7 Tips for Swim Parents About College Recruiting

by SwimSwam 19

May 21st, 2015 Club, College, Lifestyle, Opinion

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

Parents and swimmers can gain a lot of information about recruiting from both college and club coaches. During recruiting, my swimmer talked to coaches by email, phone and in person. Many coaches shared great advice about college recruiting and things to consider in making a decision.

Here are seven tips about college recruiting from a variety of coaches:

1. Social media

Kids don’t fully understand the importance of social media. What they post is a reflection of who they are. My advice: never post anything you don’t want grandma to see.

2. The School

Can your swimmer see themselves attending a particular school—if they weren’t swimming? A college coach said to think carefully about this because not all swimmers swim four years. Injuries happen, or they may decide to quit. Would they choose this school without their sport?

3. Affordability

If your swimmer doesn’t have a scholarship—loses a scholarship—or has it reduced—is the school affordable for your family?

4. Athletics

Where does you swimmer fit? Take a look at the team and conference results to see where your swimmer would be ranked. Some kids like being the fastest on the team, while others want faster swimmers to push them.

5. Academics

You can view the average SAT scores of a university on their website under admissions. What if your swimmer has a low SAT, but wants to attend a school where the average score is 2000? How will that effect balancing a heavy load of swimming and studies?

6. Support

Speaking of academics, find out if schools offer tutoring for student athletes. Do they have mandatory study hall hours, or have academic counselors specific for the team? What other support services do they offer?

7. The Team

Does your swimmer feel comfortable with the team? Do they connect with the coach and teammates? Does it feel like family? Keep in mind, coaches and staff do move around, so the coach is just one of several reasons to choose a college.

What tips do you have for swimmers and parents about college recruiting?

Elizabeth WickhamElizabeth 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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6 years ago

I think #8 should be “COACH”. Get to know the coaches, and more importantly, speak to others about them. My daughter was a freshman this past year in college. While being recruited, the head coach was friendly, kind, and seemed willing to go well beyond the norm to help her out. As soon as she got to campus, the truth came out. The head coach was actually a verbally abusive mess that none of the freshman had any idea about. My daughter is now considering if she even wants to continue swimming. Don’t let the head coaches qualifications or years of experience blind you. Make sure you know who you are dealing with.

Reply to  SwimParent
6 years ago

It would certainly be generous of you to tell us which school this is, so others don’t make the same mistake. Or perhaps a hint . . .

Reply to  hastomen123
6 years ago

I can’t even tell you how often this happens! It happened to my daughter and I have heard of this with other programs as well. Do the research, look at how many swimmers stay with the program and how many senior swimmers are in the program. Talk to the team when you go on your recruiting trips and don’t be shy when asking about how the coach really is. In the long run my daughter choose to not be cursed at and verbally abused from that coach for her entire college career.

Steve Schaffer
Reply to  SwimParent
6 years ago

Swimmers and parents need to realize that anyone can put on a good show for a weekend visit. Smart recruits will do a lot of checking from others in the swimming community to get honest appraisals of the coaching staff.

CA Sunshine
Reply to  SwimParent
6 years ago

Yes, swimmers should do their homework with respect to coaches….but…..understand that coaches can come and go. Obviously, if you have a situation where there’s a school with an abusive coach then certainly don’t pick that school.

The flip side is also true in that great coaches can leave a school during your four years – and so our recurring advice to our son was, “Don’t fall in love with a coach.” Recruits need to look at the swimmers (because it’s a pretty safe bet that most/all of them will still be there with you) and the school (because sometimes swimming doesn’t work out due to unforseen circumstances).

The other advice I would give a swimmer looking at schools is… Read more »

Reply to  SwimParent
6 years ago

I would also have your club coach ask around about the reputation of the college coach. In my college search, my club coach told me that he had heard from another coach in the area that one of that coach’s swimmers had a bad experience at a certain school. Now I know one person with a bad experience doesn’t mean the coach is bad, but it was good information to have. Also, my coach asked around about the coach of another school in which I was interested and heard that the coach very much cared about his swimmers. This endorsement was very helpful. I agree that you can’t let recruiting trips deceive you. While I was ultimately happy with my… Read more »

Reply to  SwimParent
6 years ago

You probably don’t want to send them to Ohio University if you are worried about that.

6 years ago

we sure need this article right now as we get ready for our son to enter senior year. Thank you and will keep in mind #5 as he takes his SAT and ACT next month. Great article!

6 years ago

Since we are making amendments, here’s #9: Empower your children by having them do the work for recruiting. I know it’s hard to let go (helping them tie their shoes, make sure their swim backpack is properly packed, etc), but this is a journey where they can use you as a sherpa, but they have to make the climb. Unfortunately, if the recruiting is pretty much parent-driven, the fledgling may not have the survival skills to make it in the woods of college swimming.

Elizabeth Wickham
Reply to  CaptainRon
6 years ago

Absolutely! Parents should offer support, but the kids need to take charge of their futures.

Steve Schaffer
Reply to  Elizabeth Wickham
6 years ago

This is a great point. I can tell you that when a parent leads the contact for their child, it sends off all kinds of red flags for me as a coach. The athlete should want to be part of our team more than their parent, and so they should be taking the initiative to contact me.

6 years ago

Need more in the “Academics” category. School academic reputation (rankings, placement in jobs/grad schools/retention, etc) should be up there, as well. What’s the point of going to school? To earn the requisite knowledge and ability to attain a living post-grad, correct? What’s the point of going to a school you can swim at if the degree is worth less than the paper it’s printed on?

6 years ago

Also very important is to look at:
1). size of college (there are big differences in a college of 3,000 versus 30,000). No point in looking at a large college if the student-athlete prefers small classes for example – focus on this because it is really going to matter!
2). also look at stability of program/coaches (if program has had 4 coaches in 4 years that means most likely that something is very wrong. Turnover happens but a new coach every year is a serious red flag!
3). sounds silly but if the student-athlete already has a major in mind, does the college offer it!?
4). ask about team travel – is there a traveling only… Read more »

6 years ago

I want to echo Captain Ron’s point…IF the initial email comes from mom or dad…not good. If the email comes from the recruit via mom or dad’s email address…a little better but not the best. A 17 year old should have their own email address…it is 2015.

Charlie Johnson
6 years ago

Academic fit for the school has to be number one no matter how fast you can swim. You will be too miserable to swim fast if you are struggling in class every day.

The small school/large school issue is important to think about, but review the list of majors offered and make sure the school has at least two you can imagine yourself pursuing. If they don’t and you decide after a year you’d like to change majors, you may find yourself facing a transfer decision and for a guy below the elite level that might be the end of swimming.

Observe a meet if possible and watch how the coach relates to the non-stars. As a club swimmer fast… Read more »

6 years ago

I would add “Be realistic”. If you are already swimming more hours with your club team than NCAA rules permit and lifting weights, recognize that you probably won’t be getting much faster in college so ask yourself will you be happy with your slot on the team if your times coming in are the times you swim for much of your career? I would also echo the academics comments — if you are good enough treat your swimming as a gift that you can use to secure a fantastic education and don’t settle for a lesser school just because you may do a little better in the pool there.