Archive for The Coach’s View

ED1 vs ED2 in the NESCAC?

As we’re ticking down to 11/1, kids are deciding where to go ED. So many kids are insecure that it’s gong to work out, even with coach support. If a coach has been recruiting a kid and they decide to go ED elsewhere, is that pretty much the end of the relationship? Is there any way for a recruit to still keep a door open with the other schools that have been recruiting him in case things don’t pan out at #1? We asked a NESCAC coach if he could give us any insight into ED1 vs ED2 and if it’s possible to keep your options open.

I think it’s natural for kids to feel a little nervous about things working out in the ED 1 process at a NESCAC school. As the policy in the NESCAC states, as coaches we’re not allowed to guarantee anyone they’ll be admitted to our institutions as it’s ultimately an admissions decision, not a coach’s decision.

Each coach has their own language and track record over the years, all I can say is that kids should be asking direct questions about where they stand and what kind of read they were given by admissions.

As far as keeping in touch with other coaches, I would say that it doesn’t happen often but kids can certainly reach out to other coaches and let them know that if things don’t work out at school A, they’ll likely apply to school B in the ED 2 round or regular decision…they can ask if there would be the potential for support in one of those rounds.

Middlebury Lacrosse Coach Dave Campbell on Recruiting and Playing in the NESCAC

Dave Campbell, Head Coach of the men’s Middlebury Lacrosse team talked with us about recruiting and playing lacrosse in the NESCAC. Dave has the unique perspective of having been both a player and a coach in the NESCAC. A two-time All-American selection at Middlebury, Dave went on to coach at Notre Dame and Connecticut College before returning to Middlebury as head coach. He played on an NCAA championship team and was named NESCAC coach of the year in 2009.

Coach, I think the one thing that every potential recruit wants to know is how ‘support’ works in the NESCAC. How many LAX players get slotted, or tipped and how reliable is it?

It’s important to remember that in the NESCAC, as coaches we’re not allowed to guarantee anyone that they’ll be admitted to our institution. It’s ultimately an admissions decision, not a coach’s decision. That’s one constant throughout the league. Now of course we can all identify recruits that we’d like to support through admissions and that number is going to vary a bit from school to school and year to year. It’s worth asking each coach how many student-athlete’s they plan to support in your class early in the process. The other thing that’s going to vary from school to school is exactly what ‘support’ means and how it’s handled. Each coach has his own language and track record as far as that goes.

I know a lot of kids can feel very anxious about everything working out after they’ve submitted their Early Decision application even if they’re supported. What kind of assurance can you give to a kid in that position?

I think it’s natural and appropriate for kids to feel a little nervous about things working out in the ED 1 process at a NESCAC school. But I think you can minimize that by asking a lot of direct questions during the recruiting process leading up to submitting your application. You should be asking where you stand and what kind of read you’ve been given by admissions. Ask lots of direct questions and take notes – I can’t overemphasize that.

You mentioned a coach’s track record in working with recruits. I know trust is a 2-way street. When you’re evaluating a potential recruit, besides watching games and reading stats, how can you get a handle on his character?

Over the years we develop relationships with high school and club coaches around the country and try to get as much input as possible from them in regard to character, work ethic, etc.. Most of us also speak with college/guidance counselors to get a better feel for a prospective student-athlete off the field.

Let’s move on to the commitment required of a NESCAC LAX player. How much time is generally required of your athletes?

To stay competitive, guys are working out year round. They have to be self-motivated. I’d say 90 minutes to 2 hours a day is pretty typical during the off-season. Once the season starts in the spring, we’re going about 2 hours a day.

Thanks for taking the time to talk, Coach Campbell. It’s really helpful for a potential student athlete to hear first- hand what it takes to get in and compete at one of the top colleges in the country.

The Coach’s View: UVA Rowing Coach Kevin Sauer on Camps, Early Commitments and Advice for Freshmen

Coach, I see you have a rowing camp starting up in a few days, do you end up with a lot of future recruits coming through your camps?
Ten years ago it was zero, but now, there are always a few kids that really want to get seen. But it’s really about introducing rowing to high school kids that may not have had a lot of exposure to the sport.  If you think about it, the kids who are really, really good are very busy right now (mid-June). They’re going to selection camps and development camps. So our camp may be more attractive to kids who aren’t training for Junior National teams and that sort of thing.

We’ll sometimes get 8th and 9th graders coming through who we don’t have any interest in  as recruits, but they’re just trying to improve  and over the course of 4 days we’ll try to help them do that. And there have been a few times where a kid has come in who wasn’t on our radar screen and we’ll get to see them up close and personal for 4 days and we’ll think, “hey this kid’s alright, “ and we end up recruiting them.

Or, like we talked about earlier, we’ll get kid’s coming from other sports, swimming or volleyball who want to give it a try.

I know in sports like soccer and lacrosse, early verbal commitments have become pretty common. Is that something that’s happening in rowing, too?
Boy, I hope not. I think rowing is so developmental – as a kid grows and develops in their later years in high school, they’re going to be a different athlete. Unless somebody’s just off-the-chart good already, it’s just too much of a roll of the dice in our sport. In all honesty, I think it’s a roll of the dice in every sport. I mean, you have a 15 year old kid that’s really good, who’s to say at 18 she’ going to stay good, or stay motivated? I like to see a little more of a long-range track record.

I’m glad in rowing we haven’t seen the early commits yet. Kids come and visit as juniors, and I don’t really know of anyone that is committing before the summer after their junior year.  Most kids are taking visits in the fall of their senior year before they make up their minds. It’s very rare that a kid will even commit in the summer after junior year. I think that’s a good thing. They can take their officials, see what the classes are like and what the team is like. I think that’s great – they get to stay overnight and really get a feel for the team culture. It’s important for them, and it’s just as important for us. We can see how they interact with the team.

Even after an athlete has taken their time and gone through the process, D1 rowing is tough. What kind of fall-off do you see in your roster numbers over the course of the year, and from freshman to senior years?
Well, there is some, but we just graduated 19 seniors – so that tells me there something good going on.  There is attrition, of course, no doubt about it. There are a lot of kids that come out freshman year and walk-on, and some don’t really know the sport – they think it’s a canoe club.  And maybe they’re expecting we’re just going to go on trips over the weekend and they find out, ‘whoa – it’s not like that at all.” So there’s natural attrition with that. You may have 40 or 50 kids that come out and you end up with 10 or 15 because they find out it’s pretty hard and it’s really not what they were expecting. So that kind of attrition is everywhere.

But as far as long term attrition, we don’t have a whole lot of that.  The kids enjoy what they’re doing and they’re getting something out of it, so they keep doing it.  So 19 seniors is a little out of the ordinary, but we usually have 12 or 15 seniors each year.

What’s the time commitment required?
Well the NCAA limits are 20 hours per week. You have to have a day off and you can’t go more than 4 hours per day.  So if you go 4 hours per day, you’re going to be done after 5 days.  We have to turn in an hours sheet that the kid signs off on every week.  With lifting and rowing we’re usually in the 17-19 hour per week range.  Some kids will do some extra workouts on their own but what we can program and require – 20 hours  per week.

How about taking on a difficult major as an athlete? Is it doable?
There are kids from every conceivable major.  I told you about the girl who graduated number 1 in the nursing school.  We had 4 kids with 4.0s this spring.  Especially here during racing season, that’s really hard to do. Our team GPA was 3.2, and we’re talking about 63 kids with 3 coaches, so the ratio is pretty large. We have a good academic adviser, so between the coaches and adviser, we stay on top of the kids pretty well.

There’s also something to be said for the ‘work-ethic’ type of sports, Whether it’s cross country or swimming or wrestling or rowing. Those sports where you have to put in a lot of time, those type of kids also seem to excel academically. They’re used to grinding it out in their sport and they do the same academically.

In your experience can you put your finger on the one thing that freshman seem to struggle with the most?
I’ve been doing this 35 years, so I’ve seen 35 freshman classes go through. 8 at Purdue, 3 at Yale and this year makes 24 here. All three schools are academically challenging.  The biggest challenge, what I tell kids every fall is to get a good start and learn to say ‘no’ early.  Be a nerd for the first month or 6 weeks.  Get comfortable saying, “sorry man, I have to study.’ It might be hard at first, but come November, you’ll really thank yourself for doing that. You can’t get that time back. So just say no for the first 6 weeks and get a solid start, and then you can start saying, ‘yes’ a little bit more.

I think that’s the best advice I can give, especially if you’re doing a sport at a challenging school: Get a good start and be a nerd for the first 6 weeks.

When it comes down to making decisions and commitments, what can you tell kids about handling that last step?
A kid really needs to step back and evaluate what’s best for them. If a kid tells me they’ve really thought it out and decided what they feel is best for them, I’m okay with it, either way. And if you approach it that way, you’ll see kids at races that you recruited and they’ll come up to you and thank you for the way you treated them during the process.  You might get a note from a kid that you recruited, who’s now competing against you, that sends you an e-mail congratulating you and thanking you – I mean, that’s what it’s all about.

Coach, thanks again for taking the time to answer our questions. I’m sure it’s a help for kids that want to know what it takes to compete at a top school.
Thanks and it’s nice to see UVA on the Tier1College list. I think it’s great for kids to get the perspective that you’re trying to provide, because it is a tough road.

The Coach’s View: UVA Rowing Coach Kevin Sauer on Erg Scores, Scholarships and Character

Kevin Sauer, Head Coach of the 2012 NCAA Champion UVA Cavaliers women’s rowing team took time out of his schedule to talk about recruiting and competing in a top D1 program.

Coach Sauer, besides erg scores, what sort of qualities are you looking for in a recruit?
Well, it sounds like a cliché, but really – character. My philosophy is that if the character is there, you can do a lot of good things.  Obviously you have to start with athletic ability, no doubt about it. But there are people who can make up for some athletic deficiencies, whether it’s height or power with character. It makes a difference as far as their work ethic and how they’re able to really put forth the effort day in and day out.

Do you always recruit kids who have come from a rowing background, or do you sometimes recruit good athletes from other sports that you think you can develop into good rowers?
Well the “guarantee” is someone who has the rowing background, but sometimes there are some good kids that come from other sports.  Swimming, for example, is a great correlating sport – no doubt about it.  They’re used to the hard work, they’re used to grinding it out – they’re used to looking at a black line for a long period of time and they get into rowing and they look around and say, “hey, cool, scenery”. So I’ve had really good luck with some kids that have a strong swimming background.

I coached at Yale for 3 years as well, and there was a guy that was 6’6” and 210 lbs and was a 500 yard freestyler in high school. There’s not a much better combination that that.  This was a guy that was willing to work hard. After 3 years of rowing he was a world champion.  And the next year he went to the Olympics in ’88.

So the NCAA allows up to 20 womens rowing scholarships in a D1 program. Do you allocate the full 20 at UVA?
Yes, we’re fully funded and have been for about 5 years now. Before that we were not, but the department decided to fully fund all the sports, so we’re fortunate enough to be able to take advantage of that.

So this is all open weight, correct?
Yes, we have lightweight sized rowers, but we don’t have a lightweight team.

The 20 scholarships cover the entire roster of 65-70 women?
Right. Not everyone is a full scholarship. There are a few full scholarships, but it’s a lot percentages.

Are there certain benchmarks based on erg scores, where if you’re hitting this mark you’re in the realm of 100% and if you’re hitting that you might qualify for 50%?
It’s not so much erg scores, as much as what you’ve done while you’re here.  I mean there are some kids that come in as a full scholarship because they’re very, very talented and a lot of schools are after them.  But there are others who come in on a percentage or nothing at all, and earn their way to get some financial help as they go through their careers.  I had 2 kids in the 2009 Varsity 8 that started at zero and ended up at full by their senior year.  So again it’s not a specific benchmark because you can have a great erg score and still not be able to move the boat.  It’s  back to character, being a good teammate and a good boat mover more than a certain erg.

That said, the erg score is very quantitative and easy to assess, and those other important factors are a harder to quantify. The erg does tell you that at least she’s got a lot of power and probably endurance and toughness, so if we can teach her how to row, she’s probably going to be pretty good. But you can have kids who are great rowers, great erg scores but they’re just not good teammates.  They just don’t have what it takes, character-wise, to be an asset to the team.

What’s your philosophy about weight in a boat? Is there a benefit to be a lighter rower with a good erg, compared to a heavier rower with a better erg score? Is there a tradeoff?
At some point, there is.  You have to consider the fact of power per pound.  There are lot of smaller people who create really good scores for their weight, but in the end, you need horsepower.  Even if you’re 130 lbs and have a 7:40 erg, that’s pretty good, but a 7:40 erg no matter how much you weigh is not going to create the kind of horsepower that you need to succeed at the Division 1 Varsity 8 level.

There’s room for kids that size in an open weight boat, but they’re usually pretty fast. So you have to balance that.

Sometimes that comes out in a seat race – you switch a rower in a boat and see what difference it makes.  Of course you’re trying to control a lot of variables – so it’s not perfect.

How about the Coxswains, are there scholarships available or are they generally walk-ons?
Well, it’s very hard to assess a coxswain, there aren’t any quantitative measures there. But you listen to coaches and listen to tapes, that type of thing and hopefully you come up with some indications that this kids is going to be pretty good in college.  There are times when you can give them some aid (financial) but a lot of times, here at UVA it may just be a matter of helping them get into school, which is pretty valuable. And then if we’re able to help them financially as well, that’s pretty attractive.

But we tend to lean more on the side of the rowers, helping them a little bit more than the coxswains. But we have helped some coxswains in the past as well.

You mentioned being able to help an athlete get into school. Obviously UVA is a very academically competitive school.  If you have an athlete that you want, but they may be on the border, how much support can you give with admissions?
Yes, absolutely. We have a few slots each year where admissions will allow us to identify those kids that we can support. It’s no different than at any other school. As for the academics they’ll need, it’s really a case by case basis.

There was a girl who was in the nursing school who just graduated that I slotted and helped her get into the school and she ended up number 1 in the nursing school with a 3.95 GPA. She ended up an academic All-American.

How solid are the slots? If you slot an athlete, are they pretty well assured of getting in?
It’s solid. We can get a commitment from admissions and be able to tell them, we’re willing to slot you if you’re willing to commit to us. The only thing that would make it fall through would be the same sort of thing that would get your regular admission rescinded.

Next, Coach Sauer on early commits, time demands and challenges D1 athletes face


The Coach’s View: Jeff Stiles, WashU Track and XC – Part 3

Tell me a little about the lifestyle of the athletes – how accommodating is the track practice schedule for kids who might have conflicts with their classes?
In XC, our main practice is in the morning, and we avoid class schedule conflict, so that works out really well. Now it is tough, and they have to be intrinsically motivated to make it happen because we’re going at 6:30 or 7:00 am. We give them 2 days off each week to train on their own to accommodate for academic stuff. And then in track we go in the afternoon and we tell them, our practice time is at 4:15, we want you there. But we know, we’re going to have to work around some kid’s schedules. I would say on a given day, we’ll probably have 70% there and 30% will have to go to an alternative time. But it depends on the semester and the major. Like junior year engineering, for example, tends to have a lot of labs. We had a kid who was an NCAA runner up who was a 5th year senior and he had some grad classes and his schedule was never going to allow him to be at practice all year. So he had to work out at alternative times the whole season. So we had to work around that, it’s just part of the reality of it.

We don’t want them to take classes during practice if they have a choice, but we know, as coaches, it’s going to happen and we’ll work with the student to make it the best we can. But again, that’s why they need to be intrinsically motivated. It’s not like high school where you just show up and all your teammates are there. Sometimes, there’s just not a great time so they’ll have to be there at 7:30 am because that’s the only time they have. So it’s definitely challenging, and that’s why the number 1 thing we’re looking for is people who really love what they do.

Since none of these kids are on scholarship, is it difficult to keep them on board? Do you find that by senior year you have a lot fewer kids than you brought on as freshmen?
It depends. We’ve had years that we’ve batted a thousand. We kept everyone, and to me that’s really rewarding – that’s pretty cool. But that’s definitely not the norm. There normally is an attrition rate. But I try to tell them what the reality is during the recruiting process. And I think you can kind of ID those kids in the recruiting process. We also try to promote a culture that it’s about the team and not themselves. Now senior year, definitely with med school interviews and trying to find a job, it’s hard. I feel like track is harder than xc for that because xc is in the fall, whereas in track, these kids are getting ready to start jobs in a week. It’s hard but it shows who’s really invested.

How many hours are the track kids working out during season?
I’d say 2 to 2 ½ hours per day would be the norm. If you include the training room, maybe 3 hours. But some days might be 75 minutes because we have a meet coming up. But I usually say 2 ½ hours is what you need to plan on.

What are your thoughts on the paid recruiting services? Do you use those at all or is it usually the student contacting you directly?
Personally, I’m not a big fan. Because again what we’re looking for are kids who are picking out WashU specifically. So right there it’s sort of a red-flag. We’ve maybe got one kid through that, but it wasn’t because of that. Usually those kids don’t fit the bill, they’re usually not the WashU profile, and when they are, it’s a turn-off, personally, because again these kids are just getting their name out rather picking out WashU.

Do the athletes ever incur any costs related to travel or equipment?
Athletes do incur the cost of their uniforms, but there are no costs for travel or equipment. I guess we have done some fundraising for trips, but that isn’t anything we’ve done recently.

One last question: you’ve developed a very successful program – what would you say is the most important factor in achieving that?
I’d say developing a team culture and finding the right people. Getting the students to buy into that and of course having a good coaching staff. We’ve also really been blessed with unbelievable leadership from within the team – kids who bought into the team culture.

The Coach’s View: Jeff Stiles, WashU Track and XC, Part 2 of 3

How many athletes do you typically recruit in a given year?
Honestly, I couldn’t even give you a number. Because it depends how you define it. We get information constantly throughout the year. Like right now, we’re at the time period where all these kids are emailing. You know, the subject line will be their name and ‘class of 2013’. I don’t keep track of the numbers, but it’s definitely in the hundreds. And the number of kids that you actually pursue is obviously smaller than the number of kids that you have in your database. I think in terms of kids you’re trying to actively recruit, you can only do so many, I would say you’re probably looking at, I’ll throw out a number, maybe a hundred kids at a time – that would be for all track men and women. But out of that, you’re going to have kids that fall off the list and new kids that fall in. By the end you’re really hoping to be able to narrow it down until you’re looking at maybe 50 total. But it changes, as kids learn more maybe they become more interested in WashU or they meet someone who had a good experience here. It’s the same way for us, maybe we’ll meet an alum who knows this kid, or a coach might call us and say, ‘here’s why you should be interested in this kid’. Or they visit and you really fall in love with them and you’re thinking, ‘wow, this is a great kid’, and the kid you thought was really high on your list, you meet him and maybe they’re a fine kid, but your gut tells you, this isn’t the right fit. So all that is constantly changing.

So once you’ve got it down to a hundred or so, and people are falling in and out, typically how many do you end up with? 12, 15, 20?
For XC and track, both men and women, I’d say it’s more than that. I’d say maybe 25-50, depending on the year. We’ve had years when we brought on 14 male xc runners alone. But it really can vary. Like this year, I think we have 10 men and 10 women for cross, and maybe an additional 15 for track, so this year we’ll have about 35 incoming freshmen.

Obviously, WashU is very academically competitive, are you able to support recruits through the admissions process and how does that all work?
We definitely can support students. Now, ours is different than my understanding of some schools where they can have guaranteed admission spots. At some schools, they’ll crunch numbers and if you hit minimum numbers, they can get you in. And that’s not how it is at WashU. Here, they’ll absolutely take the coach’s input, and there are times when that probably is the difference. But it’s not one of those things where upfront we’re going to know who that is. So there’s definitely the opportunity for support, it definitely makes a difference, but there are also no guarantees that if you hit this number and the coach supports you, you’re in.

Is there any benefit to recruiting a kid with real high academic marks, even if they’re not a great athlete?
I think so, because in terms of numbers, as a coach, you want to make sure your numbers are there. Now we’d want a kid we think we can develop, for example we wouldn’t recruit a 6 minute miler, but we would recruit someone who we think is more of a developmental athlete. So we want to have 8 or 10 xc runners per year. And if we feel their chance to be admitted is strong, we’ll definitely be more likely to recruit them than if they’re a developmental athlete and we think they’re borderline. Just from a roster standpoint, the more kids you feel good about, it helps you be more aggressive with the superstar who’s maybe on the edge of getting in.

Does admissions keep track of the team academics? In other words, if you’ve got a kid who is a great academic kid, who is maybe not a superstar runner, would he boost the overall academic profile of the team and enable you to bring someone on who is a great runner, but might be on the cusp academically?
Yeah, I don’t think they really do. Even the kids we get who are borderline are still strong. We’re never getting a real stretch. So even borderline kids are still really good students. So they really don’t follow it like that.

As a D3 coach, obviously you can’t give any athletic money. Are you able to help the athletes access merit or need-based aid?
We can just point them to the website and direct them to the people. That’s definitely one of the hard things about D3 – you’re going to lose kids and you can’t do anything about it. Money is a big factor, especially nowadays. There’s no doubt that at the Division 3 level, you’re at the mercy of their financial aid package, which we have no input on. But, it’s one of those things that, you’re going to get some kids that you don’t recruit because they got an (academic) scholarship. And they’re going to call you up in May and say, “Hey, I’m Joe Smith and I ran this time in the mile and I’m coming – I got this scholarship I’d like to run on your team.” So there are times when we’ve benefited from it. But as a coach, it definitely can be frustrating when you go through the whole process and the kid wants the school, but in the end, financially, they get a better deal someplace else. But that, unfortunately, is just part of the Division 3 experience.

Up next: Time commitment, class schedule clashes and attrition

The Coach’s View: Jeff Stiles, WashU Track – Part 1 of 3

The Coach’s View
Coach: Jeff Stiles, Washington University Track and Field and XC.
Coach Stiles was named the Division III Women’s Cross Country National Coach of the Year last November. He was kind enough to answer of few of our questions about athletics and recruiting at a top Division III program.

What do you look for in a recruit besides times?
I guess number one would be that they are authentically interested in our institution. When you recruit at a higher-end academic school, you tend to get a lot of people that just want to go to a good school and they’re looking at 20 schools. So we’re looking for kids that picked us out, honestly. There are students out there that play a game and they’re telling every coach the same thing, all the while they’re going to go to whatever school is ranked number 1 on their list – if they get in. So our first thing is to find kids that are really authentically interested in WashU – not just, ‘hey I want to go to a good school’ – but I’ve done my research .We don’t necessarily have to be the top choice going in, but they should have it narrowed down to a realistic number. We’re on their list, and they know why we’re on their list – they know what we have to offer. So that would be number one.

We all know athletes who were successful at the HS level and then they get to college and they crash and burn. What do you look for in a recruit that indicates that they’ll make a successful transition?
Honestly, you never know. There are kids who have gone to high schools that are notorious for not producing and have gone on to be really good. You’re looking for those kids who are really intrinsically motivated. Kids who really love the sport, and there’s not a 100% method of knowing who that is. But you’re looking for the kid who seems to do it because they love it, not because the coach is holding a stopwatch and telling them to go out and run 10 miles.
Some kids are just in a really rigid high school program where they don’t have a choice, so you don’t know their internal motivation level.
Now maybe you have a kid who is new to the sport or comes from a less-developed program, or there’s a coach who you have a relationship with that you can trust and he tells you, ‘hey, this kid really loves it.’ So for me, when I find out a kid maybe had the first cross country season of their life as a junior, that’s not a turn-off, that’s a turn on. To me it’s, ‘wow’ that gives me reason to believe that there’s a lot more in the tank. But what I’ve learned is maybe you might think a kid is fried-out, but then they go on to do really well. Or you have a newer kid and you think, hey, they have a lot of potential – and maybe they do, but you just don’t have enough data to know that they love it or they’ll stick with it. In all of it, you’re making an educated guess.
I suppose the longer that you coach, the more of an intuitive feel you get…
I think so. I mean every coach likes to think so, but we’re all wrong at times.


Next: Supporting recruits through admissions and Division 3 financial aid