Want to Swim in College: Breaking-up with a College Coach

  12 Gold Medal Mel Stewart | November 09th, 2012 | College, Featured, News

From Jessica Berkowitz Minier:  Assistant Director of Swimming, American College Connection

At American College Connection we don’t just help our swimmers get recruited. We help them and their parents with all aspects of the recruiting process. Having to tell college coaches that you have made a college selection, and it is not their program or school, is one of the hardest things you will have to do.

The most important thing is to do it with class and don’t burn any bridges.

For a teenager, having to tell respected adults who have shown great interest in you that their program is not for you is cause for much consternation. This can be one of the most distasteful parts of recruiting for the recruit and the college coach.

If you have visited a school, it is best to call the coach and talk with them in person. If you can’t reach them, the second best option is to leave them a voice mail that you would like to talk with them about your college decision. If you still can’t reach them, you may let them know via email (but as a last resort). If you have not visited, email can be appropriate.

Below is an example of how to tactfully let a college coach know you have selected another school or decided to look elsewhere. If you do it right, the rejected coach will have even more respect for you and you will have gained another fan and supporter.


“Dear Coach _______,

I have really enjoyed getting to know you, the staff, and the team this season.  I am fortunate to have found more than one affordable college option that is also a good fit academically and athletically. Unfortunately, I have to choose only one. I have decided to attend _______ next season. I appreciate all of the time and energy you have spent with me in the recruiting process and I hope that telling you as soon as I made my decision gives you time to recruit another deserving prospect that could be a good fit for your program. I will be sure to tell my teammates about the wonderful opportunities at SCHOOL and I look forward to watching your progress next season.”

Don’t copy this word for word. Put it into your own words and send it to coaches as soon as you are sure of your decision.

Coaches are rejected by recruits every year; most will appreciate your honesty and will move-on quickly.  Most coaches will be glad that you informed them of your lack of interest so that they don’t waste their time.

Some coaches will ask why you are not interested, or some you may feel you want to give an explanation.  Give them sensitive, but sincere and honest answers.  I like the ‘it’s not you, it’s me approach”.  Let them know you decided to stay closer to home, were interested in some very specific academic programs, have to choose a school that is more affordable for your family, or just felt ‘right’ at another school.

Don’t make your parents do your “dirty work”. You will lose the coach’s respect if you try to pass the buck. This is not enjoyable, but suck it up and get it done. Pat yourself on the back…it is a nice problem to have.

If you would like to find out if you can swim in college and at what level, go to www.ACCrecruits and submit a Free Profile.

ACC is a SwimSwam ad partner. Learn more about ACC and their entire team here. 

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12 Comments on "Want to Swim in College: Breaking-up with a College Coach"

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3 years 11 months ago

Probably should make these calls BEFORE you take to Facebook and twitter about your selection?

3 years 11 months ago

Good point. Also while the letter is OK- an email won’t cut it in the business world and this and excellent opportunity for that type of practice. PSA’s who make actual phone calls to the coaches to explain their decision earn a ton of respect. The coach spent a lot of time on the phone with the PSA (often at the expense of rare evening family time) along with possibly spending several hundred to a thousand dollars out of a tight budget to visit/bring them to campus for a visit. A 5 minute phone call to break the news is a mature move.

3 years 11 months ago

I absolutely agree that if a PSA has spoken to a coach on the phone it appropriate to respond in kind when it comes to important communications.

If nothing else, as you pointed out, it is a learning experience that can help prepare him or her for the ‘real world’. While it may be the most uncomfortable way for the PSA to express his or her decision, it is probably the best medicine.

But there are ways to make the medicine go down a little easier.

Like prepping for a job interview, whether it be in person or by phone, it is very helpful to have some written points in front of you when tackling a difficult or emotional subject. Writing out your ‘break-up’ or putting it into bullet points and having it in front of you when you call can help to keep you calm, focused, ease any anxiety that may arise. It is also a head start of a written communication if the PSA is unable to reach the coach, or assistant coach, by phone.

It is also true that when a communication is time-sensitive, busy schedules of both high school students and college coaches can make connecting on a phone call a challenging. Email can be the more effective, and considerate, way to communicate. It depends on the specific situation and student-athletes should use their best judgment.

And I agree with CoachErik, and have given the same advice many times, it is better to inform coaches before posting your decision on social media. Just imagine if you were to find out that the person you asked to the fall dance was (or was not) going to accept your invitation, from your friends or posted online before you heard it from him or her directly.

3 years 11 months ago

It’s swimming, not football. Coaches only care about the top tier recruits and many times put off and drag out the process with the next tier swimmers. If the recruit has kept in touch and the coaching staff has not shown as much interest as the swimmer has then….no problem….shout it from the rooftops, facebook, twitter…go for it. Kids are excited and relieved to make a decision! Or would you rather it be like football and we wait until they put on one of the 5 hats in front of them in a press conference!?!? Come on!

3 years 11 months ago

I do agree that you should call, don’t get me wrong, but it is a two way street. We had a coach say that they spend the money to bring in swimmers just to spend his budget and justify it for next year. Really!? what a waste of time for the recruit that actually thinks they might have a chance. Like I said, it is a two way street and some coaches are better at the recruiting process than others. Communication throughout the process is key and while it is the mature thing to do as a recruit…. the coaches are the adults in the process.

3 years 11 months ago

When my son made his choice, he could not get hold of one of the coaches that were in his final 3. After trying all day, he finally called the asst. coach and let them know. The asst. coach was actually glad that he had gone thru the effort to call and let someone on the team know before they had to hear it from another source.

He did call the head coach a couple of days later to thank him for everything. They have since met a couple of times at meets and have a great relationship still to this day.

3 years 11 months ago

Phone is great, email is fine. Just tell the coach somehow. I hate leaving unresponded to voicemails and emails for weeks when a kid just drops you.

3 years 11 months ago

Now if only someone could teach some of these coaches the same manners…there are still those out there who are vindictive and spiteful (and VERY immature) when told a recruit isn’t joining their team.

You know who you are………..

3 years 11 months ago

Or how about the coaches that ask you what other schools you are visiting and then tell you how crappy those schools, programs and coaches are too. Should you really worry about calling them back before the facebook post…I think not!!

3 years 11 months ago

There certainly is a lot of mis-information handed out during the college recruiting process. It is very difficult it separate fact from fiction (sounds like the political debates). We had American College Connection work with both of our boys and we could not be happier with the results. The coaches at ACC genuinely cared about our kids and us and educated us on how the recruiting game is played. Our youngest son was a solid student and an average swimmer (1:47 in the 200 free) and his scholarship is worth nearly $18,000 per year. Our oldest was a more accomplished swimmer (1:53 in the IM) and he had nearly $800,000 in scholarship offers form 8 different schools.

It really helps to have someone on your side guiding you through this process.

Katie Sartini
3 years 11 months ago

I agree with all of this and I wish I would have seen this before I made my decision. I probably could have handled it better when making my decision. I didn’t know what to say to the other coaches at the time, and I felt very guilty. I was very short with them as to why I made the other decision, making it awkward when I ran into them at other swim meets or water polo games. Thank you for this advice, and I will be sure to pass it on to students I know that are going through this process!

3 years 11 months ago

Hi Katie,
It is nice to know that the info we provide is useful and appreciated. Everyone at ACC is a former college coach so we understand both sides of the recruiting process. As coaches we expect our swimmers to handle the recruiting process with class when dealing with the college coaches. The problem is that very few parents and swimmers understand anything about how the recruiting process works. More and more families are realizing that they need help with this process and are calling us.
Please send any students who are swimmers to SwimSwam for more info and to http://www.ACCrecruits.com for a free evaluation.


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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