Colleges? If I’m Good Enough, They Will Come

Contributor, Rick Paine, is a friend and an expert on the college recruiting process.

So you picked up a Junior National cut and now you are waiting patiently by the phone for the college coaches to start calling. The first few days are exciting every time the phone rings because you just know that a big time college coach is only a phone call away.

After a few days of only receiving a couple of calls from schools you are not interested in, you start to worry about why the phone has been silent.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do the college coaches know about me?
  • What do they know about me?
  • How did they find out about me?

You must have a plan if you want to find the right fit for a school and swim program. You have to determine how to contact the coaches and what to send them to get them to look at you.

Don’t count on just completing an online questionnaire to put you solidly in the recruiting pool (no pun intended). College coaches are very busy these days and many schools just don’t have the manpower to go though every questionnaire they receive. YOU HAVE TO SELL YOURSELF.

College coaches do look at times first to determine if you can help them in the pool. The very next thing they look at is your grades. You need to get the coaches to look at your grades and test scores and your best times (not all of your times, just your best).

One of the most important things you need to do is to determine some areas of academic interest and at what level can you swim at in college. It wastes everyone’s time when you chase a school that you are not qualified for. Remember from last month’s article, for most swimmers there are no clear cut differences in swimming at the D-I, D-II, D-III, NAIA and Junior College level. There are excellent coaches and programs at every level.

You can get a huge advantage if you can get someone like your coach to paint a picture of your potential and send that to a lot of college coaches.

Don’t count on “if I am good enough, they will come.”

Here are a few NCAA rule changes that every potential recruit needs to know.

Official visits:

Old rule– visits to D-I and D-II programs were counted together and a swimmer could only take official visits to 5 schools.

New rule– swimmers are still limited to official visits to 5 D-I schools, but are allowed an unlimited number of official visits to D-II schools.

Visits to D-III, NAIA and Junior Colleges remain unlimited.

Phone calls:

Old rule– D-I and D-II coaches were allowed one phone call per week starting July 1 for D-I and June 25 for D-II coaches after your junior year.

New rule– D-I coaches are still only allowed 1 call per week beginning July 1 after your junior year, but D-II coaches are now allowed unlimited phone calls on June 15 after your junior year.

Phone calls from D-III, NAIA and Junior College coaches have no restrictions. Also, military academies can make phone calls to recruits prior to the July 1 and  June 15 dates.

If you would like to find out if you can swim in college and at what level, go to www.ACCrecruits and submit a Free Profile.

Connect with AMERICAN COLLEGE CONNECTION here and see if you have what it takes to swim in college.


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10 years ago

does anyone know something about limit age to atend at Dll schools swimming programs???

11 years ago

Great articles. Thanks Rick! 🙂

11 years ago

Aquamom, you can’t change the way scholarships are handed out so try to focus on what you can change, which is the way your swimmer is getting recruited. We do a lot more than just getting swimmers exposure. Educating the kids and parents on how the recruiting process works might be the most important thing we do.
I am assuming that your swimmer is your son as there is more money available for girls than guys, but I am at a loss for why a national level swimmer would struggle to find adequate aid.I know of a number of college coaches looking for guys for next year and the year after and they all have money
There is… Read more »

Reply to  Rick Paine
11 years ago

Thank you for your input, Rick. Grades and test scores aren’t the problem either – 3.96 (unweighted) and SAT 2025 respectively. What you fail to mention is that the EVENT they swim (or number of different events which they can score in) plays just as important role in what $$$ is available probably more so than anything else. If you are OUTSTANDING in long course, college coaches don’t seem to really care. Not that I blame them, because as you pointed out, when it comes down to it, this is just a business.

We have other kids to put through university as well (who are much more academic, and not nearly as athletically gifted) and were hoping we could… Read more »

Swim Ma
Reply to  AquaMom2016
11 years ago

AquaMom 2016,
We used Rick to work with our daughter who was inundated with calls, letters, and visits, and was a National champion in one event while in top 4 in 2 others and top 16 in almost everything she swam in Long Course as well as short course.The club Coach told us we were wasting our money going with a recruiting service.What he didn’t understand is that we didn’t just go wtih any recruiting service, we went with American College Connection, because all of the people working there were former college coaches and we just wanted to understand the process.We also knew that my daughter would be in college while her sister and brother were as well.
… Read more »

Reply to  Swim Ma
11 years ago

Thank you SwimMa for sharing your story. We will be sitting down this weekend as a family, and discussing all of the comments, and I will be sure to add “Call ACC” to the list.

Your insights are very valuable, even though we have a son who is trying to swim in college, and that is a far different animal than having a daughter in the sport. Thank you for your well wishes.

Reply to  AquaMom2016
11 years ago

We did not use a recruiter when we went looking for our son but not using one took quite a lot of time on our part. I have friends that have used Rick and were very happy with the results. The main thing I learned from the experience is that you can’t sit back and wait for the offers to come. If you don’t use a recruiter then you need to be the one that gets your swimmer in front of the coaches. We were told in the beginning that we wouldn’t have to do anything and that the offers would just come to us but that was definetly the wrong approach. We did run into coaches that gave us… Read more »

11 years ago

Most age group kids and many many senior level kids and parents just don’t understand the realities of College swimming. They all grow up wanting to swim for a top 25 swim program thinking of course i’ll get a scholarship.
Scoring at conference in 3 events is a big deal! Look at the top conferences for instance….SEC, PAC10, BIG10, Big12, ACC, etc and look at “A” final participants….many tend to be from the same top programs. Then look at “B” final…some of the same top schools and then a small scattering of the lower performing schools in the Conference. The top schools in each conference are difficult to swim for unless you can instantly score coming in as a… Read more »

Reply to  swimfan
11 years ago

t’s a 2- way street – we are getting out there and being proactive, but that certainly doesn’t excuse either the programs or the NCAA from being remiss in providing education about the process.

There is precious little information out there for John Q. Public to educate about the process. Knowing the difference between scholarship money which is “countable” in a school’s scholarship pool of funds vs. awards and grants which are “not countable” would be a good start. The NCAA must think they are guarding the Holy Grail, since information about this available to parents or to potential college athletes is impossible to find – if it even exists at all (other than what a kid is being told… Read more »

Reply to  AquaMom2016
11 years ago

This is what we are trying to do in our series of articles and exactly what we do with the families who we work with in American College Connection.

Reply to  Rick Paine
11 years ago

Aquamom2016, you bring up a great point! All Federal, Institutional and outside source aid and scholarships are not created equal. Some Federal Aid, specifically grants…count against the allotment of scholarship dollars the team has to offer. This goes back to the days when football programs would qualify players with Pell Grants and then still have their 85 full scholarships and dress out 120+ players. I believe this should only apply to Head Count sports ( sports that award full scholarships to all players) and they should exempt the equivalency sports. I think all sports should be “head count”, but the NCAA didn’t ask me.
You are so right that there is very little information out there on this and… Read more »

Reply to  swimfan
11 years ago

SWIMFAN you are so right about the recruiting process being a “game” and very few people know the rules of the game or how to play it.

The extent of what we provide swimmers and their parents is outlined on our website on the swimming page.The only thing missing on the page is our online SAT prep class.

Our fee varies depending on what the student-athlete needs. According to NCAA rules our fee is not based in any way on a student-athlete receiving a scholarship, but to give you an idea, our fee works out to about 3% of the total amount of scholarship that our average swimmers receive.

When you consider that… Read more »

Reply to  swimfan
11 years ago

Thank you, SwimFan for validating what I have learned! Rick, I’m sure your program is quite valuable to those who need to get their names out there, but that isn’t our problem (unfortunately). We are getting PLENTY of calls (all unsolicited, I might add – letters and emails too) but there is just not enough MONEY in the “equivalency” side of the sport to add up to what we need to try to make this work for our swimmer (the economic depression has hit our family very hard).

It is quite galling to have an athlete who is competing on the Sr. National and International level (with measured success) who is having trouble garnering athletic scholarship $$$ for DI and… Read more »

11 years ago

You have to be very proactive. I’ve known great swimmers, including one who was a DIII National Champion who was going to do several years at another school, and it was nigh impossible to get in regular contact with the coach.

Many coaches are incredibly poor at staying in contact. One should be at least able to tell a prospect who gets in contact: We’re not interested in what you have to offer, but don’t let that discourage you from looking at other swim teams. End of story.

Reply to  Brian
11 years ago

I think they try to keep all their options open in case their first,second,third(and so on) choices don’t work out.
Frank Busch was good about saying straight out we don’t have money for you ….but some other Coaches may not want to be the bad guy either.
If yoou are getting the run around, and a Coach doesn’t have time for a call…read the signs and move on to a school that really wants you…

Reply to  Brian
11 years ago

The real key is to sell your potential to the college coaches. It is difficult for a swimmer to sell their own potential, but if they can get their coach to contact a lot of coaches and sell their potential it will really help. Most coaches want to see race video on recruits. The problem is how to deliver it to the coaches what do the coaches want to see. I honestly believe the reason we have such success with swimmers who use American College Connection is because we were all former college swim coaches and we can paint the picture of potential for the coaches as only another coach can.

I agree with Brian that coaches should let the… Read more »

The Cid
11 years ago has definitely made things easier for swimmers. They keep track of your times and make swimmers much more visible than any other site out there. I wish i had it when i was in HS!

Swim Ma
11 years ago

Great advice.Thank you!

11 years ago

Biggest takeaway- you must be proactive. If a program you like has not called you, email the head coach AND assistant saying you are very interested in learning more. (be sure to look at the times on the team to make sure you are a viable fit there). Include your best times LCM and SCY in your best three events, gpa, test scores, and most importantly your phone number and best time to call.

Reply to  Calbearfan
11 years ago

CALBEARFAN is right, you have to be proactive, but you can’t just compare your times with a teams’ times. Coaches are not looking for times that they already have. They are looking for swimmers who can score in in 3 events at their conference championships. Be sure to check the conference results. Be sure to include your year of graduation right up front so coaches know when you are available.

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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