Welcome to SwimSwam’s feature, called simply SwimSwam Discussion. We might rename it at a later point in time (Hospitality Room, anybody?), but for now that’s what we’ll call it. In this series, we’ll take a question about swimming, usually geared toward the more hardcore of our nerds, and pose it to our audience. These questions will be based on real-life conversations SwimSwam staff has had with real-life swim fans, usually coaches, and we will invite our audience to discuss the subject in the comments section.
This is our 2nd time looking at this issue in SwimSwam Discussion. See the first chat here.
Sometimes, statistics defy expectations. Sometimes, though, they validate what everyone already assumed they knew. The latest statistic from the NCAA will surprise literally nobody. The organization that governs most collegiate athletics in the United States has released results of a survey they conducted on transfer trends in Division I (see more here). They highlighted one result on their Twitter account: that high school athletes who commit earlier are less likely to wind up at the school they first
Of the DI athletes taking the recruiting survey, early recruits were less likely to currently attend the school where they first committed. pic.twitter.com/bzRyhiYeHm
— NCAA Research (@NCAAResearch) October 17, 2017
This will be of concern for swim fans, because the sport is trending toward earlier-and-earlier commitments – with junior verbals no longer being that surprising, and even sophomore commitments increasing in frequency.
I once was watching a show on some science-themed television channel (Discover, The Science Channel, something along those lines) that was trying to draw trends among incredibly successful leaders. They eschewed any trends about college degrees, intelligence levels, or personality types, instead focusing on one very specific commonality: the uber-succesful leaders are procrastinators.
Procrastination for those at the top of the food chain is a different animal than what most of the world deals with. Top leaders in industries are often more focused on discussion and decision-making than nose-to-the-grindstone work. So by procrastinating, the benefit for those leaders is that they have as much information as is possible before making their decisions, and therefore by procrastinating, on average, make better decisions than the rest of us.
And that feels applicable to the college commitment process. Yes, there’s lots of work to get to that level – but ultimately, the recruiting process is a decision-oriented process, not a process-oriented….process.
The outcome implied by those studies then is that by making decisions earlier, and with less information, high school athletes are, on average, making worse decisions, and therefore wind up changing their decisions more. All of which makes sense.
What is there to do about this? Unless the NCAA finds some creative legislation to stop it, there’s not much that can be done on a macro level (though an individual parent or coach is free to try and fight it for their student-athletes).
And swim fans will be happy to know that so far, the number of 4-year college to 4-year college transfers are actually trending down back to the NCAA’s first-reported results in 2004.
Still, if athletes are trending toward making worse decisions, then the key is to change the mindset – accept that athletes might change their minds more often, hopefully before enrollment rather than after – and learn to embrace that reality with a positive attitude. Don’t view a transfer or change of commitment as a black mark – view it as the athlete making a decision for a better outcome.
“Commitment” is viewed as one of the golden qualities of success in our modern American society. You’ve made a decision, now live with it. But perhaps allowing some room for thoughtful deviation from that premise will help better outcomes overcome worse decisions.