Why Manners In The First Degree Matter for College Recruits

Written and courtesy of Lori Payne, Assistant Director of Swimming & the staff at American College Connection

The old saying, “first impressions” could not be more true when you have your first contact with your potential college swim coach.

This is a formal interview; your tone, demeanor, interest in their school and manners, must be positive and well spoken.  This is all indicative of their first impression of you swimming and studying at their school.

Below are some examples:

Phone Etiquette/First Contact:

“Hello Coach Gary, How are you?”, BE ENGAGING and  EXCITED to speak to the coach. Find some commonality, like dogs, or travel, sports, ie…, “Did you see those Dolphins?”, to a S FL coach…learn about the coach before you speak to them.

Tell the coach what appeals to you, as a student-athlete, about their school, using proper grammar.


Coach I’ve looked at your swimmers’ times and I can be an asset…….(here)…..and:

Your school has just the areas of study I am looking for…… (here)…..and:

Coach, I have also been active in these extracurricular activities: student council, band, Eagle Scouts. Anything that shows you are a leader.

Phone Voice Mail:

This must be exact, succinct and polite:

“Hi this is Donny,  I am either in school or in the pool. Please leave your name and number and I will return your call by the end of the day. Thank-you.”

Nothing else is acceptable. This is not the time for funny voice messages. A coach is not interested in anything but how will this swimmer reflect on my team, my school and me. Don’t leave the canned cell phone message on your phone: “You have reached 555-1212, leave a message.” Make it personal. Your voice message is usually the first personal interaction you will have with a coach.

First Meeting:

Put your muted phone away for the duration of your interview and visit. Shake hands and look your coach/trainer/advisor in the eye.

You must dress properly. Boys: polo shirts, and tucked in, belted trousers. No tank tops, flip flops, gym shorts or sweatpants. Girls: no yoga pants, high heels, short shorts, short skirts or camisole tops. Shoulders should be covered,

Anything less is inappropriate.  I look at a sloppy kid and think, DO I want to have this kid representing my team? NO.

R_ E_ S_P_E_C_T for school officials, parents etc. Swimmers, this is a formal interview.

Follow up after first meeting:

A hand written, well thought out thank-you note to the coach is imperative.  It must be emphasized, that you appreciated the time involved the coach took to meet you and your parents. Show your continued enthusiasm for their school and program.  Be gracious!

Your goal is to impress the coach with the knowledge of their school and team. Coaches are looking at their future team leaders and swimmers. Generally, swimmers are strong students, and swim coaches are very prideful of their student athletes.

Expectations of recruits are very high. There are lots of recruits and very few spots. Represent yourself but be humble. Stand out by following the above suggestions and you will be well remembered by the coaches!

Swimming college recruiting feature is courtesy of ACC, a SwimSwam partner.

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4 years ago

Exposed SHOULDERS?? On a SWIMMER? Absolutely inappropriate, your swim coach should NEVER see that shameful part of your body.

Rick Paine
Reply to  Channel
4 years ago

Keep in mind that this article is to help the kids with first impressions…very much like a job interview.

Reply to  Rick Paine
4 years ago

So true Rick. First impressions are important. You do not want to look like you are going out to the club for a night out (I got it, these are high school kids, but you get what I am saying) and are serious about meeting the coach and learning about the school. You wouldn’t go to a job interview looking like you were going out on a date. I would add boys should take off the ball caps that they love to wear!

Reply to  SwimMom
4 years ago

Unfortunately, given our sport’s history, there are probably some coaches out there where for whom exposing shoulders would give a woman an edge in being recruited.

Rick Paine
Reply to  SwimMom
4 years ago

Great point on the ball cap.

4 years ago

You’re going to rip a 17-18 year old for using a canned voicemail message? Get real.

Reply to  swimmmer
4 years ago

I mean, saying they’ll rip a 17-18 year old for a canned voicemail message might be a little much, but at the same time I think it’s actually a good idea to not have a canned voicemail message and have your own voice instead. It’s a little more professional.

Reply to  swimmmer
4 years ago

There’s a difference between a rip and advice to get an edge. You can do underwater dolphins to 10 meters like everyone else, or to 15 meters. It might make a difference.

Reply to  Bigly
4 years ago

What if you’re a terrible underwater kicker? Different strokes my friend.

4 years ago

Then, after you fool them into recruiting you, you’re free to do the usual dumb (or worse) stuff college swimmers have become infamous for (see Drury, Princeton, Stanford, WKU, and a night out with Lochte for examples).