As a college rowing athlete and coach, Ryan Sparks saw gaps in the system that left many students (including himself) discouraged and disheartened.
The Sparks Difference - A Holistic Approach
We pair you with colleges that nurture your skills, encourage you, and help you realize your athletic potential.
We ensure your academic passion and unique learning style are complemented by your chosen college.
We find colleges that mirror your personality, values, and sense of community.
Best Fit Means Everything.
Our rowing clients have an average 91% admit rate to their first-choice schools. But more than just finding a great college, they find a great fit.
We believe a holistic fit (academic, athletic, social) is the true measure of success. If your chosen college aligns with you on all three, you will:
- Find it easier to learn and achieve academically,
- Get the right athletic attention and exposure to truly fall in love with rowing,
- Develop the relationships that will launch you successfully into life after college.
Client Success Stories
Meet Ariana R.
Recruited at Wesleyan University and Bates College
“When my mother first told me she hired this firm to help me, I told her she was wasting her money. I was already communicating with college rowing coaches and felt like I had everything under control. I was so wrong! Sparks widened my perspective on the college selection process. My counselor challenged me to consider serious issues I never would have thought about on my own. They helped me uncover needs I didn’t realize I had, and they empowered me to take a step back and critically analyze every option from a big picture point of view.”
Meet Angela M.
Recruited at the Universities of Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Tulsa
“By the time I contacted Sparks I was so overwhelmed by the coxswain recruiting process that I started questioning my desire to compete in college. The counselors alleviated my anxiety immediately, and because they specialize in academic admissions as well as athletics, I learned how to define my long-term goals and make choices with the big picture in mind. Now I’m a proud graduate and will always be grateful to Sparks for helping me find the best overall experience.”
Meet Gavin S.
Recruited at Cornell and Columbia Universities
“There is such an advantage to working with a firm like Sparks. They have a wealth of knowledge and expertise with the rowing recruiting world as a whole, and all of the counselors are committed to understanding your long term goals. Everyone I spoke to was dedicated to helping me find a school where I would develop as an athlete, scholar and person. I didn’t have to sacrifice any of my priorities, and that’s incredibly valuable.”
Meet Brad H.
Recruited at Harvard and Stanford Universities
“The rowing recruiting process was a high-pressure scenario, but the team at Sparks’ helped me feel well-informed and in control. From recruiting timelines and sports resumes to understanding team cultures and interacting with college coaches, my counselor streamlined every step of the process. By my senior year, I was able to take more risks with my applications and weigh all of my options with a sound mind.“
Meet Tracy E.
"Sparks was an integral part of the college process for our son. Their vast knowledge of the US collegiate rowing world and the dedication of our advisor during this process allowed our son to make informed decisions. His advisor took the time to understand him and made the process a very personalized one. In the end, he made the right choice for himself, and his counselor was instrumental in that process. We highly recommend Sparks for their focus, dedication, and expertise."
Meet Trofym A.
Recruited at Yale and George Washington Universities
“Even as a top rowing prospect in Canada, the recruiting system in the US was overwhelming. I considered the best programs in the country but felt like something was missing. As a second semester senior, I realized that the fastest team is not always the best choice. In May of my senior year, Sparks helped me identify schools where I would excel both athletically and academically. I went on to complete both an undergraduate and master’s degree, win a World Championship, and experience three Olympic Games.”
Director of Experiential Education
Director of Experiential Education
Dave Payne heads Sparks' experiential education division - namely, rowing camps across the US and in Europe and New Zealand. He holds a B.S. in Chemical Education and a M.S. in Chemistry from the University of California at San Diego and is a former collegiate athlete and high school rowing head coach. He has worked at Sparks since 2011; Dave's passion is synthesizing athletic environments that encourage holistic growth.
Free Tools You Need Now
The Rowing Timeline Wizard
Rowing recruiting timelines can be confusing. They vary according to school and the specific needs of coaches.
Our 10-minute Timeline Wizard will help you orient yourself to the rowing recruiting process - in an easy, non-threatening way.
The Rowing School Database
If you want to be successful in the recruiting process, self-evaluating programs will give you an edge. You already know more than you think about how to find the right college.
Search roster heights and team retention rates. This is our most comprehensive tool for evaluating rowing colleges. Amazing for getting perspective and insight!
From Our Blog
The Significance of Roster Retention & Performance
The Sparks team looks at how rowing roster retention impacts performance - or visa versa.
The Significance of Coaching Experience in College Rowing Performance
Continuing our study of various factors in college rowing, we examine what effect, if any, coaching experience has on college rowing performance.