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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10 years ago

Terrific article!! One other point to evaluate when visiting is how supportive the athletic training/medical staff is with “non-revenue” sports. I ran at a large football-focused university and the medical staff was less than supportive when we were injured, sick, or “run down” and it really took it’s toll on me. The last thing I needed to hear was, “Well you run, so no wonder you are injured…” VERY frustrating!!! Injuries are part of competing at a high level and you want the best when you are feeling your worst!

10 years ago


One issue that has come up for me this recruiting season – the number of college coaches that have NOT contacted me at all during the process. Can you shed some light on why they wouldn’t want to contact me and talk training?

My issue as a club coach is…it should me a good training fit when we are sending them off to college. So why not have that dialogue?

Reply to  NM COACH
10 years ago

NM Coach, I would like to tell you that college swim coaches follow up with club and high school coaches, but the reality is that only a minority of them do. Some of the larger programs with larger staffs do a good job of communicating, but most coaches are a one-man/woman show and just don’t have or make the time.
Don’t think you are the only coach who doesn’t get contacted.
I am hoping we will get some response from the college coaches regarding this issue.
I think most club coaches have given up and don’t expect contact from the coaches regarding their swimmers, but I know there are many club coaches who do not return phone calls.

10 years ago

Being a Psycho Swim Dad, I have to ask Rick (and coaches here) related questions:

1. How many recruits show up with parents?
2. Do coaches look at recruits differently if they come with parents?
3. Do coaches treat them differently if they come with parents?

Recruits are easily impressed and few of them can figure out what is real and what is BS during visits organized to impress them. Do we (parents) go to visits with them?

Reply to  PsychoDad
10 years ago

Here’s the rule of thumb: If the visit requires a flight to get there, the recruit goes alone.

If the visit is within reasonable driving distance, often the parents will drive the recruit, drop them off and stay somewhere else in town. The parents may meet a coach briefly at the drop-off location and perhaps also at the end of the recruit trip, at the coaches invitaion only.

Reply to  PsychoDad
10 years ago

PsychoDad, I hope some of the college coaches will give their opinion, but here is what I have observed. I would guess that less that 15% of the parents go on trips. We have parents ask about this all the time and our advice is that it is perfectly fine for the parents to go on a visit; however they won’t see their swimmer very much and they will only have a few minutes to an hour to actually meet with the coach if at all.
I don’t think coaches mind if a parent comes on a trip. Division I programs are actually allowed to pay for a parent’s room and board once they get to campus (not many… Read more »

Reply to  Rick Paine
10 years ago

Thanks, Rick. Very good information.

Reply to  PsychoDad
10 years ago

PSYCHODAD: I strongly recommend that YOU go on any and all recruiting trips with your kid, regardless of whether or not you are invited. Seems only fair that the coaches get a little bit of insight into the “package deal” they are getting if your child swims for them.

Reply to  NONA
10 years ago

Nona, what about if all 4 of them swim in college? How do I package myself in 4 different schools. Please advise because I value your advice so much.

Reply to  PsychoDad
10 years ago

Ummm maybe you or your offspring could schedule recruiting trips on different weekends?

Reply to  PsychoDad
10 years ago

Coaches do not look at recruits nor treat them differently if parents are there. In most cases the parents are there for the admissions and financial aid aspect of it. If a recruit stays the night on campus with the team the parents are in a hotel. This is very common for us. If is is an official visit we normally only pay for the student athlete and not parents. Different schools have different funding so it depends on that factor.

Coach MP
10 years ago

Great insight all across the board Rick.

As a college coach, we bring in many prospective student-athletes on visits to campus. After their visit has concluded, I typically take time to speak with them about how everything went and answer any questions they may have that haven’t been answered. The one major thing I like to discuss with student-athletes who we are recruiting, regardless of how badly I want them to come to our school, is that this is THEIR decision. Everyone knows that deciding on a college is a big decision. What a lot of prospective student-athletes need to understand is that it is their decision, not ours, the coaches, to make. Coaches put a great deal of… Read more »

10 years ago

I want to thank everyone for their comments. I hope swimmers and their parents are reading all of this great advice. This one of the best ways to help people understand how the recruiting process works.

10 years ago

Great article and great advice. I would add, if you do not have an interest in a particular program – let them know. Coaches need to concentrate on students with a genuine interest in their program. Also, character is a big factor in our recruiting, misbehaving on your visit, not providing the necessary documentation in a timely manner, arriving late, appearing disinterested, are all indications of how you might behave as part of the team. Our recruiting of some very talented individuals has ended with a their visit. They weren’t going to be a good fit and we don’t need to invite problems to campus.

Thomas Till
10 years ago

Rick this is great advise to give to the parents and the recruits. It really gives them a good place to start in how to present all the factors that will help them make their decision. Also, I felt the part about how to act on a recruiting visit/overnight would be expecially helpful in knowing how to express your concerns and get answers you need without feeling awkward.

10 years ago

Great informative article that can help athletes make their way through the recruiting process and find the team they love with an offer that can make it work.

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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