I posted the following as a reply in another thread yesterday, but figured that I'd repost my response under a new thread and title, so that more people who are thinking about rowing in college might find it. (Hence the sixth paragraph which addresses the original poster regarding their bad luck with Stamford rowing.) This originally appeared as a response to the thread titled, "Someone help me understand."
"With two kids recruited to D1 rowing programs, I've figured out a few things -
- Coaches want the best possible recruits. They are only interested in your academics in terms of whether they can get you through admissions. They care about your erg times, your height & your results - in that order. (in my opinion)
Erg times are their only objective measure of your potential abilities. (It seems that the kids with the most recruiting options & success on my kids' teams have had the best erg scores, not necessarily the top results on the team.)
Results are dependent on many other factors, primarily the rest of the rowers in the boat with you. Certainly top finishes at the most competitive regattas are considered and the best recruits usually have good results. That being said, coaches believe that they can teach a kid to have better form, but they can't teach strength & size. Coaches also understand that if you're in a small program, your race results may be restricted by the limitations of your team, hence once again, the importance of your erg time.
Remember a coach will opt for the best possible athletic recruit EVEN IF THAT ATHLETE APPEARS AT THE VERY END OF THE RECRUITING PROCESS! That means where you are ranked on a coach's priority list is fluid and can change at any time. On the other hand, if their top recruits fall through - they may decide they want and need you, even if they've seemed somewhat lukewarm. So hang in there and maintain contact with coaches of teams you are interested in - you never know. This is true of all programs from the top ranked on down. Never forget that a coach's job success is judged by their team's results, not your grade in chemistry or how much they like you as a person.
- The Ivies all need to have teams that meet a certain academic average. This means that they need athletes that can balance out top recruits that may have a relatively low AI. (Remember, this is not a helmet sport, so there isn't that much leeway) So, if you have outstanding academics AND fit their athlete profile with regard to erg time, height & results, a borderline athlete may be pulled in. Pay attention to which ivy teams are less competitive - they may be your best bet if you're a borderline recruit, but fit the ivy academic profile comfortably.
- Be realistic and ask coaches direct questions that will give you a sense of your chances.
*** Ask the range of erg times for last year's recruiting class.
If the slowest time is 5 or 10 seconds faster than you - pay attention. If your times don't drop, your chances are poor, no matter how good your academics are. (Erg times should be verifiable - at an official indoor competition or at least by your current coach.)
In rowing, height matters so that rowers in their boats match up. Some coaches are more willing to overlook a smaller rower if they believe the athlete is a good recruit. If you are somewhat height challenged, relatively speaking, ask if they've got athletes on their team that are your height. (Usually you can find heights listed on the profiles of the current team roster.)
Finally, ask how many slots the coach has for the upcoming recruiting class and how many they had last year. Some will have just a couple of slots and some may have as many as 10. The strength of the team is not necessarily an indication of how many slots they receive.
- The amount of pull that a coach has with their admissions office will vary from school to school. It depends upon how how highly rowing is prioritized by the admissions & athletic departments. This means that a top rowing recruit may actually have a better chance at gaining admittance at a more academically competitive school that prioritizes rowing.
* With regard to Stamford rowing, unfortunately your story is not totally unfamiliar. As I recall, there were some woman rowers that believed that they'd been promised slots on the Stamford women's team about 3 years ago. These were top recruits, who had options to be recruited at other academically outstanding schools. They found themselves without a spot and scrambling at the last minute. The shame was that by the time they were denied admission, their options were limited by the fact that many schools had completed their recruiting.
If my rower was athletically and academically in the running to be considering Stamford, I'd be wary, because it appears that Stamford rowing coaches have had problems with predicting admissions outcomes for some of their recruits.
This can be an important lesson with regard to all rowing recruits - if the coach is not able to produce a likely letter (ivy) or a letter of intent - proceed with caution. It may be worth it to choose a school that it willing to offer some sort of official assurance. Understand that not all schools and teams offer either of these. It's your job to figure out which schools that match your interests & athletic abilities that do and make informed decisions. There are lots of great schools with rowing teams that may not offer either. I don't mean to suggest that they shouldn't be considered, just that you should understand the recruiting process at the schools that you're interested in. Is it worth it to gamble on a college that won't provide you with a "likely letter" or a letter of intent, over a school that will?
I believe that it isn't unreasonable to ask a coach directly if they've had athletes that have been denied admission, even after admissions has indicated that their recruits should get through. The truth is, unless you've got something in writing, don't count on it.
Sorry for the ramble, but I wish I'd been able to read something like this post when my family was first embarking on the recruiting process. I hope that this will be useful to someone who is starting now."