4 Tips For Swim Parents About Recruiting

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

Its a once-in-a-lifetime exciting timehaving your swimmers recruited by colleges. At this point in their lives, choosing a college is the biggest decision theyve ever made. How can you help and support your kids, without taking over?



Parents can help with the process by researching what division and conferences would be a good fit for their swimmers. There are many resources for research including collegeswimming.com and each schools website. If your swimmer can score points in conference meets, theyll be desirable to coaches. Also, Ive heard from top coaches theyre looking for swimmers who can score in three events, plus possibly make a relay. After you help your child with research, together you can make a list of prospective schools.



Be upfront about what your family can afford for college. Imagine if your swimmers number one school recruits them but it has a $65k-a-year price tag. Then, what if the University offers a small scholarship and you cant afford to have your child attend. How disappointed would your child be to learn that its not an option? Having a discussion about money early on will help make the recruiting process easier for both of you.



After youve made a list of colleges with your swimmer, have your swimmer fill out online athletic questionnaires. The next step is to encourage your kids to email coaches and let them know theyre interested in attending their university and being on the team. They may want to give specific reasons why theyre interested and also ask questions of the coach like what times are needed to be part of the team, what they are looking for in their swimmers, etc. I know how busy kids are at this time in their lives, but please dont do this step for your kids. The coaches want to hear from the swimmer, not the mom or dad. If a coach reaches out to your swimmer, and your child isnt interested, have them tell the coach right away. Coaches are incredibly busy, too, and its not fair to waste anyones time. When coaches call, make sure your swimmer returns calls promptly.



Ive had several parents tell me their kids werent getting emails or calls from coaches. They were feeling stressed and panicked. My advice was to cast a wider net. Go back to researching schools in a different division or conference than where they started their search. Encourage your child to be proactive and reach out to more schools. Also, consider waiting until Spring to make a decision and theyll have a little more time to get faster times. Another option is to stay with your club team during their freshman year and take requirements at a local community college. This will give your child another year to mature, plus get stronger and faster.

How do you think parents can help in the recruiting process?

Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.

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3 years ago

All good points.

Two top things compare times to conference times as well as cast a wide net as you suggested. Our swimmer is a freshman this year in a DI program, but started contacting schools right before Junior year- just to get on a watch list. Send updates to schools on new times achieved, or even to comment on how well a team did at a meet. Also to let coaches know what meet the swimmer was going to be at- if it was a club championship or state level meet our swimmer wanted to make sure to let them know they were in the meet in hopes to get them to watch them as well.

Look at times… Read more »

3 years ago

Good, realistic article! Grades and ACT/SAT also very important – they can help your student earn merit scholarships, which may be worth more than Swim scholarships. And enjoy the college visits – official and unofficial! Also, make sure the college offers the major your student is interested it, or has a wide selection if undecided.

3 years ago

Strongly consider allowing your kids to go on official visits on their own. it is so important for them to experience the travel and the experience of beginning autonomy. You can always go visit together later (or earlier when you are doing unofficial visits).

One done and one to go
3 years ago

Agree – all good points.

As a parent of two varsity athletes (one recent graduate swimmer, one still in school and not a swimmer), I’d add one more thing to the mix.

For the schools that are most interesting to you and your athlete, outside all the hype of the recruiting process, try to visit as a regular applicant. Go to the general admission session or open house, and take the admissions department tour. Get a feel for the overall school environment — what are the non-athlete students (or potential students) you meet like? How do you like the place even before the athletic department begins their wooing? Visit the academic or performing arts buildings, or campus museum. Essentially,… Read more »

Reply to  One done and one to go
3 years ago

Excellent! Agree 100%. We did the general college tours and many unofficial visits. The general visits allowed our student-athlete the chance to see the school as a regular student. Part of that included going and meeting faculty in the department our student was interested in. All the schools our swimmer did official visits at, minus one as it was very far away, the family had done general campus visits at and set up a meeting with the swimming staff after the tour.

3 years ago

This is great advice. We just finished this process with my HS senior. I completed questionnaires. He did the rest. I only got involved when it was completely obvious that an offer at his top choice was coming. I also set up initial communications to come to me. It was overwhelming for me. I funneled certain schools to my child and he took it from there. A few tips, some I would have liked to know sooner:
1. Mens teams have a TOTAL of 9.9 scholarships per NCAA rules (I think 14 for girls). Some schools like ivy might have private donors – not sure because no one talks about it. It just seems likely from minor conversations. Also… Read more »

3 years ago

My daughter is in the midst of this process now, and the one element that is very frustrating is the lack of communication from some schools. We have done the research as suggested, she seems like a good fit, she has contacted the coaches several time but with very spotty responses from 1 or 2 of them. Honestly, we wish that if they really aren’t interested they would just be up front about it! She did get a few responses from some schools they she knew was a stretch, and they took the time to respond with what times she would need to accomplish to be considered, which are so much more helpful than having her emails ignored. I know… Read more »

Elizabeth Wickham
Reply to  Wiswimming
3 years ago

My suggestion, for what it’s worth, is to be persistent. What can it hurt? Also, I know of one my daughter’s friends who’s response asking her to a recruiting trip from her first choice college ended up in her spam. She discovered it after she committed to a different college.

3 years ago

I would recommend your child try emailing a second time with coaches where s/he is very interested in their school and program. Have your student list their progression of improvement in best events, and list gpa and act scores if good. Also mention something they really like about school, and ask a question about training or whatever they want to know. If coach doesn’t respond after a 2nd try, move on.

California Girl
3 years ago

Although I understand that this site is about swimming, I really don’t think you can talk about college without talking about the academics and other non-swimming aspects of college life. After all, college is about preparing for the rest of your life which, with very rare exceptions, does not include competitive swimming.
The first bit advice I would give my children is to find schools that match their academic goals, and the types of schools where they would feel most comfortable. (the latter, eg large public schools vs small private colleges) Only after that do you start thinking about swimming.
What’s more, you don’t what life is going to throw your way. Your child may not swim the… Read more »