American Rowing Camps for Foreign Juniors
One way to see the American collegiate system before you decide to try and pursue university admission and/or a rowing scholarship in the US is to attend an American rowing camp. "But, which one?", you ask. You also probably ask, "why are these [insert expletive] things so expensive?!"
It is worth the investment, particularly for foreign families interested in experiencing a particular coach or school environment prior to committing to fly across the world to attend university for four years in a country where the rowing culture may be quite different from your own.
The American rowing culture centers around two key things: eights and the erg. You may already know this. However, are you familiar with the standard philosophies in the US in relation to training with them, or the psychology of the coaching pedagogy associated with working within what we define as a team sport? How about the general level of awareness around the foundational elements of education you've learned and experienced in your home country?
If you're interested in a particular school or coach, simply try to find a 5 day program that includes that school or coach. It will not be the same as the actual atmosphere of going to university at that school, but it will allow you to develop an understanding of the resources available and the coaching inherent to the program. If you want to experience a multitude of coaching attitudes from coaches at different universities, a few five day programs offer this as well; the company that writes this blog provides one but there are also other good options and we're happy to identify a multitude of them if you'd like to send us an e-mail. You may say, "but what's in it for you if you help me find a camp that you don't run?" The answer is simple: contacts abroad (and maybe that whole bit about helping one's fellow man in addition to the fact we may unabashedly reference our own programs as one possibility).
The US system is extremely non-uniform in terms of coaching philosophies and pedagogical styles. As a result, understanding coaching personalities will go a long way to understanding whether you'll accept a scholarship, come to university in America, and feel as if you're literally punching a pay stub when you come to train or whether it's something you look forward to everyday. Training content differs substantially as well.
There are also longer camps available in the US, but almost none of these run through the American university system. Rather they run through clubs and include a lot of American juniors seeking to row intensely over the summer. While these will not provide as good of a specific point of view on particular coaches of interest, you will experience a deeper understanding of our competitive rowing culture. The cultural differences will no doubt be more extreme than a 5 day program, so be careful with this option as one camp in this style may turn you off or on to rowing in the US at university.
If you're a coxswain, you're looking at the right country obviously. But be prepared for different things to be asked of you than in your home country. Just as coaching philosophies differ in the American system, the place of coxswains varies greatly. It does suffice to say that you will be expected to steer an 8+ effectively and have a solid understanding of command structure - which you may need to rephrase from your home rowing vocabulary. Though many in the US think a good coxswain steers straight and gives wonderfully articulate commands - the real requirements of a coxswain who wishes to be competitive on the university level are far higher. They must be so dedicated as to be able to have perspective on their mistakes and innovate solutions to overcome them.
Finally, if you have absolutely no desire to go to university in the US but still want to experience a different rowing culture - then come on over. Most American juniors have no idea if they want to row in university until their penultimate year of secondary school and as such you'll find all sorts of talent levels at these camps from novice to experienced. Regardless of it all - don't worry about your skill level as these camps are not utilized for recruiting "ID" so much as erg score later in athletes' secondary school careers.
The US has its own unique flavor of the sport to offer international athletes. American juniors need and appreciate the perspective of having those from other countries amongst them and are interested in the differences in the systems. If you're an international junior considering US rowing camp, just do it.