How to Talk on the Phone with College Coaches

Contributor Rick Paine is an expert on the college recruiting process. He is also the Director of Swimming at American College Connection (ACC).

ACC is a SwimSwam Partner. 

“Rick and his associates at American College Connection provided our coaches with consistently great information about prospects,” former University of North Carolina coach Rich DeSelm said. “We could quickly determine if the prospect might possibly be a good fit. Rick responded to my questions quickly and was willing to communicate with the prospect to help us gain further information. Over the years, we landed several great recruits whom we had not been in touch with prior to Rick reaching out to us. ACC is a great resource for both college coaches and prospects.”

If college coaches use American College Connection as a resource when looking at recruits, why not let us help you get ready when they call as well.

Hopefully you have been emailing college coaches and are getting ready for them to start calling.


Division I- June 15 (after grade 10), Division II- June 15 (after grade 10), Division III and NAIA- no restrictions


There is nothing magic about June 15. This is when coaches can start calling, but there are quite a few coaches who don’t pick up the phone and call on the first day so don’t be discouraged if the phone doesn’t ring off the hook.

When you talk to college coaches on the phone, you want to set yourself apart from the other recruits by exuding self-confidence. If you want to impress the coach, practice good phone skills. You want the coach to hang up the phone excited and eager to call you next week.

If you know a coach is going to call you, look up their bio before so you know some personal things about them.

Nothing is more grueling for a college coach than to try to carry on a phone conversation with a recruit who grunts and answers in one-word sentences. Most recruits do this, and when the coach hangs up the phone they are left scratching their head wondering what you talked about.

Talk about yourself, your likes and dislikes. When the coach asks about school, tell them about your classes. Let them know what you enjoy doing in your spare time.

One thing all athletes can speak passionately about is their sport. Let the coach know what you really enjoy about your sport. Make them feel your excitement.

Ask the coach about the school and the team and about their goals for the team. Ask the coach questions about where they grew up, about their family and what they like about where they live now.

When you are by yourself, have an imaginary conversation with a college coach. Think of the things that you would like to know about the coach, the team, the school and the student-athletes on the team.

Try to STAND UP and walk around when you are talking to a college coach on the phone. You will have more energy and confidence.

Make it FUN. If the conversation is fun for you, it will be fun for the coach and you will be more likely to get another call.

Questions You Might Anticipate from College Coaches

1.  What other schools are you considering? Where does our school fall on that list?

2. What are your goals in college?

3. What are your goals this summer?

4. What are the most important factors in your decision?

  • location
  • cost
  • size of school
  • level of competition
  • course offerings- major?
  • team

5. How important a factor will college cost be in your decision?

6. Why do you want to attend our school?

7. What events do you like the most?  What events do you want to swim in college?

8. What are the things you are looking for in a college?

9. What interested you in our college?

10. How do you see yourself fitting in here?

11. What other activities do you like to do?  i.e., music, other sports, reading,  movies,  etc.

12. How is the summer season going? Training ? Meets ? Goals – very important – have some times in mind for this summer

13. What are your strengths? Weaknesses?

14.  What is your most memorable accomplishment in school?  In swimming?

Questions You Might Consider Asking College Coaches

Don’t ask, “what kind of yardage do you do?”

Do ask, “how are your training groups set up? Do the IM’ers train with the distance group, do the breaststrokers train with the sprinters….etc?”


Don’t ask, “can I swim the 50 free?”

Do ask, “what events do you see me training for that will help the team the most?”


Don’t ask, “when do I get to taper?”

Do ask, “do you rest for any dual meets?” “do you taper for a first semester meet to make cuts?”


Don’t assume the coach who is recruiting you will be coaching you.

Do ask, “who will be my primary coach?”


Don’t ask, “how much scholarship are you going to give me?”

Do ask, “my parents wanted me to ask you what you think it might cost for me to come to your school”


Don’t ask, “can I anchor the free relay?”

Do ask, “who will I have to train with?”

Official Visit Offers

Can start August 1 after your Sophomore year

If you are not sure you are interested in a school and they ask you to come for an official visit, but you want to keep them on your list try this:

“Coach, I really like your school (be specific about what you like) and I would consider taking an official visit, but I have to check with my coach to see what my schedule will be like in the fall. My senior year is very important to me.”

If you are sure you are interested in a school and they ask you to come for an official visit try this:

“Coach, I am excited to come for an official visit to your school, but my parents wanted me to ask you what you think it might cost for me to attend your school?”

It is always best to find out if a school is affordable before you take an official visit. Sometimes you will get a straight answer from a coach and sometimes you won’t, but at least you started the discussion about finances.

Selling Your Potential

College coaches base a lot of their recruiting on a swimmer’s potential. Any good coach wants to believe they are recruiting a swimmer who they can help get faster. They are all looking for swimmers who are “headed in the right direction.”

So how do you present your potential to college coaches? The first thing you need to do is go back and reread the ACC recruiting tips on how to talk with college coaches on the phone. The next step is for you and your coach to come up with some specific goals for the current season (let me know if you would like for us to send you some articles on goal setting). The next step is for you to let the college coaches know what your goals are. This is not as easy as just telling them. You have to be subtle and believable.

You need to determine what you need to do differently in practice in order to achieve your goals. What are you willing to commit to? You can’t realistically set a goal without having a plan of attack. Those are called “dreams.”

Sample conversation between a swimmer and a college coach:

Swimmer: Coach, it seems like you and the team reached most of the goals for the season.

Coach: Yes, we had a really good year. The kids trained well and we hit 82% of our goals.

Swimmer: Congratulations. My coach and I got together the other day and set my goals for the season. Would you like to hear them?

Coach: Of course

Swimmer: I will go a :59.9 or faster in my 100 free by August 5. I know I can at least swim that fast because I am doing dryland 3 days a week instead of 2 and I know I am getting stronger and that will really help me take my first 50 out in :28.5.

I will also be able to kick 5 x 100- free on a 1:30 interval by July 15. With my legs in better shape I will be able to bring it home in at least :31.7

What you just did is to make this coach look at you as a :59 100 freestyler instead of a 1:02.

That’s selling your potential.

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

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Cannot stress this enough, be prepared. Have anywhere from 5-10 questions written down before hand. Then follow up directly thanking them for their time and looking forward to getting to know them throughout the recruiting process. Set the next steps by asking what they are.

It’s a simple thing, but for people like me who were not top tier recruits it makes a difference in the dollars you will be offered.

Two cents that’s all.


Seconded. I was not prepared for my first phone call, and ended up telling the coach (unknowingly) that I had strongly disliked his alma mater…

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