College Swimming Recruiting Trip Tips

Contributor, Rick Paine, is a friend and an expert on the college recruiting process. He is also the Director of Swimming at American College Connection. 

Hosting a recruit requires a great deal of work for the host, the team and the coaches. Be interested, open-minded and ask questions. If you don’t seek out “food for thought” then don’t be unhappy with what you are served.

Evaluate don’t anticipate.

Unfortunately, drinking occurs on many college campuses. Don’t be shocked by it, but don’t be pressured by it either. If you don’t drink, let your host know as soon as possible. What a team tolerates from its members will give you a good indication of where it is headed. If a team tolerates the use of recreational drugs by any of its members, it is probably headed nowhere.

A “classy” recruit will send a hand-written thank you to the host, the team and the coaches in appreciation of their effort. Be a “classy” recruit.

Before you go:

  1. Decide what your values are and what you are looking for in a school and an athletic team.
  2. Sit down with your parents and discuss how much you can afford for college, but don’t share this with the coaches at this time.
  3. Academics should be the most important item you are looking at, followed by athletics; however if weather and location are important to you, make sure to do your “homework” before you accept a trip.
  4. Determine your area of academic interest. It’s OK if you can’t decide on a college major right now, but you should begin to narrow down what you are not interested in.
  5. Ask the coach about your student host and try to find out about them before you arrive.
  6. Evaluate don’t anticipate. Make your own list of questions using these tips as a guide, but leave your preconceived ideas at home.
  7. Be prepared to have FUN, but remember to distinguish between what’s fun and what’s important.
  8. Make sure you have the coach’s phone numbers with you so that you can contact them if you get delayed in arriving.
  9. Ask questions!
  10. Most importantly…be yourself.

Observations you need to make during your visit:

  1. Is the team close? If it is a combined team, do the men and women support each other?
  2. Are these the kind of people who you can visualize spending the next five years of your life with?
  3. Are the student-athletes checking you out or are they just glad to have someone interested in their school?
  4. If you are a young woman, are the female athletes treated as equals and with respect?
  5. Do you get a sense that you are important as a person or just as an athlete?
  6. Did anyone ask you what your goals are?
  7. Do you feel safe on and around campus?
  8. Do the coaches support each other?
  9. Do the majority of the student-athletes share your views and priorities about academics and athletics?
  10. Do the student-athletes respect the coaches and do they like them?

Scholarship considerations

Look for value in a school and a program, not just money. It is far more important to find the right school and not just the cheapest.

  1. A team’s needs change from year to year and as they answer those needs their scholarship priorities change.
  2. Grades count. Coaches don’t want to waste their time and money on an athlete who is an academic risk.
  3. Leadership qualities count, but don’t list them ahead of academic and athletic accomplishments.
  4. Most scholarships are given to student-athletes who can help the team at the conference and national level.
  5. Athletic versatility makes you more marketable.
  6. Present yourself as a “big game” performer.
  7. If you are a minority, let the coaches know. There is a lot of extra financial aid available for minorities.
  8. Don’t be concerned with other athletes’ scholarships. Each recruiting situation is different.
  9. Ask the coaches what their policies are on:

A)    Fifth year scholarships. Coaches are allowed to give student-athletes financial aid in their fifth year of school even though the student-athlete can no longer compete for the school. This scholarship does not count against the scholarship limit for that sport.

B)     Summer school. The NCAA allows schools to award summer school scholarships to current student-athletes at the same percentage of scholarship they were on during the regular school year.

C)     Scholarship upgrades. What does it take to get an increase in scholarship?

D)    Scholarship downgrades. What are reasons for having a scholarship downgraded?

  1.  The bottom line is what does it cost to attend a school and how much will

it cost you.

Questions to ask of the student-athletes:

  1. Be sure to get some of the student-athletes aside and away from the social gatherings and get them to talk openly and honestly about the program.
  2. If your student host is a freshman don’t rely too heavily on their assessment of the school and the program. Some freshmen are homesick and temporarily unhappy and some have their head in the clouds. They simple haven’t been there long enough to be able to evaluate the situation.
  3. Seek out any 5th year student-athletes and ask the following questions:

A)     Did they receive 5th year aid?

B)     Did they improve since their freshman year?

C)     Were they encouraged to remain part of the program? A sign of a good program is the number of 5th year student-athletes who remain involved in the program.

D)     Ask them to rate their overall experience at the school.

  1. Try to find out some of the individual goals and some of the team goals.
  2. Are the academic counselors effective?
  3. Ask some of the same questions that you asked the coaches to determine if the student-athletes feel as they do.
  4. Get their opinion of the coaching staff.
  5. What is the city or town like?
  6. What do they do for fun?
  7.  Are the student-athletes being themselves or are they putting on a show?

Enjoy yourself….you should feel honored to be invited on an official visit.

Finding out if you have what it takes to compete in swimming at the college level is easy, and many swimmers do have the potential considering all of the options.  Go to www.ACCrecruits and submit a Free Profile.


SwimSwam is an ad partner with ACC.  Go here and learn more about ACC and their team of college swimming experts. 

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Joni Neidigh
8 years ago

Great informative article as always, Rick! This will help so many athletes, parents and anyone involved in this process. You continue to be a wealth of information and experience….thank you!!!!!!

Reply to  Joni Neidigh
8 years ago

Thanks Joni. How is Lauren doing?

8 years ago

Recruits: Please respect your student-athlete hosts. Don’t disappear on them, pressure them to buy you alcohol, bring a hook-up partner back to their rooms, or trash the dorm. You are their (assigned, not necessarily invited) guest. They’ve put aside significant time and resources into your stay. They want you to have fun and to enjoy yourself, but remember that you need to impress them every bit as much as the coach.

This should go without saying, but as the host of one particularly horrendous recruit when I was a college freshman, I think it is an important piece of advice.

Reply to  W3T
8 years ago

Our experience was the opposite of this…..our student-athlete’s host for one visit was so disinterested and so wasted that it fell to another teammate to escort our student-athlete back to the dorm for the night. As parents, we were less than impressed with this aspect, however the discussion with coaches was better. Student committed, got faster and competed well, but team atmosphere not a good fit. Seemed most kids were there for the ‘party’ and not for the team and whatever goals it had. Student learned quite a bit about dealing with difficult people, saw a lot of ‘stupid’ and ‘what not to do’, but definitely did not come out with friendships formed by common goals and hard work to… Read more »

Kimberly Garner
8 years ago

Hello Rick,
This is a very detailed article and offers insight on all levels. I will pass this on to some of our future collegiate hopefuls!

Kim and Barry

8 years ago

well written and some great recommendations!

8 years ago

Rick very well done and very thorough! This is na excellent guide to a psa’s approach to an official visit. While on your visit remember you represent your club, high school and family. YOIu alos need to realize your behaviour is being scrutinized as well. Out team gives us very thorough information on how you behaved and what you inquired about while on a visit. if you ask about parties, drinking or drugs it gets back. The school especailly at a “mid-major” has invested much into your visit to their campuses. Thank you’s and your genuine interest goes a long way! Oh one last thing NEVER text while having a one on one with a college coach in their office.… Read more »

8 years ago

Thanks TJ,
Seriously, have you had a recruit text during a one on one meeting?

Reply to  Rick Paine
8 years ago

Yes and I’ve heard other coaches tell me they have as well

8 years ago

Rick – Well written and informative. I have dealt with Rick Paine and his program for years and found him to be very helpful both to us and to the kids he represents. I believe the Recruiting process is for the PSA and used properly can help get the swimmer/diver to the right school and program. When you visit campus have your questions ready and find out what you want to know – not just what someone wants to tell you. – Tom Groden

8 years ago

I, also have enjoyed working with Rick. He is the only recruiting program person that reached out to understand the Rollins recruiting process. The only comment I have is that we pride ourselves at moving all students through the school in four years, so there are very few five year swimmers around. So don’t count that as a sign about us, good or bad.

About Gold Medal Mel Stewart

Gold Medal Mel Stewart

MEL STEWART Jr., aka Gold Medal Mel, won three Olympic medals at the 1992 Olympic Games. Mel's best event was the 200 butterfly. He is a former World, American, and NCAA Record holder in the 200 butterfly. As a writer/producer and sports columnist, Mel has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Universal Sports, …

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