Thursday, May 04, 2006

"The Greatest Thing..."

After reading my post quoting Wisconsin's heavy men's coach saying that a heavy men's NCAA championship would be the greatest thing for rowing (and ignoring that it would probably kill lightweight rowing), a reader wrote in with an alternative proposal of what would be "the greatest thing" for lightweight rowing. It's a serious proposal and one that I think deserves serious consideration.

I'll let my reader explain the concept: "Change the Frosh/Novice eight to a Freshman four and a Novice (true novice – no more than a week long summer camp of prior experience) eight. Imagine if there was a category for a walk-on eight. Suddenly the playing field is leveled for all the new crews. UMass, can compete against Radcliffe and Princeton and Tulsa and Bucknell… Suddenly there is a reason for all those walk-ons to stay, there is a reason to look for walk-ons. Marist could win the novice eight and suddenly have a super excited group of varsity ready to carry on the winning traditions."

Now, some of you are probably thinking, "My boat is all true novices." Yes, and you aren't coming close to boats with recruits. That's the point. And in those programs with recruits, the walk-ons see how difficult it is to make the freshman boat and have little incentive to stay. If only true novices raced in novice events, they would be motivated instead of discouraged their freshman year and stick around for more.

The recruits, meanwhile, would all row with the varsity and provide the rowers for a 2V, which is currently lacking in women's lightweight rowing. My reader's contention is that "80% of the recruited athletes are no better than the walk-ons by the sophomore year," so why cut off the supply of good walk-ons just because recruits are rowing in freshman eights? I think this contention is meant to be specific to lightweights, but if you look at any 1V boats, light or heavy, top ranked or bottom ranked, you'll find walk-ons. Clearly, a program that intentionally or unintentionally discourages freshman walk-ons hurts itself.

So in a nutshell, the proposal is, only true novices race frosh/novice races leaving recruits to go directly to the varsity where they can form the nucleus of a 2V.

I like this idea. The only downside I can see is that the freshman recruits miss out on the cameraderie and fun of racing with their class. I suppose this matters little the next year, however, when they all compete for the same seats in the V8. If this proposal increased the number of rowers and gave us a strong 2V event, this would be a small price to pay. There can be little question that the larger programs slack off on recruiting walk-ons when they know they can fill out a frosh boat with just a few.

What do you think about this proposal? Is there a downside?

My reader also contends that the NCAA championship for heavy women has caused novice rowing to decline, and offers some statistics to support that. I'll discuss that in a future post.


Anonymous said...

Both Radcliffe and MIT have raced true novices this year. They have defeated varsity crews from MIT and UMass, respectively. We'll see how they stack up against the "novice" light eights from Princeton, Wisconsin, and Georgetown at Sprints next week.

Anonymous said...

Just because the top programs recruit does not mean that the recruits stay. Novice 8's can and have consisted of more walk-ons than recruits, and who's to say that each program could find 8 walk-ons. Not to mention the walk-on/ recruit rivalry that would create. Finally, I believe the walk-ons greatly benefit from rowing with the recruits.

georgia said...

I think it's always better to keep true novices. On our team (admittedly a mostly walk-on team) it's the people with experience who end up quitting because they don't like the challenge of rowing in a different enviornment or with walk-ons. But it's those that learn here that actually succeed and row well at the collegiate level. I don't think it's limited to weightclass at all, I think it's an issue of maturity and dedication.

Emily, the long-suffering coach's wife said...

I'm not sure how I feel about this. First of all, I don't agree that "80% of walk-ons are as good as recruits by their second year." It was not what I witnessed in collegiate rowing. Perhaps there is variation among schools, but I doubt that the average walk-on will have the technical skill or a sub 6:20 2k erg score that a 2nd year, recruited heavy-weight man will have (obviously change the numbers for gender and weight class.)

As a spectator of rowing for quite a while, I think that it would be a shame to do away with the wonderful experience of rowing as a class for all Freshman rowers, be it recruits or walk-ons. 3 of the 4 groomsmen in my wedding, were from my husband's freshman boat (granted they rowed together throughout college.) Now, from the flipside, as a wife of a coach, there is such a strong connection among classes of novices.

This seems to penalize freshman who had rowing experience. Of course, novice rowing doesn't seem to have many counterparts in other collegiate sports. There is no novice football team.

Most programs do have a freshman 8+ and a novice 8+, but they are called 1f and 2F, and the majority of guys in the second freshman boat are walk-ons. Perhaps you could change the title to a Freshman 8+ and a novice 8+. That might mean than a handful of people are switched around.

I guess my question is: What is the primary purpose in collegiate rowing, having the fastest crew, or promoting rowing for everyone? Why should the playing field be leveled? It's not like Oberlin College and OSU are in the same league for football, Pitt and Kenyon College aren't in the same league for basketball, so why should crew be revamped so that all teams are equal?

Now I know that you were talking about lightweight rowing, but it seems to me that keeping the rules the same with the exception of weight is equally important for rowing.

JW Burk said...

I'll try to circle around and discuss these comments on a post after Vails and before IRAs.