NCSA: How to get recruited for men’s rowing

NCSA: How to get recruited for men’s rowing

High School Sports

NCSA: How to get recruited for men’s rowing


Jason Smith is a former NCAA DIII athlete and college coach at all three division levels. Jason is just one of many former college and professional athletes, college coaches and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience and dedication, along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community, have made NCSA the largest and most successful collegiate athletic recruiting network in the country.

Men’s rowing is a sport where on one end, roster spots at top academic and athletic colleges are very difficult to earn, while on the other end, many walk-on athletes earn roster spots while still learning the sport. This experience stands out from most other college sports, and the recruiting process is largely based on having access to the sport in high school. To shed light on it, we here at NCSA compiled the Guide to Getting Recruited for Men’s Collegiate Rowing, which all potential men’s rowing recruits should read and reference. Here are some of the main takeaways from this recruiting guide.

Scholarships and financial aid

Athletic scholarships are not easy to come by. A large portion of men’s rowing teams are NCAA Division III or Division I Ivy League (Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, Yale), and these programs do not offer athletic scholarships. Additionally, many rowing programs are located at colleges with high academic standards and promote help with the admissions department as a big incentive to row there.

With that said, recruits can still find athletic scholarships at NCAA Division I programs and a handful of Division II and NAIA programs. The key is to reach out to coaches and find out what kind of scholarship money is available, whether that’s athletic scholarships or help with securing academic scholarships or need-based aid. Strong grades and test scores will also be very important in the process. Read more about financial aid for men’s college rowing.

Recruiting guidelines

When it comes to men’s rowing recruits, coaches generally look at the following things in order of importance:

  • 2k erg times
  • Academics
  • Club or high school experience
  • Size
  • Technique

2k erg times are a dependable gauge of rowing potential and speed on the water, so rowing times are the first thing that college coaches usually review. Strong grades and test scores are important because at some colleges, the coach won’t be able to do anything for a rowing recruit if he doesn’t meet the academic standards of the admissions office. Athletes who rowed for an established high school or club team tend to have a leg up in the recruiting process and should work in conjunction with their high school or club coach to share a recommendation with college coaches. College coaches are always on the lookout for tall recruits. Technique is tricky because while it is important, it is difficult for coaches to get a complete assessment of technique without seeing recruits row in person. Read more about men’s rowing recruiting guidelines.

Recruiting tiers and 2k times for heavyweight rowers

Tier 1:

  • 2k in 6:10s and under
  • 6’3”+; 195 lbs.+
  • Teams are elite varsity programs with potential to reach IRA National Championship Regatta finals in the V8+. Includes California-Berkeley, Washington, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, etc.

Tier 2:

  • 2k in 6:10s to mid 6:20s
  • 6’1”+; 190 lbs.+
  • Teams are strong varsity programs that consistently qualify for the IRA National Championship Regatta in the V8+. Incudes Wisconsin, Navy, Syracuse, Penn, etc.

Tier 3:

  • 2k in mid 6:20s to 6:40
  • 6’0”+; 185 lbs.+
  • Teams are competitive varsity programs with potential to qualify for the IRA National Championship Regatta or reach the Dad Vail Regatta finals in the V8+. Also may include elite club programs during strong year. Includes Colgate, Drexel, Hobart, Temple, etc.

Tier 4:

  • 2k in 6:30s to 6:40s
  • 5’11”+; 180 lbs.+
  • Teams are varsity programs and top club programs. Includes Jacksonville, UCSB, Michigan, Trinity, etc.

Read more about tiers and 2k times, including for lightweight rowers,

Men’s Rowing Camps

In many sports, camp attendees look to get scouted by multiple college coaches. This is less common in men’s rowing; attendees usually look to improve their skills or learn the basics as beginners before attempting to win a roster spot as a walk-on. The highest concentration of rowing camps can be found in the Northeast portion of the country, which is also where you’ll find the most rowing clubs and college rowing teams. Camps range in price, length and experience levels, so it’s best to research what is available in your region ahead of time. Read more about men’s rowing camps and find a camp near you.

Men’s rowing walk-ons

Walk-ons make up a good portion of varsity rowing rosters at all but the most accomplished teams. While there may be few walk-on spots available at elite programs, there are plenty of athletes without rowing experience who earn roster spots on strong teams. Walk-ons need to exhibit raw athletic ability.

Many athletes also row for non-varsity club programs. The top tier of club programs includes teams that usually have experienced high school and club rowers on their roster, but most rowers start as novices. While it may be difficult to win a seat in the varsity eight at a club program, there are many opportunities to row. Read more about becoming a men’s rowing walk-on.

Colleges with men’s rowing

Men’s rowing is not an NCAA sanctioned sport, and college rowing teams organize and compete under different ruling bodies. The majority of varsity programs are part of the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA), which organizes six different qualifying regattas throughout the year in advance of the IRA national championship regatta. A few varsity programs are not organized by the IRA and end their season with a regional championship, such as the National Invitational Rowing Championship (NIRC). Additionally, a large number of college rowing teams are club teams, most of which compete in the American Collegiate Rowing Association (ACRA). Read more about men’s college rowing teams and see a full list.


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