Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham
I was talking with a mom on our club team whose swimmer is beginning to look at colleges. Since I’m always willing to give unsolicited advice, I told her several things like making a list of priorities, such as size of school, location, etc. and going on some unofficial visits to get comfortable with the process.There’s also tons of good advice in the comment sections of college recruiting stories on SwimSwam.
Here’s a list of college recruiting advice compiled from SwimSwam readers:
Ask your swimmers to list what is important to them in a college. Some areas to think about include geographic location, school culture, size, indoor versus outdoor pools, men’s and women’s teams, a religious school and academic reputation.
Swimmers need to take the lead.
Empower your children by having them do the work for recruiting. There are roles that parents can do such as researching schools that fit your swimmer’s priorities and encouraging follow up. Let your swimmer take the lead with communicating with coaches and filling out athlete questionnaires. Coaches are wary of swimmers whose parents are emailing them instead of the athletes.
Kids may want to go to a certain school because of the great reputation of a coach, or because they really liked a coach during recruiting. Coaches can leave a school during a swimmer’s four years, so many tell their children, “Don’t fall in love with a coach.” Recruits need to look at the swimmers in addition to the coaches and see if they feel comfortable with their future teammates.
More about coaches.
A coach can put on a good show for a recruit trip, but be entirely different to his swimmers at other times. Recruits can ask others in the swimming community to get honest appraisals of the coaching staff. Swimmers need to do their homework and research how many swimmers make it for four years and if there’s turnover with the staff.
The number one reason why kids are going to college isn’t swimming. Big surprise, but it’s to get an education and have a career after they graduate. Your swimmer needs to see if there are several majors they are interested in. Also, if they’re an average student and the school is highly academic, they may struggle and have a miserable experience in and out of the pool. Are they a good fit both academically as well as athletically?
Coaches will ask, “What questions do you have for me?” Suggest your swimmers think about questions in advance of contacting coaches. It’s helpful if they have a couple go-to questions. That may help them avoid an awkward moment where they search their brain but can’t think of anything. Here are a few ideas of questions to ask: how many swimmers are on the travel team, does everyone go to the conference championships, do women and men train together, and what are you looking for in a swimmer?
We keep reading about schools cutting swim programs. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee if a school will keep a program during your swimmer’s four years. Readers suggest the swimmer or parent research the program and find out if it’s fully funded or has an endowment. You can talk to parents of other swimmers and the AD. Sometimes looking at the facilities can give one a sense of the commitment by the school. Has the school recently invested money in the pool facilities?
It’s a tough job to be a student-athlete and schools vary on how much support they offer. Because academics are so important, find out if tutors are provided. Also, how do they handle exams if the swimmer is traveling to meets? What does the school have in terms of physical therapy and mental health support? Do they provide tech suits, gear, or an athlete fueling station?
Last but not least.
After a recruiting trip, can your swimmer see themselves on the team? Would they be happy going to the university if they weren’t swimming? Not everyone will swim for four years because they may burn out, become ineligible due to grades, or get injured. They have to feel the university is the right place for them with or without swimming. That being said, is it a school that fits the family’s budget–with or without a scholarship?
What other college recruiting advice do you have for parents and swimmers?
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.