV) are a wonderful way to learn about a school and rowing program and get an “insider” view of a campus. They allow for class time as well as social time with the team and attending a practice. Many times, prospects also get individual time with a coach.

Official visits are a visit to campus which most commonly includes a weekday (so that you can attend classes) as well as an overnight. There is also some travel involved depending on the distance of the college from your home. Official visits are very exciting and also can be intense. We see OV’s as an extended “job interview” with the coach looking at the prospect at the same time as the prospect is evaluating the college and rowing team. Remember that OV’s occur during the fall of senior year in high school. This is a very busy time for high school athletes since they need to: keep up with the academic work, continue to train, work on college applications and possibly re-take the ACT or SAT and stay healthy.

We have worked with many prospects and strongly advise that they take a maximum of 3 OV’s. The addition of travel and time away from home to the intensity and stress of senior fall can take its toll. If you have done your homework, you should be able to have a list of 3-5 top schools during the summer before senior year with your aim being 3 OV’s. How prospects choose where to take OV’s is different for each student athlete-but includes an evaluation of their academic and rowing profile as well as the appeal of the individual school and rowing team.

The spring racing season is over for many high school rowers and coxswains. It is important to communicate with college coaches about your spring season races whether you won medals or were disappointed with your results. One of the most important things that coaches want to know is what you learned from the race.  Every race provides an opportunity for analysis useful for improvement.

Many of you have just finished racing at Youth Nationals. This is a very valuable experience since it is a high pressured regatta with fast boats in every event. Whether you won a medal or were less happy with your results, take the time to communicate with college coaches about your experience. Many college coaches attend the regatta and may have seen you in your race. Your communication after the regatta can be helpful in the coach getting to know you better as you move through the recruiting process.

Now is a great time to read about college teams and see their latest results. The collegiate spring racing season is finished with the exception of upcoming championship races. You should become familiar with all the spring races so that you get a complete picture of the college rowing “scene”.

Check out the great results from teams with new coaches.  If you love a school but the rowing program is not as strong as you would like, remember that coaches can change and a program can improve dramatically.

It can feel like “musical chairs” among college teams with some gaining a lot of speed and moving up in the rankings while others have less movement.  It is important to focus not just on the final results but what teams have done through the entire season since you want to learn not only what teams have done in the past-but where they are going in the future. Row2K is a great resource with both the news articles and race reports (see reports posted on May 20) as well as results for the entire season.

Everyone loves to win but 1st place is not always the place to learn the most from a race.

High school rowers and coxswains need to remember that they are in high school and should always be looking to learn from and improve for their next race and next season. College coaches want to know not only the race result but what was learned from the race. This can include everything from strategic miscalculations and management of equipment malfunctions to how other competitors actions affected your race. Your analysis will give the coaches a “window” into your ability to progress as a rower and coxswain. College coaches are most interested in athletes who will continue to improve through their college career. Your analysis of past results and how to improve going forward can be one of the many factors that college coaches consider to determine their interest in you as a potential future member of their team.