Do Coaches Look At Parents During Recruiting?

by SwimSwam 32

October 09th, 2017 Lifestyle

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

Standing at the end of my swimmers lane, I cheered loudly at the big meet. Next heat, I stood with a fellow swim mom and we cheered for her daughter. Then, another parent pulled us aside and said, There are college coaches here and youre ruining your swimmerschances to be recruited.

I was stunned. First, I had never considered cheering for swimmers as bad.Second, our kids were 13 years old and college was the furthest thing from our minds. We highly doubted any college coach would pay attention to our swimmers who barely made cuts for the meet. In that particular case, I believe the mom offering advice was out of line. But, it was the first time I ever considered that my behavior could have an impact on my kidscollege recruiting. After talking to several coaches, I learned they do pay attention to parents.

Here are four things college coaches said could raise a red flag during recruiting:


The parent communicates on behalf of their swimmer. The parent acts as the point person and sends emails about their child to the coach. In person, the parent asks all the questions and the swimmer stands by silently which makes it difficult for a coach to develop a rapport with the athlete. One coach told me there are only two people a college coach wants to talk with: 1. the athlete, 2. the athlete’s coach.


What happens when a college coach observes a parent coaching from the stands or arguing with coaches and officials? If a parent acts way out of lineand I mean beyond normal parent enthusiasmthe coach may make a mental note of that parents behavior. Although college coaches have less interaction with parents than an age group coach, if theyre looking at several comparable swimmers, they may choose to go with swimmers with non-confrontational parents.


Helicopter parents who do everything for their kids can cause problems. Kids who arent allowed to fail or handle the day-to-day tasks of caring for themselves will have a harder time adjusting when theyre away from home. Coaches want to recruit kids who will be successful academically and in the poolwithout mom and dad. They pick up cues if parents are helicopteringand if the swimmer is independent or not.


Conversely, how athletes treat their parents is important to coaches. One coach told me she overheard an athlete yell at her mother on the cell phone. Another coach said a swimmer was rude to his parents in person. In both instances, the coaches took a pass on those athletes.

What parent behaviors do you think would be a red flag to college coaches?

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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Parents should also inquire as to how the Coach(es) will communicate with them, and, if they will be allowed to interact with their swimmer.. Talk to the outgoing senior parents and ask them for the straight scoop. Your swimmer may never be coached by or even see the head coach. The head coach may not even be able to identify your swimmer after two years. Your swimmer may be coached by an assistant that you have never met. Our child is at a program where the coaches absolutely do not talk to the parents at all. As parents you may be expected to foot all the bills, but be basically stripped of communication with your child (who you have nurtured… Read more »


> Talk to the outgoing senior parents and ask them for the straight scoop.

That is a good advise. Are you sure they tell your son not to talk to you about some things or not to go out to dinner with you? Who does that!?


Has college swimming really come to this?

The coaching staff so controlling and paranoid they have rules like this to guard against any “intrusion” on their turf by a parent or family member?


College has come to this. We’ve had parents call professors to plead/argue/threaten them – This was an elite MBA program.

It isn’t the coaching staff that is the issue here.


This is by far unacceptable, and as parents you have every right to interact be a parent. Unless your child is on a full-ride, (and almost no swimmers are these days) you still should never allow this type of behaivor, EVER! I would verify with other parents on current team that their child is treated the same way, and if so, as a group, a letter should be sent to the AD. Do not worry about the coach treating your child worse, it sounds like that is already happening. College coaches are there to prepare kids to swim fast, but also for life after swimming, and treating people like this is not permitted in the NCAA


They should have a “rate my college swim coach” website so everyone would know who to stay away from.


We had a similar issue with a D1 program in PA. Never saw the head coach much during the recruiting process (because he’s not great with intercations) when we would go try to see my daughter after a meet and take her out to dinner we were not allowed because she was always required to host recruits. Mind you we drove 8 hours to watch her swim and that was all we were allowed to really do with her, was watch her swim. She ended up transferring to a different school. This is not a typical problem for all programs but it is something to be looking out for!


Wow! So sorry that you and your child have apparently not had a great experience. That was certainly not the case on the D1 college team our daughter swam on. There were plenty of informal dinner opportunities to do “meet and greet” with the coaches and other parents. Her coach was the epitome of a gentleman with great integrity who took a personal interest in, and actively coached and mentored, each and every one of his swimmers. His teams’ successes are a direct result of this man’s humble, kind demeanor and his wealth of coaching experience. Parents, great programs do exist so do your research.


I sorry this happened to you. Are you saying that you never can take your swimmer to dinner or only at away meets? You can’t ever visit with them or only at away meets? If your complaints are around meets you might have had expectations that can’t be met. When swimmers are on the road they must be focused on the meet. Friends who have football players can’t see their sons at games. Even home games night before the team is in a hotel just off campus. They might get a moment after an away game before the team is back on the plane. Home games they can spend more time. Life of a D1 athlete.

John Hensler

Thanks for this. It has given me a lot more questions to ask during the recruiting process. The bottom line is that in a major athletics program where there are scholarships, being an athlete is a job (even for those not on scholarship) and different jobs have different expectations and different bosses, some good and some bad. One litmus test I pass on hoping it can help someone: the athlete needs to feel comfortable going to the coach(es) with a problem. Problems happen in college and every student/athlete needs someone to turn to. If they are not comfortable going to at least one coach in the program with their problems, they probably need a program with different coaches.


What school is this? If this was my kid I would have already pulled them out of the school and had a one sided discussion with the AD and the coach. You didn’t sign a military contract and have no say here…


Our twins will join recruiting process next summer. I will apply same approach I apply to their education. I never ever go to their school. I stay away from PTAs and booster clubs and any organization that includes parents. But I work tirelessly with them at home. I am expert on AP World History, for example. I read chapters they go over and discuss with them religion, Islam, democracy (or lack of it in USA now days) and any concept they need to know and understand, not just memorize. I do not expect any coach to have best interest of our kids as their primary consideration, or any consideration for that matter. They want to win and care about their… Read more »


Lol you are helping your kids with homework in High school? That’s sad. Wish my parents helped me with my homework ?


Where did I say I do their homework?

Texas Fan

Hi Psychdad. I like most of what you have to say, but in my opinion if the coaches don’t have the best interest of all of their swimmers in mind they will not be successful in building a truly great team.

expert coach

Why you discussing Islam?


Because it is part of World History, unless Trump will rewrite World History soon, in which case Islam will magically disappear. And because they can hear unique perspective from their father they cannot possible hear at the school. My home country was 500 years under Turkish Empire; many people converted into Islam. I told them stories about that. I told them stories I grew up among Muslims too. I explain what Jihad meant originally, not Jihad as interpreted by fundamentalists and terrorist. Why all religions popped up about at the same time among people that did not even communicate with each other? Why do all believe there is only one God? I teach them people are not evil – evil… Read more »


Another great article and you are “spot on” with your comments!

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