Two Secrets of College Recruiting: Shoe Size and Kicking Ability

  31 SwimSwam | June 14th, 2014 | College, Featured, Industry, International, News, Opinion

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

College swim coaches are all strapped for time. Only a handful of programs have big staffs with recruiting coordinators. The rest of the coaches have to do everything themselves, maybe with help from a grad assistant.

The reason our program works is because we save the coaches time in finding and recruiting our swimmers. When we send a swimmer’s info to the coaches we make sure we are not sending them information that is not useful.

Shoe Size

After 13 years of research on what college coaches are looking for in recruits we have found they are all looking for swimmers with big flippers (not rocket science). Most coaches have an idea of what they consider “big feet.” Our research suggests that coaches are looking for guys with size 12 and girls with size 10 or larger.

This doesn’t mean that a swimmer with smaller feet can’t swim in college, but big feet help.

Kicking Ability

So much of college swimming is about strength, power and kicking. Years ago you could find many distance swimmers who utilized a 2-beat kick when they raced. When is the last time you saw a 2-beat kicker in college? We used to believe that swimmers were not capable of maintaining a 6-beat kick throughout a 1650, but swimmers have conditioned themselves to not only maintain a 6-beat kick, but actually utilize the kick for a little propulsion and to help with rhythm and timing. This is true for all four strokes.

We have found that most college level kicking starts with 100’s on a 1:30 interval. Here is what we ask our swimmers and their coaches:

What is the fastest interval you can hold on a set of 5 x 100 kick (yards), without fins?

If the swimmer can hold a 1:30 interval or better, we let the college coaches know; otherwise it becomes useless information.

When I coached at Nebraska we did the following kick set at least once during the first two weeks of practice.

Everyone grab a board. We are going 10 x 100 free kick on a 1:30, leave on top, ready go. The freshmen’s eyes got really big with disbelief. They soon realized that this set was not going away and after a month of kicking a straight 1000 they began to get in shape.

If you want to swim in college, get your legs in shape. They are the largest muscles in your body and there is no reason to drag them around.

Kicking is a mind set. You can choose to be a good kicker or a bad kicker.

The newest piece of information we are going to start providing the college coaches is hand size. We are currently surveying the coaches to determine how they measure hand size what they consider to be a big paddle or anchor.

I will let you know what we find out.

Finding out if you have what it takes to compete in swimming at the college level is easy, and many swimmers do have the potential considering all of the options. Go to www.ACCrecruits and submit a Free Profile.


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

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31 Comments on "Two Secrets of College Recruiting: Shoe Size and Kicking Ability"

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2 years 4 months ago

I agree that legs are important and need to be in shape…

Remember that kicking within kicking sets can be important, but it’s how you apply it in your races that is most important! Kick technique while you swim, not being lazy during any early season aerobic conditioning especially, combined with core control is more important than speed on a board. A board can hide inefficiencies, make sure it all comes together with understanding how your body works, strengthening your core and kicking properly during regular swimming.

2 years 4 months ago

Interesting article! I had the privilege of training under Paul Yetter and Bob Bowman as an age-grouper—they emphasized kicking as a substantial part of daily practice.

I was far from being the fastest swimmer in my group, but was easily one of the best kickers, with TINY size 9 feet. I also recall some of our smaller girls being blazingly fast at kick sets.

Just goes to show that there are myriad, individualized reasons for speed and efficiency. I think it’s the inherent nature of swimming to be a little idiosyncratic!

2 years 4 months ago

My daughter is a college swimmer and kicking is her biggest struggle, she does have tiny feet for a swimmer, 6 1/2 and she is a distance swimmer plus 4 IM and a fairly fast 2 Free.
She focuses a lot on improving her kicking with her small feet. Any suggestions?

2 years 4 months ago

Do vertical kicking with fins. The aim should be to do as many full kicks as possible during the time. Do 10, 20, 30 and 60 second repeats. Work:Rest ratio of 1:1 at least. Don’t do half kicks just to get a higher score. Do atleast 10 minutes of this every day for a month and I can guarantee better times in any event. The reason for fins instead of bare feet is that fins make it harder to move your feet fast

2 years 4 months ago

Hi Denise, I would suggest that she really work on her anchoring position with her feet for all four strokes. She needs to be as efficient as she can be with her feet in “holding” on to the water. You don’t need big feet to be a good kicker. She should talk with her coach.
Ben has a great idea also/

2 years 4 months ago

I am glad you pointed this out!
One of the early questions asked by several of the college coaches according to my daughter during recruiting was “what is your shoe size”. I had to laugh but it made sense.
I thought the coaches had just “noticed” those oversized shoes and were trying to connect.

The Beach
2 years 4 months ago

Shoe size may be a sign of good kicking potential in general but I think ankle and Achilles flexibility is the real indicator. I’ve seen many poor kickers with big feet and many good kickers with small feet. Large hands are an asset but equally (maybe more) important are long arms. Too bad we can’t measure heart!

2 years 4 months ago

Was I the only girl who wished for bigger hands and feet and a smaller chest in high school? (I had wee little size 7 feet but they still generated a pretty decent kick.)

25 years later, kicking comprises about half of my workout. The legs can go and go without ever getting sore. But I notice that towards the end of the week, if I overdo the arms (esp. in free sets over 1000m), I will pay for it later in the form of angry delts.

2 years 4 months ago

The legs comprise the largest muscle mass and, consequently, they utilize the greatest part of stored energy. If you can’t use your legs correctly in the stroke, then that energy goes to waste. In freestyle you have to make sure that the breathing rotation is initiated from the hips so the legs also kick rotationally (like a propeller). Otherwise, the kicking force is simply up-and-down, which doesn’t help forward motion.
In the other strokes it’s important that the kick is integrated into the timing of the strokes. If not, mechanical balance isn’t achieved.
Kicking drills incorporated with the stroke itself achieve the greatest amount of training adaptation, I think. Kicking with a board leads to two results: up-and-down kicking and social distractions. That’s why it’s called “social kicking.”

2 years 4 months ago

Wingspan relative to your mass and good hip rotation are more important than the size of your feet. Interesting is to watch kids play tag and kids that can change direction on a dime arguably have great hip rotation

2 years 4 months ago

Great article but I completely agree with coacherik. Making that neuromuscular connection between kicking and implementing it in your stroke is crucial to your races. Body position and alignment is put at risk throwing your kids on boards on all your kick sets. Snorkels are a great tool and can easily implement kicking transitions into swimming fairly easily. Opens up very creative kicking sets as well

2 years 4 months ago

This is a good article – thank you for posting. However I hope no college coach will turn a swimmer down based solely on his/her shoe size or a kick board set.

don't be lazy
2 years 4 months ago

“Kicking is a mind set. You can choose to be a good kicker or a bad kicker.”

So true.

2 years 4 months ago

Just one thing…Sun Yang. Yeah, he doesn’t swim college, but he only has a six-beat kick on like, the last 100 of his 1500. Not saying a six-beat kick on a mile isn’t good, but there are lots of ways to do it that can lead to success. It just depends on the swimmer.

NM Coach
2 years 4 months ago

I have come into contact with college coaches that will stop dialogue because the swimmer isn’t the prototypical size that they are looking for…good thing these same coaches aren’t recruiting the following swimmers:

Summer Sanders (Olympic gold medalist)
Jesse Vassallo (WR Holder)
Ricardo Prado (WR Holder)
Jon Seiben (AUS Flyer and WR Holder)

At times, too much stock is put into hand size, shoe size, height, etc. I get that we want our entire team to look like Matt Grevers or Missy Franklin…but that isn’t what most of us are training.

2 years 4 months ago

Or Mysty Hyman, Janet Evans, Alex Meyer, even Vlad Morozov is 5’11”, Arianna Vanderpool Wallace is 5’6″

2 years 4 months ago

Beachair speaks the truth! Best kicking practicing is running and biking and teaching them not to scissor kick and how stroke and kick work together that very few coaches do. Endless kickboard sets are stupid.

2 years 4 months ago

About as stupid as equating running on land to applicability to kicking in the water?

“…that very few coaches do…” Didn’t realize you had a finger on the pulse of kicking instruction world wide…

2 years 4 months ago

I don’t disagree that running as cross training can be a useful tool, but too much running can negatively impact ankle flexibility for swimming. I coach a lot of triathletes and runners, and while they might be able to literally run circles around my pure swimmers, almost none of them have any kicking ability, mostly due to poor ankle flexibility.

2 years 4 months ago

CoachErik is spot on – Vlad Morozov is 5’11″ Fastest short course human – 0:17.89. Kicks so fast you can’t see his feet!

2 years 4 months ago

When Morozov break Cielo 18.47 record???

Morozov is pure technique.Great start, strokes and turns.

2 years 4 months ago

It is all about the horsepower and not the size of the feet. Compare the propellor blades on a speedboat to the paddle wheel on a paddle wheeler.

And having the hips and core and practice to effectively coordinate the kick into your stroke.

2 years 4 months ago

I don’t like the absolute proposed here–that swimmers doing longer distances always maintain a 6-beat kick. While this may be true for some or a majority of swimmers, it’s not true for all swimmers. One example is Sun Yang’s 1500m swim at the London Olympics. He starts out with a 6-beat kick. Toward the 800m mark, he does a 2-beat kick. Then he transitions to a 4-beat, finally a 6-beat and faster to end the race. While strong legs are good, I don’t believe the principle in this article is a universal absolute.

2 years 4 months ago

What about their times and techniques? If technique is king, shouldn’t it matter most?

Tony Rezek
2 years 4 months ago

Thanks for the article Coach. Going to have my son read it, just to further confirm to him that his coach knows what she is talking about.

2 years 4 months ago

I am a college swimmer at a competitive D1 school. I am also 5’3 with a shoe size of 7. I am also a sprinter. Kicking is by far my biggest weakness, and I am trying to improve it drastically. However, telling kids that colleges won’t recruit them because their shoe size isn’t up to par is ridiculous. If you have the times, technique, and motivation then no college is going to ignore you just because of your small feet. For any swimmer reading this who has small feet or isn’t the greatest kicker don’t think it’s impossible to be recruited. Just be prepared to work a little harder on kick sets than others. That being said one of my teammates also has a shoe size of 7 and she is an amazing kicker. Lots of factors contribute to a swimmers strengths and weaknesses and those vary swimmer to swimmer.

2 years 4 months ago

Good point, but please the rest of the article. “This doesn’t mean that a swimmer with smaller feet can’t swim in college, but big feet help.” I should had added, “if you know how to use them.”

Randy Randolph
2 years 4 months ago

I get the interest in metrics and even the idea of some correlation but swimming performance needs to be viewed from a total systems standpoint. After 45 years of swimming I believe this quote sums my recommended recruiting advice up best “If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers” / Admiral William H McRaven