To Drink or not to Drink on a Recruiting Trip

  30 Gold Medal Mel Stewart | September 15th, 2012 | College, Featured, Lifestyle, News

Contributor, Rick Paine, is a friend and an expert on the college recruiting process.

Drinking on college campuses has always been there and unfortunately probably always will be. Athletes are not immune the allure of alcohol even though it is counterproductive to all of the training they do.

Recruiting trips and parties seem to go hand in hand and many times drinking is involved. If you are fortunate enough to be invited on a recruiting trip, you should prepare yourself to deal with this issue.

Here is a typical recruiting trip. You fly in on a Friday and one of the coaches picks you up at the airport. You go to lunch with the coaches and your student host. You meet with the academic counselors and maybe attend a class or two with a student-athlete. You go and watch practice then hang out with the team at one of the coaches’ homes. You go back to the dorm room with your host and maybe watch a movie and talk.

Saturday morning you meet the swim team for breakfast then meet with one of the coaches while the team is training. You then head out with the team for a day of fun and probably go to a football game. Later that night the team may host a party for you and the other recruits.

Everyone is making you feel welcome and you are excited to feel like you are part of the team. You notice that some of the team is drinking (hopefully only some of the team) and one of the upperclassmen brings you a beer.

The upperclassman tells you how much everyone likes you and shoves a beer in your face telling you it is OK because all of the recruits drink on their trip.

I am not going to sit here and tell you of all of the reasons not to drink, but I am going to remind you about two of them.

It is illegal and you could be arrested or given a citation. Wouldn’t that be a fun conversation to have with your parents and your coach when you get back home?

You can be assured that the coaches will find out. Don’t let anyone tell you that no one will know. With today’s cell phone cameras and social media outlets it is only a matter of time before your mug is plastered all over facebook with a beer in your hand and you are labeled as a partier.

Now you are back at home waiting for the coaches to call you, but the phone doesn’t ring. The coaches have asked some of the team about you and perhaps have seen the photo of you holding a beer. That one moment has labeled you as a party animal and I guarantee you that coaches don’t recruit party animals.

So what do you do without coming across as uncool?

  • As soon as you get to the party get a lemonade or a soda so that you have something in your hand.
  • Don’t stand in the middle of the room like a statue. Interact with the team, especially with the non-drinkers.
  • If someone offers you a drink politely decline and let them know that you already have something to drink.
  • If they persist, let them know that you are focused on your training for this season and that your coach would kick your butt if you had a drink.

If you feel pressured to drink in order to fit in with the team, then you should re-evaluate if the team is right for you.

Under no circumstances should you drink on a recruiting trip!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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30 Comments on "To Drink or not to Drink on a Recruiting Trip"

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4 years 1 month ago

Plus if you are drinking on the trip, will you really see the team in the right perspective?!?! A recruiting trip is the time to evaluate the environment and see if it is the best place for you!!

4 years 1 month ago

We made a rule eliminating drinking on recruiting trips. It is our absolute, no questions asked rule, and if violated causes dismissal. We have lost recruits bc we didn’t provide a party, and those are the recruits I’m happy to lose.

I am not under the illusion that my team is perfect angels the rest of the time, but we have been good about this

4 years 1 month ago

So you’re willing to lose recruits that could help your team just because those same recruits want to have a fun trip like they will anywhere else? Smart coaching move there…

4 years 1 month ago

Nope, they are willing to loose recruits that could even score at their major meets because, more often than not, those recruits could be more trouble than they are worth (Kendall, anyone?).

I’m not sure what they mean by not providing a party like some other teams, but I hope they still provide a party without the drinking. Yes, it turns out, those two are not the same, and if you’re unable to have a good time without drinking, then you’re not the kind of recruit anyone should be looking for. Plus, there’s nothing wrong with standing up for something more than times and scores.

4 years 1 month ago

Yes. And you can then have a fast team of high character individuals who are academic and athletic focused and not on where the next party is. You are implying that the majority of programs “have a good time” with the use of alcohol and that is simply not true.

4 years 1 month ago

and if you have sex, you will get pregnant and die

4 years 1 month ago
4 years 1 month ago

This is the only country on the world when people can have a gun at 18, but is illegal drink a beer, what about driving ( far away more responsible action) at 16….
drink a beer doesn’t mean anything bad or good about a person….
Drink a beer and you’ll be on facebook with a drink on hand !!!!!!!!!
in a adult life that mean you’re a good swimmer and a normal person than drink a beer once in awhile !!!! you are not and alcoholic or a problem person for drink a beer…..
this people live in the moon…

4 years 1 month ago

Will Bernhardt
4 years 1 month ago

Blake…just because you are a fast recruit doesn’t mean you will make a team better!

Drinking doesn’t have to be a part of a trip to have fun and get to know the team. If being the best student-athlete that you can be is important to you, then choosing your college based on academics and the team far outweigh the desire/need to drink and party. If a recruit only wants to party/drink on a trip then what will you get when they actually attend your institution?

Character matters.

Have fun, be safe, and enjoy your recruiting trips without the use of alcohol. In the end it will give you a better picture of what that particular program is about.

4 years 1 month ago

Excellent timing(recruiting trip season) for a great article! Your choices have consequences beyond the immediate moment,and you only get one chance at a best first impression, so consider them thoughtfully…Thanks Rick.

4 years 1 month ago

Thanks Ross, I knew you would “get it.”

4 years 1 month ago

man i got messed up on fri and sat. dont bainwash peepz. it is college

4 years 1 month ago

Yeah Yeah Yeah!

4 years 1 month ago

It is comments like this that make it easy to see why European and Asian countries do better than American kids in the classroom. We’re 16th in the world in education and 39th in average life expectancy. Bravo for partying being the only thing that matters anymore.

4 years 1 month ago

Ironically, ALL of those countries who you cite as being so much better academically have lower minimum drinking ages than the United States. Out of 138 countries, 85 have minimum drinking ages between 18-19. Iceland and Japan have a minimum drinking age of 20. There are only 5 out of 138 with a minimum age of 21, The USA, Palau, Indonesia, Fiji, Micronesia, and Sri Lanka.

Denmark and Switzerland, which are regularly cited not only to have the most robust of economies and the highest quality of life in the world, have minimum drinking ages between 16-17 years old.

So, is the problem really drinking, or is the problem that we as Americans are unable to be moderate about anything?

4 years 1 month ago

You hit the nail on the head. YES, those countries all have lower drinking limits. By the time kids get to be 14 they’ve grown up with wine in the house. By the time they are 18 they’ve been drinking regularly at home for 4+ years. By the time they are 21 they’ve “been there, done that.” Europe does not have the college binge drinking problem we have here in the states. In fact not even close and the legal limit of 21 is why.

Now go back to the post that prompted my haughty scolding –

“man i got messed up on fri and sat. dont bainwash peepz. it is college”


This is the kind of attitude I am talking about. You simply do not see that type of behavior from 21 year olds who have other goals than a four year party.

Again, I repeat –

No sympathy.

4 years 1 month ago

Think of a recruiting trip as your most important business trip. Most business people don’t break laws on a business trip in front of their collegues its just not good for your career. Also, It is your job as a potential scholarship athlete to sell your self and you can do that best if you have a clear head. Some recruits will drink but logically it is in the athletes best interest to not drink.

4 years 1 month ago

Each of my 5 official visits there was a party thrown with drinking or drinking involved during the weekend. None of them forced me to drink or an individual asked more than once when I said no. It is hard to make a decision based on no drinking being done by teams when it happens on all of my recruiting weekends. However, I will say besides the legal aspect as the prime motivator for not drinking, see how kids on the team truly behave comes out when these teams do drink. Whether you stay up late enough to see how team members act or take advantage of the alcohol they ingest as a truth syrum in a way. On a couple of my trips, by not drinking I was able to get nonrecruiting weekend feelings about each other. People put on a good show for recruits, but the alcohol lowers the guard and I had several talk their way out of me swimming at their university. Complaints about the coach, about teammates, a 3AM screaming match between roommates (one was my host) behind a close door while other recruit slept on the opposite couch with his head in a garbage can, among other things came out when alcohol coaxes it out of them.

And Blake, there is more to college life and recruiting trips then drinking. To say you will lose a big recruit because you forbid drinking on recruiting trips is ridiculous. As I became an upperclassman it was those recruits that didn’t drink and had a great time, interacting with everyone that stood out as the kind of kids we wanted on the team. Their potential for success is far greater because they are focused versus a faster kid interested in tearing up their body when its their vehicle to a scholarship, long term swimming goals and a future anywhere.

4 years 1 month ago

I have no interest in bringing in a swimmer if they come on a recruiting trip and drink. Likewise, if any of our swimmers facilitate a recruit drinking while visiting, they will lose their place on our team. Pretty simple.

4 years 1 month ago

My son turned down a big name D1 school because all the swimmers were playing beer pong when he visited.

4 years 1 month ago

Good riddance. What a downer

4 years 1 month ago

And I thought I was lame for not drinking on my recruiting trips…

Andrew Chadeayne
4 years 1 month ago

First, I think this article is too heavy-handed and one-sided to effectively persuade the reader. A more measured approach, discussing both sides of the issue would probably be more effective. Mr. Paine’s pontificating does not convince me that he is capable of weighing facts and arriving at an objective conclusion.

Second, back in my day, coaches used to select swimmers based on their times. And swimmers used to select swim programs based on the quality of the swimming, education, and social opportunities available. Singling out one specific “sin” (e.g., drinking) overlooks the big picture by focusing on a single disqualifying behavior. What about the long list of other “bad” substances, behaviors, viewpoints, etc.? Not to mention poor grades, a bad attitude, or slow times?

Mr. Paine openly admits (in the first sentence) that “drinking on college campuses has always been there” and seems to notice that the purpose of a recruiting trip is to evaluate “if the team is right for you.” So, why should adults (i.e., 18+ year-old swimmers and coaches) pretend that drinking doesn’t happen during the decision making process? Wouldn’t it be better for teams/recruits to gain an accurate picture of the social environment when making a decision as to whether a swimmer-program combination is a good fit? For example, “A Mom” points out that her son’s experience (“beer pong when he visited”) helped him choose a different school. In this case, it was probably better for him to learn that the team plays beer pong on his recruiting trip than during freshman week.

I agree that in an ideal world, swimmers should sleep 8 hours per night, eat right, and never touch drugs or alcohol. But I think that those values need to grow from an individual’s experiences instead of having them forced upon them. We need to remember that we are dealing with adults who need to learn how to make their own decisions. When learning how to make good decisions, I think it helps to have accurate information.

4 years 1 month ago

Andrew you left out one very important fact……………… is illegal. I would recommend that you read the comments from Coach Shaffer and Coach Gerry to get an idea of what the coaches think. Unless you have coached at the collegiate level or been a recruited student-athlete it is very hard to understand how much peer pressure can influence a young person’s decision when they are on a trip.
I do appreciate your opinion though.

Andrew Chadeayne
4 years 1 month ago

Hi Rick – So, is your point that we should blackball swimmers that break the law?

What about speeding, jay-walking, or traffic infractions? And wouldn’t that make cigarette smoking (or other tobacco products) completely acceptable for the 18+ crowd. Again, I think you’ve selected one specific behavior and focused on it to the exclusion of others in the same category. I don’t think drawing a line based on what’s legal works here.

To reiterate, I agree that drinking (and smoking, drugs, bad diet, lack of sleep, etc.) is bad for swimming performance. This is why swimmers should CHOOSE not to drink. They will be rewarded for this choice by performing better in the pool. That would reinforce the good behavior. I believe this is called learning. I think it’s part of growing up.

To answer your question (although I don’t see the relevance): I was a NAG top-16 swimmer out of high school. I was recruited by many D1 programs. I swam for Princeton for 4 years. Nevertheless, I found myself fully capable of choosing the right beverage. Since I had the opportunity to make choices for myself, I had the good fortune of learning skills as complicated as selecting the right beverage to fit the occasion. That was never as hard as waking up at 4:55 am or swimming 15k per day.

Clearly there are some logical problems associated with singling out drinking based on whether “it is illegal.” Maybe we are debating how much control coaches should have over their swimmers at the expense of those swimmers’ free will? To what extent should a coach be able to push his/her values on a swimmer outside of the swimming pool? That would be a general question – up for debate. Then, drinking would be one example within that category.

4 years 1 month ago

Andrew, I think you make some really interesting points, especially about not misrepresenting who you are as a team during recruiting. When I commented above about my team’s recruiting philosophy, I probably didn’t explain myself well enough.

We have a no-alcohol on recruiting weekends rule for a few reasons, primarily because it is bad news for US. I have been a part of teams that got in serious trouble from recruit parties.

Also, I am not naive enough that I think nobody on my team drinks, or that all of my recruits are non-drinkers. We have active and interesting organized activities on recruit visits. My thought is that anyone that would value alcohol enough to decide to eliminate a college bc they didn’t get drunk on the visit is not the swimmer we want. I can tell you since we enacted this policy I have not had any of those dreadful calls from my AD on Monday mornings.

4 years 1 month ago

Hey Andrew, we work with swimmers who rarely if ever use alcohol and we try to educate them that a college recruiting trip is not the time to start. I would expect our kids to not smoke, speed or jay-walk on a recruiting trip.
My point is that the kids should keep their eye on the “big prize” and remember the difference of what’s fun and what’s important. Finding the right fit for academics, swimming and finances in college is what it is all about.

I am all for learning Life’s lessons, but learning how to drink on an official visit is not one of them.

JP gave some good advice, “Think of a recruiting trip as your most important business trip.” If you interview for a job, do you really think it will help you to show up with a beer in your hand. You might argue that what if the boss asks you to drink with him/her. The boss of a college team doesn’t do that.
If I am providing you with a $200,000 education and you are representing my university, you can be darn sure that you will adhere to the values I expect from my team.
NONA understands because he/she sees it from the coaches side.

Recruits do have a CHOICE, but so do the coaches.

4 years 1 month ago

I do believe it is a misrepresentation of reality to suggest that all college coaches care if you drink on a trip. Likely they will not appreciate it if you show up to your 1 hour drive to the airport with vomit in your hair but many coaches are indifferent to a recruit that plays a game of beer pong. And let’s be real. The faster you are the less likely they are to care.

4 years 1 month ago

All coaches may not care, but some do. That is clearly a fact from the previous responses. I liken the question to one of a resume submission to a highly sought after job… your key is to not eliminate yourself from consideration due to a potential negative. Are there any true positives to be gained from drinking on a recruiting trip? I’m not a coach, but I can’t imagine the scenario by which your candidacy is enhanced by drinking on a recruiting trip. While I’m a wine drinker, I’m quite confident that my advice to my now 14 year-old swimmer will be to abstain on any recruiting trips that he might take down the road.


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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