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The huddle

May 13, 2019

Recruiting Horror Story | My Technique Kept me off IVY Rowing

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At the most competitive academic schools in the world, sports are not always at the forefront. However, Ivy League Rowing has established itself as the most dominant conference in men’s heavyweight, men’s lightweight and women’s rowing. It is a sport that has been a part of the Ivy League rivalry and tradition since the first college rowing competition back in 1852 between Yale and Harvard. Rowers who get a spot on one of these prestigious teams will undoubtedly receive an incredible education and a chance to compete at the highest level of collegiate athletics in their sport. There are a lot of rowers looking for limited positions which make the recruiting process very competitive.

This type of competition makes it common for student-athletes to be left out to dry. A college rower, Sam, went through a horrible experience of his own while vying for a spot to row for an Ivy League school.

There is some background on collegiate rowing that is important for you to understand. I was informed that “The timeline for rowing recruiting typically comes to a head in the fall of senior year in high school around mid-October. However, as you can imagine, it all depends on when the top schools, such as Princeton, Harvard, and Yale make their decisions because all the rowers who get deferred resort to their second and third choice schools resulting in a trickle-down effect.“

Sam and many other rowers who want to row at the top level must actively pursue the top schools, improve their times, and stay in shape all while keeping up their grades. They also must keep their options at least somewhat open to safety schools should no top programs recruit them. Keeping the safety schools interested while showing them little attention is very difficult and can cause athletes to be left with no college to row at by the end of their final year in high school.

Sam was statistically a great rower. He mentioned, “In the sport of rowing there are what we call 2k scores, which is an objective measure of a rowers strength/fitness, and is the most commonly referred to metric by college coaches.” The 2k recruiting score comes from a timed combination of sprinting and endurance on a rowing machine for 2,000 meters. Sam’s was excellent. He was right around the scores of the rowers already rowing at the top schools in the country.

Although Sam’s score made him appealing to the top-tier schools and his grades made him eligible to row, there was one problem. It was his rowing technique. It was abnormal and looked off to coaches even though it got him across the finish line. He was able to row as fast, but in this extremely competitive process, recruiters and coaches will look at every detail and scrutinize. This made Sam nervous about his chances.

The problem college crew has with recruit retention made this process difficult for Sam. “Student-athletes use rowing to get recruited into these schools and then quit after a year or two.” Schools who compete at a lower level of rowing but still have excellent academics or other desirable qualities often get top rowers who were rejected from the Ivy leagues only to have them drop the sport halfway through their college career. Schools do not take to kindly to this, and rightfully so. They see this as athletes using their rowing program to get admission into the school. This leads the school to believe the student-athletes never really had an interest in rowing at a non-Ivy program.

These reasons explain why non-top rowing programs avoid these types of players and require their recruits to show interest in their school during the recruitment process. Sam was struggling with this. He needed to overcome his poor technique with the Ivy’s while showing interest in the non-Ivy’s.

Sam made a choice to spend most of his efforts toward a top-tier program which was the Ivy Leagues. He reached out to them, stayed in contact, performed at meets, and kept both his body and grades in shape. After his first-semester of his senior year winded down, late in the recruiting process, last minute, he was informed of a decision. He was turned down. Rejected. At first, Sam had a strong sense of disappointment and anger. Those feelings then turned to panic because he realized he did not have a place to row the following year.

He needed to stop and think. He needed to find a way to get back into the recruiting process this late in the game. He looked through at all of the other programs that he had been in contact with over the past year. None were a top Ivy program, but they were great academic schools with solid crew teams. However, he had already broken off communication with the other institutions.

Sam made a tough decision. He hit the reset button on a lot of relationships with coaches that he had previously told he was not interested in. At first, it felt awkward going back to coaches that were interested in him when he was not interested in them. It can be hard going back to the table after it has turned. Sam did it anyway because he wanted to row. He was an oarsman at heart, no matter what his technique was like and no matter what school he had to attend.

After a nerve-racking, hectic couple of days of emailing and calling coaches around the country, Sam finally got an acceptance, and his game of musical chairs was over. Sam was lucky enough to find a chair to sit in and is enjoying his college experience today. Sam isn’t rowing at any of the Ancient Eight schools, but he is rowing and getting an excellent education. The recruitment process was stressful and almost cost him his sport, but in crunch time he was able to focus and overcome.

YOUR JOURNEY STARTS HERE