Rowing Camps and Recruiting

By Sparks Editorial Staff | May 1, 2014

We get a lot of questions about the recruiting benefits of institutional (short term) rowing camps. In other sports, attending an institution’s camp is one way to gain recruiting interest. However, in rowing this is not generally the case. We also receive a lot of question about longer term, more competitive camps, which can have some benefits. This article will attempt to explore the intricacies of rowing camps only as they pertain to recruiting.

Attending an institutional five day rowing camp will, generally speaking, not benefit a rowing or coxswain recruit’s chances at the institution. We spoke with one former Ivy coach who claimed that in over fifteen years at his institution, he had never recruited any of the hundreds of kids at their rowing camp. Of course, if a student is already talented enough to be recruited, the student will be recruited on the basis of their erg score and academics regardless of whether they attend the camp.

This is partially due to the fact that if an institution (such as Harvard) is a big enough name to have a rowing camp, they also generally have a big enough name to recruit on an international level with recruits who are in an entirely different summer camp system.

There are benefits to five day camps, no doubt. Sparks runs a few of them with a multitude of coaches from different institutions. They are excellent to educate, inspire, and provide perspective to younger (9th and 10th grade) athletes. They are an excellent way to get a sense of an institution and its coaching staff. They can provide valuable tools for kids to apply in the next season at their school or club. But, in and of themselves, five day camps will not A) lower a 2K score or B) result in recruiting.

With that in mind, there is a more serious camp system that tends to see a greater amount of campers in the recruiting process. These are longer camps that are typically over 2 weeks in duration. They range from the US Junior team program to summer programs in Philadelphia to the Sparks five week program in New Zealand. These camps can vary in culture, but are usually dedicated to rising high school juniors and seniors who are seeking to challenge themselves in the sport.

The longer camp options often do facilitate faster 2Ks and experience that interests college recruiters. Sometimes this experience is related to training intensity and types of training employed while for others it is manifested in race results. Regardless of the type of longer camp, the ideal recruit learns what upper-end training in the sport is like and begins to understand the discipline, maturity, and challenge of training on the collegiate level.

Merely going to these longer camps is not enough – every recruit is evaluated on a case by case basis regardless of whether they’re coming from. Ultimately, in a point we’ve made many times before, recruiting comes down to A) how the athlete utilizes the camp experience itself and B) how they present the experience to college recruiters. The hard part isn’t getting “ID’d” by going to one of these camps. The hard part is being able to demonstrate a greater ability and depth of understanding of the sport to recruiters – however, athletes at these longer camps undeniably have a better chance to do so than those who only row during the school year.

Regatta results from these camps at places from club nationals to Canadian Henley to Junior Worlds are played up as a concrete benefit. Regatta results are indicative of recruit quality but are not as foundational a factor as erg, character, or thoughtfulness for most coaches who are seeking athletes who have the potential to develop in the future.

Ultimately, attending rowing camp should provide perspective regardless of where you go. But it’s up to the student to make it mean something, regardless of race results.