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The Art of the Ask

BY BILL MANNING
PHOTO BY PETER SPURRIER

The old saying about the only stupid question being the one you don’t ask? That applies when speaking with college coaches, too. That’s because the questions you ask speak volumes about you. Good questions are the ones that deal with your specific concerns, communicate your sincere interest in the team, and that are best addressed by a coach. There are, however, times when your questions don’t help your case. Unhelpful questions are the ones that demonstrate a lack of interest or curiosity on your part, like asking for information you can readily find on the program website. 

A lot of the time, the student-athletes on the team you are considering will be better position to field your questions than the coaches. They’re more likely to tell it like it is, while the coach will be motivated to paint the program in the best light. 

It’s also important to show some humility. Most college coaches are turned off when a 17-year-old asks, “What’s your coaching philosophy?” Since you’re not interviewing the coach for a job and you likely don’t have a finely tuned rowing philosophy of your own, stick to the basics and use your powers of observation to see what the coach believes.

College coaches want prospects taking initiative and leading their own college search. That means prospects, and not parents, are the ones who should be communicating with the coach. Parents do have an important role in the process, though, especially when the conversation turns to financial matters.

Prospective student-athletes are frequently interested in how a school handles recruiting. Often, they want to know if they can get a scholarship or if a coach can support their application with admissions colleagues. These are all good questions. But they need to show the coach why they deserve a scholarship or their support before asking whether or not they’ll get it. 

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