SwimMom Musings: And Now There’s College Looming

Written by Donna Hale

Like many parents of future college athletes,my spring and summer has been full of research, visits, questions, and maybe a tiny bit of trepidation.  This is my baby and I’m about to entrust her to what could be one of the most influential role models in her life.   I know I’ve given her the wings to soar and I hope the roots to feel confident that home is her safe place where she’s loved always.  But still, each visit tugs at my heart.  A chapter will soon be ending.  2017 graduates your journey towards your swimming future is beginning in full force.

For a handful of Ledeckys and Franklins, the choice can be even easier.  They were destined for the most elite of programs from the start.  But swimming is a popular and far reaching sport with many good athletes who fit in so many buckets. I read a great article just today on what factors that many D1, D2, and D3 should consider in recruiting.  These are also great points for athletes, their parents, and coaches.

So here are things to think about in the college recruitment dance:

  1. Work ethic and team philosophy. One thing you cannot teach is dedication and hard work.  And most college coaches have refined training programs.  What’s the match?  Can you put in the time that is required for that school and do you want to?  Whatever your answer, it’s okay.  Be honest swimmers with the one who really counts – yourself.
  2. Team culture. Swimmers stick together and this starts at a very young age continuing for many all their lives. Athletes and their coach need to feel the connection.  It’s an intangible but important factor.  Leads to less drama and more spirit and fun.  A bonded team is a successful one.  It’s nearly as important as the training
  3. Is there great educational alignment?  All swimmers, yes all, are student athletes not athlete students. College is the first leg on our swimmer’s marvelous journey towards their destiny.   Follow your life passion over your swim passion.
  4. Does it feel right?  Some choices in life come down to an intuitive sense. You see the pool and you know.  You meet the coach and you connect. You meet future teammates and you already feel like treasured friends.  Use your head but trust your heart.  As Steve Jobs once said:  it somehow already knows what you want to be.
  5. Enjoy the experience.  Only a very small percentage of athletes ever compete at the elite level.  It is s privilege. It is an honor.  But along with this comes responsibility to be a good role model and pay it forward to future swimmers.  Do it because you can’t live without out it – not because someone believes you should.

Follow these ideas and you’ll end up where you were always meant to be.

Donna Hale has been a swim mom for 12 years as well as executive of several nonprofit organizations. She volunteers regularly for her daughter Hannah’s USA Team The Potomac Marlins, summer team Burke Station Destroyers, and Lake Braddock Swim and Dive Bruins.

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Dave C
4 years ago

Thank you for this. We are sitting down today with our daughter to review colleges, swim programs, etc. I will have her read this article.

4 years ago

Be involved even though the temptation to let your son/daughter steer the process is strong. This is a HUGE decision, the implications of which can be much bigger than can ever be imagined. As someone who saw their child live through an unhealthy environment but was lucky enough to transfer into another program, I know parental involvement can be a game changer. We have life experience that can help us detect bad situations and poor or unhealthy leadership in ways that our sons/daughters have yet to acquire. Finally, don’t overemphasize scholly percentage. No scholly money is worth seeing your child deal with mental wellness issues because of coach incompetence or manipulation. Better to accept 10% or 15% in a solid… Read more »

4 years ago

Be Involved,
Nowhere in your comment did you mention scholastics or teammates or team spirit. The only things mentioned were scholarships and poor coaching. If those are your motivating factors your kid will probably do better to steer their own process. This has to be their deal. They have to own it. They are considering not only their sports future, but their future. Certainly, their is room for a parent to make act as an adviser, but, ultimately, it’s on them

Reply to  Jjd
4 years ago

Unless you or your son/daughter really know nothing about what to look for academically or in team mates, chances are he/she is going to be safe there. It’s pretty hard to screw up the basics, which is why I didn’t bother mentioning them. To me, those are a given. Like the Coaches! commentator below, my word of caution has more to do with leadership. A team can have all the team spirit in the world, but if a coach is manipulative and creates cliques of insiders and outsiders, playing one against the other, no amount of team spirit will ever compensate. Contrary to popular belief, recruiting trips do not reveal those problems because athletes are well advised to present the… Read more »

4 years ago

I second checking whether swimmers are transferring. One of the schools I considered had a lot of non-star swimmers fall off after a year or two. I would have been middle of the pack on the team, so I could have easily been one of those swimmers to fall off. It’s tempting to go to the big name school and hope you improve, but in many cases it isn’t worth the risk of getting hurt or not improving and being forced to leave the sport you love. I ended up at a less prestigious program, but was able to be a great contributor to the program and enjoyed myself.

Just Another Opinion
4 years ago

Well stated – thanks.