by Sparks editorial staff
For this article, we polled a group of coaches from universities all across the country–men’s and women’s programs–to find out what the top mistakes recruits are making during the recruiting process. If you’re a junior rower (or the parent of one) and you’re interested in getting recruited for the next level, check out these 17 mistakes and make sure you’re not making them! All of these responses are from the actual coaches and are anonymously provided.
One theme that almost all of the coaches mentioned as a mistake is that many juniors aren’t asking the right questions about the schools and programs. The coaches recommend NOT fixating on erg requirements, practice times, and race results, and instead find out about the culture of the team, learn about the university, and ask all the questions that gives a big picture view of how your life and rowing career might be for the next four years.
Our very own Ryan Sparks talks about this in his Op-Ep entitled The Recruiting Process.
- Not asking the right questions – Think about what may impact you the most like coaching style, athlete retention, and examples of progress other rowers have experienced in their program.
- Not researching the school – Know what the academic requirements are for the school and plan ahead. Check out the admission website of the school and let the coach know your plan of action.
- “So why are you interested in our University?” – Be prepared to answer that simple question. If a prospective Student Athlete is truly interested in spending the next 4 years of their life studying and competing for that University, shouldn’t they know why and know at least something about it?
Ruling Out Programs
- Not casting a wide enough net – Junior year is about seeing what’s out there and what kind of school might be a good fit. Big school, small school, different areas of study, DI, II, III, club. They all have great things about them and it’s important to have an open mind.
- Closing the door early – We see recruits close doors too early. They rule out teams in their junior year of high school based on the name of the university or their race results. That early in the process they should be casting a very wide net.
- Not looking at the big picture – Recruits often look at race results and say how much they like winning/racing. Racing makes up about 5% of your collegiate rowing experience and maybe less then 1% of your total college experience. They need to look at the daily practice, the grind, the academic stress and pressure. See what the whole picture looks like.
- Sending a poorly written email – Coaches aren’t expecting a perfectly worded letter, but awareness of punctuation and grammar should at least be attempted.
- Not sending regular updates – Once the recruit has narrowed down their choices and is communicating with one of their top schools they should send regular updates to the coach of that program. Many coaches receive dozens of emails from recruits each day so it’s important that recruits keep themselves on the coach’s radar. Coaches do their best to send out regular emails to their top prospects but it’s still easy to loose track of someone if they’re not following up.
- Sending form letter emails – Personal is much more effective. Make sure you are addressing the proper institution and coach.
- Not having your info handy on the phone – “I don’t remember what my GPA, erg score, testing scores are.” Don’t be that athlete.
Making a Poor First Impression
- Not introducing yourself properly – Where are you from, what school year are you in, what program you row for, years of experience, why do you think you are a good fit for the school and program, already have a video of your rowing ready.
- Don’t have your parents make initial contact for you! – If your parents call the only thing I know is either they are interested in you attending our University or you aren’t interested enough to make the call yourself.
- One simple mistake is not listing 2K times – Always list it in your first correspondence. Send updates when you pull faster times. If a recruit has never taken a 2K before they should include other tests they’ve done. I’m even happy to get mile run time or swimming PR’s if the recruit has just started rowing.
- Not telling coaches when they are doing unofficial visits – A mistake I see recruits frequently make is they don’t communicate with the coach of a school they’re visiting until until after they’ve made their travel arrangements. There’s no guarantee the coach will be in town when a recruit is visiting, especially if it’s during the holidays or spring break time frame, so it’s best to get in touch with them early so that they can plan a meeting for a day they’re available and get the most out of the visit.
Not Using the Right Resources
- Not sending video – If you row well, this can be a HUGE advantage. This can set a recruit apart because a pretty small percentage of rowers send video. Talk to your coach and let them know that you want to send some footage to college coaches. Low rate rowing along with some race pressure or even actual race footage is great. Put it up on YouTube and send the coach the link. It doesn’t have to be Hollywood caliber or too long. Remember to indicate what seat you are rowing!Incomplete info – Athletes who don’t give complete information in their emails, such as: height weight/2k erg score or 5k/academics and testing.
- Not using online recruiting questionnaires – One of the top mistakes I see juniors make when starting the recruiting process is that they put a lot of time and energy into creating fancy, in-depth rowing resumes to send to coaches. I’m happy to receive additional information about an athlete, especially items that speak about them as people and not just as rowers, but the recruiting questionnaire is the first step for a coach to assess if the recruit could be a good fit for their program.