Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Recruiting Do's and Don'ts

Over the weekend, I attended the Southern Sectional meet in Athens, GA. My primary purpose for being there were the swimmers I had competing in the meet. I was also their to recruit. Earlier this month, the recruiting season opened fully for students graduating in 2012. July 1st was the first date these prospects could receive phone calls and have coaches talk to them at practice or at meets. In talking with other college coaches at the meet, we all agreed on one thing- there isn't nearly enough education of these prospects. So I'm going to use this blog to give a few of my own suggestions to swimmers looking to continue on in college.


-Research the schools that you are interested in.

Do they have what you are interested in studying? How fast are the current swimmers on the team in comparison to you? How much better do swimmers get when they arrive on campus?

I am often shocked at how little research prospects do into the schools that they talk to. As a college coach I have become better at filtering out whether swimmers know the above. If you don't know you are doing yourself a disservice and could go very far down the road only to find out that the school is not a good fit for you academically or athletically.

-Prepare non-generic questions to ask coaches.

Every year I get some variation of "what is your training like" and "how many times a week do you practice". Both these questions are too vague to give you any sense of what you are getting into. If you really want to see what a team does, ask a coach for a training plan or to send you examples of some of their workouts. On the flip side, I find that prospects are often afraid of asking questions about things that are really important to them. Asking tough questions about a program can be a learning experience and the coaches reaction will tell you a lot about them. If they are extremely defensive you probably did not want to swim for them anyway. There may also be an explanation that you couldn't have thought of. More information is better. Some examples of non-generic, tough questions I have gotten are "Why didn't you have any NCAA qualifiers last year?" or "why didn't x swimmer improve?" or "how long do you expect to stay here at Y University?.


-Be afraid to ask about scholarships (or admission spots, if applicable). You should expect a straight answer when you ask what your status is with a given school. Again, experience has taught me to be up front with prospects about whether they are a potential scholarship swimmer, a walk on, or short of making the roster from the very beginning. If a coach isn't establishing that with you, be the one to bring it up. This will give you a sense of where you stand with each school. If you have expectations for a big scholarship or admission, you want to know early if you are in that school's plans. Use the information to evaluate which schools have you fitting in where you expect to fit in.

-Base your entire decision on whether you like a particular coach. You cannot help that your decision will be somewhat influenced by the coach or coaches you interact with. You only need to look back as far as the past few months to realize, however, that college coaching staffs can be very volatile. Nearly every school in my conference, the ACC, has had at least one coaching change this past off season. Again, the coach should be part of your decision but you also want to make sure that there are a lot of reasons to pick the particular school that don't have to do with a person that might not be with you for all four years.

These are just a few simple starting suggestions! It is by no means a comprehensive guide. Please leave your own comments below and I will try to respond and give feedback as necessary.


  1. Don't be afraid to ask how you'll fit into a college program. What events, meets (especially if it's a large team where not everyone goes to conference) etc will you be swimming?

    The best answer I got about what college events I'd be swimming was "well you're good at backstroke now, but we'll let you develop and see what fits best" (I ended up an all-american 400im'er) The worst answer I got was "backstroke."

  2. I wish I would have had this in 2005. I'm going to do what I can to let my HS swimmers get the knowledge they need to be prepared.

    I know we have one with a desire to swim collegiate so this will be valuable for him.


  3. Why do colleges recruit foreigners?

    Isn't there plenty of talent within the USA and in the end more cost effective?