Contributor, Paul Stearns, is the Assistant Swim Director at American College Connection (ACC). He’s been through the recruiting process from every angle. He was recruited out of high school, a head swim coach at the Club, High School and Division 1 College levels and, most recently, used American College Connection for his D1 college-bound daughter.
When my daughter, Rachel, was 15 years old, she told my wife , Kaye, and me that she wanted to swim at a Division 1 college. Kaye and I looked at each other and said ‘ Uh-oh!’. We knew what that meant.
Both Kaye and I had Division 1 College swimming experience. Kaye had been on a National Relay in her swimming days at the University of Minnesota (then NAIA) and done some High School coaching and I had gone to Minnesota to swim in the late 60’s. I went on to coach club and High School swimming, and finished my coaching career at Minnesota in the mid-1980’s.
We both knew that this would open up a whole new level of commitment to the sport on her part, both then and through her college years. And it would require a lot of work on our part to find out what opportunities were available. College swimming had changed significantly since we had been involved. It is , in many ways, more difficult to find a good ‘fit’ when athletics is part of the equation.
After searching the internet at the various ‘recruiting’ services we landed on American College Connection and Rick Paine. Rick had been a college swim coach and was very well connected in the college swim community and that was what we was looking for.
For full disclosure purposes, after going through the recruiting process with ACC and Rachel had gone off to college (Ohio University), I became Asst. Swim Director with ACC and now I help High School aged swimmer find a place to swim in college.
Let’s not get carried away with ACC, I would rather like to summarize some of the criteria that we considered when going through the college selection journey.
Good Academic Fit- there are a number of college ‘ranking’ web sites that have all kinds of good information about colleges. We didn’t pay very close attention to the rank of the college but rather course offerings and range of ACT/SAT test scores admitted. That will give you an idea of academic selectivity and where the student-athlete fits.
Good Athletic Fit- In some ways this is the hardest part of the selection process for a student-athlete and their parents. A swimmer at a Division 1 level can be asked to train up to 20 per week- not including meets and travel. That’s a solid part time job. The athlete had better like the sport , like the coach, like his/her teammates, like the location of the college in order to make that kind of commitment. The parents and the athlete had better do their homework on how they will ‘fit’ on the team. Too many times athletes attend colleges because that’s where a parent went or because they have some friends that go the school there. Those aren’t bad reasons to go the a certain school- but they shouldn’t be the deciding factor. I’ve seen many athletes go to a college and ‘hope’ they will improve enough to make the travel squad or earn a scholarship. Sometimes it works out- most often it doesn’t. We wanted to find a college swim team where Rachel could contribute at a conference and/or national level. The goal should be to find a place where you will swim for all 4 years.
Good Family Fit- Everyone’s family situation is different. Factors that should be considered are location, size of school, public vs. private, rural vs. urban, cost of college- including transportation costs. In this day and age ‘value’ is not a dirty word.
We got involved with ACC because we wanted options for Rachel- and that is what ACC provided along with advice on how to handle those options. We kind of knew what we were looking for in a college and a college swim team and as the recruiting process progressed it became clearer Rachel had a pretty good idea of what she wanted and many of those answers were discovered during the recruiting process once she knew what questions to ask and how to ask them.
There are many great educational and athletic opportunities at a variety of college levels, from NCAA Divisions 1, 2 and 3 to NAIA and Jr. College. The key is discovering those opportunities and knowing what to do with them once you’ve found them.