BY BILL MANNING
PHOTO BY PETER SPURRIER
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College recruiting formally begins June 15 following sophomore year, when college coaches can contact prospects. Before this, coaches can observe and track prospects but cannot communicate (beyond sending their recruiting questionnaire) or meet (except at their institutional summer camp). Young athletes, however, can still do much before this date to make themselves knowledgeable and attractive prospects.
Athletes wanting to get recruited should do as well in school as possible. The better you do, the more opportunities you’ll create for yourself. Grades are obviously important. So, too, are the classes you take. Taking an appropriately demanding course load, as determined with input from your guidance counselor and parents, is important. Just as earning straight A’s in easy classes is not ideal, nor is overloading on AP’s and sacrificing GPA for rigor. Also, keep an eye on specific requirements that colleges may have. Many highly selective colleges look for three or four years of foreign language, math, and/or science. Some state universities require art. It may not be impossible to get recruited lacking such required classes, but it can make it much harder and is easily avoided by planning and choosing classes wisely.
Be a good athlete, not rower. Rarely does rowing year-round during freshman and sophomore years make a better college oarsman. Rather than specializing in rowing, learn to compete and become more athletic. At least one season a year, compete in a game sport or do something else equally challenging, such as another varsity sport, martial arts, or dance (yes, dance!). When it comes to rowing, learn to row both sides and scull, too. Never think of yourself as “port” or “starboard.” It’s far too early to do so.
Get your sleep. Most young athletes want to become bigger, stronger, and fitter. Many willingly put in the effort. Fewer take the time to recover properly. Getting to bed at a reasonable hour makes you a better athlete and a better student, and thus a more appealing recruit. Learning to eat like an athlete helps, too.
Colleges will ask your coach for a recommendation. Earn your coach’s respect by being a good teammate. Consistently work hard, do as you are told, and accept coaching. It’s fine being a leader, but you don’t need to be one. Everyone needs to be a good follower, however.
Now is the time to begin thinking about college rowing programs. They come in many varieties: D1/D3, varsity/club. The type of program can mean vastly different experiences and expectations. Learn about colleges, too. Many host summer rowing camps. Some actively use these to identify prospects. All provide an opportunity to see campus, but keep in mind the vibe during the summer months is nothing like during the school year.
Acquire an unofficial transcript showing classes and final grades from freshman and sophomore years. If the school calculates a GPA and/or class rank, include this. (Not a problem if the school does not.) Make sure your name is clearly visible, and if you’re a female, register with the NCAA.
Finally, recognize that as eager as you may be to connect on June 15, coaches will focus primarily on prospects a year ahead of you in school. Coaches absolutely want you to introduce yourself and submit the questionnaire but they may not get in touch with you immediately. Keep improving and continue updating them.