Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime exciting time—having your swimmers recruited by colleges. At this point in their lives, choosing a college is the biggest decision they’ve 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 school’s website. If your swimmer can score points in conference meets, they’ll be desirable to coaches. Also, I’ve heard from top coaches they’re 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 swimmer’s 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 can’t afford to have your child attend. How disappointed would your child be to learn that it’s not an option? Having a discussion about money early on will help make the recruiting process easier for both of you.
After you’ve 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 they’re interested in attending their university and being on the team. They may want to give specific reasons why they’re 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 don’t 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 isn’t interested, have them tell the coach right away. Coaches are incredibly busy, too, and it’s not fair to waste anyone’s time. When coaches call, make sure your swimmer returns calls promptly.
WHEN THE PHONE DOESN’T RING
I’ve had several parents tell me their kids weren’t 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 they’ll 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.