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

  24 Gold Medal Mel Stewart | July 18th, 2012 | College, Featured, Lifestyle

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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24 Comments on "Colleges? If I’m Good Enough, They Will Come"

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4 years 3 months ago

I decided I wanted to swim in college after a career-ending football injury my senior year of high school. I was lucky enough to have a connection to Rick through my father’s old coach and Ricks former colleague Cal Bentz. I had plans to play football at the D-I level, so naturally I thought I should swim there too. Rick helped me realize that I wouldn’t make it one semester at that level because I had only swam for three years. He pointed me towards D-II and D-III schools. Ultimate I settled for D-III and it was the best choice I have ever made. I was able to develop to my full potential and be a National competitor, something that would have never happened at a higher level.

4 years 3 months ago

Thanks Ben, you are one of the great success stories……………………….from football player to Olympic Trial qualifier………………….at a D-III school!

Swim Ma
4 years 3 months ago

Good info Rick.Great article.Please keep them coming.The whole recruiting process can seem overwhelming.I was at a meet in Ft Lauderdale this past week and overheard some Swim Parents talking about their swimmers and the recruiting process.Their swimmers were so worried because they had not been called by the teams they were hooing to hear from and specifically from the Head Coaches.In an Olympic Year aren’t many of the Coaches very busy with the Olympics, Like Coach Troy and Coach McKeever?If so should these swimmers be worried tehy have been overlooked or just wait until after the Olympics for the phone to start ringing?

4 years 3 months ago

Swim Ma makes a great point. Coaches are very busy especially in an Olympic year. I know Gregg started planning for the amount of time it would take to be an Olympic Head Coach as soon as he was named. He is fortunate to have great assistants who could help run the college program. The days of a college coach just being a coach are long gone. Most of them have a “business” to run and administering that business take a great amount of time. Plus many of them run swim camps during the summer and very few programs have the luxury of having a large staff.

4 years 3 months 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.

4 years 3 months 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.

Swim Ma
4 years 3 months ago

Great advice.Thank you!

The Cid
4 years 3 months 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!

4 years 3 months 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.

4 years 3 months 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…

4 years 3 months 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 swimmers know if they are not interested, but they receive dozens of resumes a week and most of them only have enough time to respond to the swimmers they might be interested in. The rest of the resumes sit in a pile on the coaches desk and the kids are left to wonder if the coach is interested in them.

4 years 3 months 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 freshman. With 14 scholarships for women and 9.9 for men, these schools have to carefully balance that with bringing in the top talent. Maybe a few on full scholarship but most on partial and many with academic scholarship or paying for college on their own. If the school has foreign athletes…most are on full ride or close to it because that is what it takes to bring in foreign talent.
The lower performing schools in the conference though, usually want scorers in 3 events also, but for most of these schools this is not a reality. They might have just a few scorers on their team and they have spent most of their scholarship dollars on full rides to foreigners and a few others and have very little left to entice out of state talent to enroll and then offer walk on spots.
With the rising costs of college, it is a hard sell to someone to walk on and pay 38,000+ a year for out of state tuition ( much easier to get in state walk ons).
The hard realities of College Swimming are, not a lot of money out there unless you can score instantly coming in. Coaches at these schools(top 25) recruit talent not potential so if it is your dream to swim at one of these schools and you are out of championship scoring range then be prepared to walk on and foot the bill.
Coaches before offering Official visits, have an honest discussion with the swimmer and parents about where the swimmer would fit in. It just doesn’t make sense to waste your recruiting budget dollars to bring in a recruit only to tell them you have nothing to offer them. The recruit thinks you want them and then finds out you don’t and they have wasted time and an official visit. Also, mid level schools out there, get busy and call these swimmers and their coaches!!! These top level programs are Pros at recruiting and many kids would be more interested in you if they knew you existed.

4 years 3 months 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 by the recruiting coach). If a kid really wants to swim for a top school and is trying to put together a package which includes athletic as well as scholarship/financial need money, they will most certainly be discouraged to find out that any extra $$ coming from the school or other sources may be “counted” as part of those 14 scholarships for women and 9.9 for men. I speak from personal experience when I say that those things can REALLY burst a kid’s bubble – not only won’t they be able to swim for their “dream school” even if they can “score” in several events, but they won’t be going to school AT ALL if they can’t scrape together the funds. Very, very sad indeed.

I would challenge the NCAA and college programs to step up and make that information available to all recruits and to make the “recruiting process” a little less mystifying.


4 years 3 months 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.

4 years 3 months 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 the recruiting time window and the scholarship/aid time window are very different. Commit in the Fall and find out about Aid in the Spring. Many times you must make a decision before your funding issues are resolved from outside sources which can make this whole process even more stressful. I am a true believer that this should be an exciting time for the student athlete and parents; however, with the skyrocketing costs of a college education there are many unknowns which cause additional stress.
Rick, in a time when it seems economics are at the forefront in everyones mind, would you mind outlining the services and costs associated with your business?
I believe college coaches to be vague about such topics. This whole recruiting process is a business and a game and you better be ready to play.

4 years 3 months 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 selecting a college is one of the most important decisions that a young person will ever make and one of the most expensive ones the parents will ever make, we strive to provide a very personalized program for our student-athletes and their parents.

It is important that everyone understand that the college coaches did not create this problem. College coaches are no longer just coaches. They have to be business people, fundraisers, amateur attorneys to decipher the NCAA rule book, employers, recruiters and still find time to help the swimmers get faster………and most of them barely make a living.

For a vast majority of families, the recruiting process is like taking your son or daughter to buy their first car. Only this car cost around $100,000 and the parents don’t even know what a transmission is.

4 years 3 months 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 to a different extent, DII schools, while we watch much more lackluster athletes in “head count” sports (who also don’t share the same academic success) be offered “full ride” scholarships to the same schools who will most likely not be able to cut it scholastically or who will ride the bench for a greater part of their sports season (true story).

I wish we had known 10 years ago, when our swimmer was just getting started that this was what was waiting for us – perhaps we would have changed sports. However, I don’t think anyone anticipated that things would get so out of hand with both college costs and the economy. I just *wish* someone could do more to level the playing field by letting more of the “players” know the rules of the game so at least we could be more prepared to “do battle” with the current system.

4 years 3 months 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 a right way and a wrong way to ask for and negotiate for scholarships. Your swimmer’s grades will play a big role in getting financial aid.

4 years 3 months 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 get almost all from the university with a complete package for this oune, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, some of the federal aid “counts” (some doesn’t) some scholastic money “counts” (some doesn’t) and I personally don’t think it would kill the NCAA or anybody else to spell that out somewhere so recruiting athletes and their parents could AT LEAST know what they are up against.

As you pointed out, on the mens’ side there is not nearly as much $$$ to be found, especially if *where* you go to school to get your degree is just as important (or more so) than swimming getting you there (i.e. focus on what to do with the rest of your life after your swimming career is over). Our kid seems to appreciate the *reason* why he is going to go to college – to get an education and a degree he can actually *use* post graduation. We are trying to focus on a school who can give him that opportunity, and use swimming to get there. It is MUCH harder than we imagined and there is A LOT less $$$ out there than we thought there was, especially considering the current cost of a 4-year college education at some of the top-tier universities.

I know that there are a lot of other parents in our situation out there reading these sites who are completely in the dark about this process, and I came forward with our story and my comments to try to assist others in our same predicament with at least a little information and a heads-up.

Doesn’t matter what the rules are – (I am not certainly suggesting anyone change them for us) but it SURE WOULD BE NICE before an athlete gets to the college recruiting stage to know what the rules are, allowing families to make their plans accordingly.

Swim Ma
4 years 2 months 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.
He helped us with asking the right questions to help eliminate some of the offers right away and focus on what was realistic.Lots of schools offered full scholarships and others a percentage.What was important to us as well was what wasn’t said.So many costs in college are unknown.My daughter was armed with knowledge that helped her make her choice and has completed her 4 years and been thrilled with her choice.As a student athlete your child gets so much more than you expect, they start with an instant group of like minded friends, who are all goal oriented and highly motivated, they work with academic advisors who understand the additional needs a student athlete has.They have trainers who are there if needed.Nutritionists who are at Training table to assist in their meal choices,and the list goes on.This is not an average college experience.A friend of my daughter thought that she would have no trouble getting what she wanted from schools.She had been getting letters from great programs for years…she knew the calls would come and the scholarship offers would pour in…When November came and went she thought, well they save the good scholarship offers for April, April came and went and while coaches were still speaking with her(She was a Merit Scholar) no one would be pinned down on what they could offer.Her mother called us in a panic and we told her about American College Connection, within 2 weeks of signing with them, she had numerous scholarship offers and was so happy.She wished she had done this sooner.Yes my daughter probably could have done this on her own,but it was so much easier with the knowledge we got from Rick.Knowledge is key.I understand it is harder for the men because there aren’t as many scholarships out there,but I do hope your son is able to find the right school for him, at the right amount for your pocketbook, and he has a wonderful 4 years.Call Rick, I am sure he can give you some advice that will help you out.I ran into my friend the other day at a meet in Ft Lauderdale and she plans to sign her younger daughter up next year.She now understands how much it helped.This whole experience is one that only comes along maybe once in your lfe, if you are lucky to have a second or third athlete in the family, what you learn will help them..It is a confusing process and the rules change.I can only imagine what athletes thinking of going to Penn State will be going through with the sanctions there…i am sure there will be lots of questions for those athletes.So when we look at what we paid compared to what we got….we were more than pleased.It was a great return on our investment.Best wishes to you and your family…I am sure your swimmer will land in a great program and be a better swimmer and student for having done so.Regards,

4 years 2 months 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.

4 years 2 months 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 a bit of a run around in terms of what was offered and in the end my son lost interest in them due to a lack of trust. It is very difficult to get a full ride for a boy so sit down as a family and decide what you can afford first and then you will be in a position to negotiate. If the school that you want can’t offer you what you need or they don’t need the type of swimmer that you son is there is not much you can do. Make a list of schools that you would be interested in, know what they need and be realistic as to whether or not your swimmer would fit in. Look at other funding possibilities and know what you need financially before going on any trips.

4 years 2 months ago

Great articles. Thanks Rick! 🙂

3 years 2 months ago

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


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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