9 Recruiting Tips From SwimSwam Readers

by SwimSwam 7

December 12th, 2017 Lifestyle, Swim Mom

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

I was talking with a mom on our club team whose swimmer is beginning to look at colleges. Since Im 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.Theres also tons of good advice in the comment sections of college recruiting stories on SwimSwam.

Heres 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, mens and womens 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 swimmers 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 swimmers four years, so many tell their children, Dont 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 theres turnover with the staff.



The number one reason why kids are going to college isnt swimming. Big surprise, but its 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 theyre 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?


Be prepared.

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 cant 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, theres no guarantee if a school will keep a program during your swimmers four years. Readers suggest the swimmer or parent research the program and find out if its 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?


Athletic support.

Its 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 werent 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 familys 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.

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4 years ago

Enjoy the ride. Recruiting can be very stressful for both the swimmer and the parents. Does your swimmer want to sign in the early signing period? If so, the family will have a very busy Sept./Oct. Scheduling visits, staying on top of communications, school and practice as well as making the final decision. Our swimmer did four official visits (was set up for 5) and once he made the choice of where to go our swimmer had a wonderful outlook and a fun Senior season.

4 years ago

As a corollary to this, it is important to know what you want to get out of your college swim career. My son took more or less this approach and is thrilled with his choice. He was an immediate contributor in a team and school environment that he loves. A club teammate of his who was a year older took exactly the opposite approach. He wanted to participate in the biggest and best program that would allow him to walk on, knowing full well that his odds of ever making the travel/conference squad would be exceedingly small. He too is thrilled with his choice. He is training with some of the top swimmers in the country that specialize in his… Read more »

College Swim Mom
Reply to  barbotus
4 years ago

Excellent advice above! It’s also very important to be realistic about your ability to contribute to a team. Be thorough in your evaluation. For example, take into account your in-season times as well as your best times, and make some comparisons to the teams you are considering. If you are a terrible in-season swimmer, it will be tough for the coach to have confidence in your end of season performance. Also, if you choose a team with the hope of becoming a contributor in the future, keep in mind two things: the 4 years of college go by quickly, and even if you steadily improve during your 4 years, the kids being recruited in the classes after yours could very… Read more »

Swim Mom
4 years ago

I would also say that try and take your official visits in the order of your preferred schools – 5 visits is a lot to fit in. There is a short window for girls between the start of the school year and the November signing day. Narrow your visits to the top 3. Our swimmer did not get to take last two visits because she had to make a scholarship decision.

4 years ago

So true! One thing to consider under choices is would you be happy not making the travel team until your Junior or Senior year or would you rather be on the travel team from the start. It can be hard watching your team go off to a meet when you are left on campus.

One done and one to go
4 years ago

Great stuff. Just an additional point (let’s call it 9a) — take the general admission presentation and tour. In my view, its important to see how the school presents itself without the athletic department’s spin. Try to get a feel for the types of students that are interested and on the tour with you, ask the tour guide questions about their experience, visit the libraries and coffee shops, etc. Then when you are talking with coaches and swimmers, and visiting on a recruiting trip, you can overlay the athletic experience on the general experience, understand how they are similar (or not) and have a more complete view of the school’s culture and potential fit.

4 years ago

Make sure you thoroughly vet the coaches and team. The recruiting process is a big dog and pony show. I cannot stress the importance of finding former members of the team or parents of seniors or just graduated seniors to find out the real attitudes and morale on the prospective team. I can guarantee you things are not what they seem, worse yet, coaching changes can turn the swimmers experience into a nightmare. This may be impossible to get but try to get a paragraph in your signing letter or something in writing that gives you an “unconditional release” if coaching changes occur. NCAA spews a lot of BS about how it is “student” first and athlete second and that… Read more »