Interviewing with a College Swim Coach: “Tell Me About Yourself”

Interviewing with a College Swim Coach: “Tell Me About Yourself”

Knowing what to say to a coach can be stressful for swimmers, especially on the first phone call or in an initial meeting. This week, we are fortunate to have Butch Reiser of All Pro Interviews give tips on how to answer the question “Tell Me About Yourself.”

 

So, what’s the one question I need to be ready for from a college coach?

“Tell me about yourself?”  It’s also the number #1 question on a job interview. So how do you answer this seemingly easy question?

“Tell me about yourself” really means, “Tell me about your qualifications to be on this team?”

As you know, you can never get a second opportunity to make a first impression.  This is usually the “ice breaker” question that sets the tone for the rest of the coaches’ questions.

So how do you structure your answer? How long should the response be? What do I want to communicate?

The technique I recommend is using your 5 fingers to guide you through this answer.

If you are a student-athlete, always start with your education.  That would be your thumb “your base foundation.”

  • Coach Smith, I am happy to speak with you and share why I would be an asset to your team/university. I’m a junior at Central High School.  My GPA is a 3.7 and my last SAT score was a 1200. My favorite subject is math, and I wish to major in accounting in college. From my research on State U, you have an excellent accounting program and your team GPA is a 3.5.

The next step (pointer finger) is to talk about your top athletic skills, your specialty. Coaches are looking for swimmers who can score points in meets.

  • My specialty is long distance events. In middle-school, I was undersized, so I knew I could out work the bigger kids in the longer events.  Recently, I’ve had a growth spurt, and I’ve dropped 10 seconds off my 500 free, and my sprints have gotten faster as well. I’m on the ‘A” relay of my high school team that won State last year.

The next step would be to use your (middle and ring finger) to tell your story.  This would be your transferable skills (leadership, work ethic, community service, etc.) that all coaches are looking for.

  • I was elected by my teammates and coaches as one of our Team Captains. I am the only Junior captain and it’s something I’m very proud of.  My coaches would tell you that I have a strong work ethic, focused, and coachable.
  • Swimming has been my passion since my first meet on my summer team when I was 6. I recently became a volunteer coach for our summer swim team. I love working with the young kids and sharing my knowledge with them.

 

The last step would be your pinky.  What additional information do you want to share about yourself with the coach?

  • Swim Across America is a foundation that I’ve been active in the last few years. I was able to get a few of my teammates involved, as well.  Cancer hits every family, so anything I can do to help the fight, I’m all in.

The “Tell me about yourself” answer should be around 1.5 – 2 minutes.  This will give the interviewer a general idea of your strengths and set the tone for the rest of the interview.

Preparation and practice will help you “ace” this question.  For a free 10-minute analysis, please contact:

Butch Reiser

404-333-9616

www.AllProInterviews.com

Butch is a swim dad and has over 10 years experience working with professionals, student-athletes, and coaches. He prepares them to “ace” their next interview and get to the next level.

 

 


Michelle Lombana is committed to helping parents like her whose children want to swim in college.  When she’s not explaining recruiting rules for college swim programs, she can be found at www.collegeswimmingguide.com.

 

 

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Letter to My Retired Swimmer

Letter to My Retired Swimmer

Son,

You are officially a Swammer now. You swam a best time in your last finals session last night and you hung up your goggles on a high note.

Swimming has given so much to you along the way – and shaped your character as a man – and I want to thank you for including me on your journey as I benefitted as much as you did.

It all began when you were 3 years old…. You were taking swim lessons from the head coach of your brothers’ summer league team and she told you that you could join the team if you swam the entire length of the pool. Even at that tender age, you were not one to shirk from a challenge so you took off and swam. The coach turned to me and said “that will be $65, mom, and he’s on the team for the rest of the season.” You loved it and were soon begging to swim year-round. I finally decided to let you try it, fully expecting it to last as long as piano, soccer and t-ball did.

Here we are 15 years later and what a time it has been – with many highs and lows, sometimes all in one day! I celebrated your successes and my heart ached with your failures and disappointments. You developed resilience at a young age and this has benefitted you in everything from academics to college recruiting to the medical school application process. Having to pick yourself up after a disappointing race only to do it all again a few minutes later isn’t easy, but you did it for years.

You were influenced by many coaches, both good and bad, and you learned as much about life skills as you did about swimming from all of them. Goal-setting is a necessary part of being a swimmer and sometimes you needed your coach to push you and other times you needed a reality check when your goals were too lofty.

All sports require a high level of commitment but I believe swimming is at the top. Most sports do not require you to enter a freezing cold pool at 5:00 am before a long day of high school followed by 2 more hours of swimming and dryland at the end of the day. Your ability to manage your time and to continue that dedication for so many years is truly admirable.

The life of a year-round swimmer requires a lot of sacrifice and you debated quitting many times. In fact, I lost count of the number of times you considered it but you always dug deep inside yourself and decided you were not done yet.

You made so many life-long friends through the sport and I did too – some of my best friends are fellow swim moms. We bonded sitting in the stands together cheering for everyone’s kids and while volunteering at meets and we will remain friends long after our kids are done. A swim team is a family – whether you are talking about a club team, a summer league team, a high school team, or a college team. These are the people you spend the majority of your time with and the ones who support you through the rough times and rejoice with you when you accomplish a goal – this applies to both the swimmers and the parents.

There are so many memories that it’s hard to pick the best ones but my Top 10 swim memories are:

10-Driving to travel meets with you as the quality time in the car together was special. The quality of the drive home often depended on how the meet had gone!

9-The staff at O’Charley’s in Greensboro recognizing us because you ordered steak, broccoli and mashed potatoes 3-4 nights in a row every single time you had a meet there. You were a creature of habit and ate the same lunch and dinner every meet.

8-Parents trying to get our kids to fall sleep in the hotel room so we could sneak down to the lobby to socialize during away meets.

7-You crying your eyes out before your first 200 IM when you were 8 because you were scared to swim it. Your coach took you aside for a pep talk that lasted at least 10 minutes. You were still scared but decided to do your best and you ended up breaking a team record in that event in college many years later.

6-The college recruiting process because, while it had its frustrations, it led you to a school that was a great fit where you would excel in both swimming and academics. Because of the frustrations involved, it led me to begin a business to help others navigate the process of being recruited to swim in college.

5-You, as a 12-year-old, dragging an older, bigger girl to the surface of the water after she had a seizure and was on the bottom of the pool. The Determination Award you won for this selfless act is one of your greatest honors.

4-Your perseverance when you were 12 and 13 and the other guys were growing faster than you. It was demoralizing to have kids you’d beaten for years suddenly be faster than you and you seriously considered giving up swimming.

3-Taking you to see your first College Conference Championship Meet when you were 9 and it was held locally. I asked you which event you’d like to watch and you picked the mile. At the time, I thought it was like watching paint dry. After you swam the mile for a few years, I understood the strategy much better.

2-Watching you swim the 200 Butterfly. You always paced yourself to come from behind and watching you gain on the rest of the pack in the last 50-75 yards was exhilarating. It was a few years before I learned not to worry when you were behind at the 100 yard mark.

1-The enormous smile on your face last night when you finished your last 200 fly at finals and looked up to see your time.

Last evening, after the meet, I reminded you of how I’ve always told you that I never tire of watching you swim the 200 fly. You replied, “Well, Mom, I gave you a good one to end on.”

You sure did, son. It was a great race and it has been a great journey.

Love,

Mom

 

 


Michelle Lombana is committed to helping parents like her whose children want to swim in college.  When she’s not explaining recruiting rules for college swim programs, she can be found at www.collegeswimmingguide.com.

 

 

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How Will COVID-19 Impact College Recruiting, Part 4?

How Will COVID-19 Impact College Recruiting, Part 4?

As we have been discussing over the last few weeks, these are uncertain times on all fronts due to COVID-19 and it has created a lot of confusion for swimmers and parents regarding recruiting. I am receiving emails daily from senior level swimmers wondering what coaches are thinking, if the recruiting timeline has changed, and what they should be doing now.

No matter where you are in the recruiting process, no doubt you have experienced some disruption in your plans. You and your swimmer may have been planning college tours over Spring Break, your swimmer may have been invited to Junior Day, they may have had official visits planned or you may still be in the research stage.

I reached out to college swim coaches recently to ask how they think the recruiting landscape will change and what advice they have for swimmers trying to navigate this already-crazy process.

I asked the coaches 4 specific questions and I will share their replies with you over the next few weeks.

 

All of the coaches I corresponded with said that swimmers should still be reaching out to them as this is a good time to exchange emails and schedule phone calls. Be sure you and your swimmer are familiar with when coaches can communicate with swimmers as it varies by age and the division the school is in.

 

Coach Responses: What would you like recruits to know now?

“I recommend just taking a breath and encouraging kids to keep in touch and request conversations with coaches and programs that they are interested in pursuing. Things will be delayed but that is going to really depend on each program which is why kids should reach out to schools they are interested in to understand each programs process as they are all slightly different.”

James Holder, Head Swim Coach, Dartmouth College

 

“They will still be recruited! For the 21’s, there is still plenty of time to showcase. Yes, some schools may be completing their ‘21 classes soon but many will have openings. If you have the desire to be a part of a program, then show it. Coaches love to see the passion.”

Jimmy Tierney, Head Men’s & Women’s Swimming/Diving Coach, McKendree University

 

“I would like recruits to know that we understand that times are tough.  Fortunately, Olivet College wants to provide them a chance to see and reach their full potential, and missing out on their final meet is difficult, but that doesn’t mean their journey is over.  We believe in our family, vision, and athletes here at OC.  We are building championship caliber teams with goals of rewriting our record boards and qualifying for NCAA’s every year.  We encourage you to check us out, and maybe become part of our family.”

Rob Brownell, Swimming & Diving Head Coach, Olivet College

 

“Relax, breathe and take care of yourself first and foremost.  To seniors, the college decision is difficult in the best of times, and these certainly are not the best of times.  Ultimately you are likely choosing from very good options for you, so relax (easier said than done I know– and it has been a while since I’ve been able to relax). Know that you will be able to receive a good education at the schools you are considering.  To juniors and sophomores, continue exploring colleges online, reach out to coaches, and know that you have lots of time and it is great that you’ve begun your search.”

Jonathan Powers, Head Coach, Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving, Knox College

 

“Don’t stress out, make the most of your time both keeping fit and taking care of yourself and be proactive! When things start getting back to normal, you want to be ready.”

Michael Kokoszka, Head Coach Women’s Swimming & Diving, Hunter College

 

What Can We Be Doing Now?

In the meantime, there are things that parents and swimmers can be doing to help them be prepared when recruiting activities pick back up again:

Reach out to college swimmers to ask questions

Find out what coaches are looking for

Research colleges and learn how to narrow down the college search

Get organized to swim in college

 

 


Michelle Lombana is committed to helping parents like her whose children want to swim in college.  When she’s not explaining recruiting rules for college swim programs, she can be found at www.collegeswimmingguide.com.

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How Will COVID-19 Impact College Recruiting, Part 3?

How Will COVID-19 Impact College Recruiting, Part 3?

As we discussed the last couple of weeks, these are uncertain times on all fronts due to COVID-19 and it has created a lot of confusion for swimmers and parents regarding recruiting. I am receiving emails daily from senior level swimmers wondering what coaches are thinking, if the recruiting timeline has changed, and what they should be doing now.

No matter where you are in the recruiting process, no doubt you have experienced some disruption in your plans. You and your swimmer may have been planning college tours over Spring Break, your swimmer may have been invited to Junior Day, they may have had official visits planned or you may still be in the research stage.

I reached out to college swim coaches recently to ask how they think the recruiting landscape will change and what advice they have for swimmers trying to navigate this already-crazy process.

I asked the coaches 4 specific questions and I will share their replies with you over the next few weeks.

 

All of the coaches I corresponded with said that swimmers should still be reaching out to them as this is a good time to exchange emails and schedule phone calls. Be sure you and your swimmer are familiar with when coaches can communicate with swimmers as it varies by age and the division the school is in.

Coach Responses: What should swimmers do if they missed their taper meet to achieve best times for recruiting? 

“Do not panic. College coaches understand this and realize that improvements certainly have been made but the proof not there yet. We will take this all into account. Sending videos can help convince the coaches of the potential for improvement.” 

Jimmy Tierney, Head Men’s & Women’s Swimming/Diving Coach, McKendree University

 

“As far as swimmers missing out on their taper meets, unfortunately it is what it is, but if their times were already good enough for our team then we wouldn’t hold it against them for not improving at the end of the winter season or even the spring for that matter.”

Eric Murray, Assistant Swim & Dive Coach, Grand Valley State University

 

“Our hearts go out to all of the swimmers that missed their opportunity to swim in their HS state meets, and USA sectionals and above.  I would encourage any swimmer that is looking to continue their education and swimming career to reach out to me.  I would love to discuss not only their accomplishments, but their goals and expectations.  A lot can be learned from those conversations.”

Rob Brownell, Swimming & Diving Head Coach, Olivet College

 

“Right now we are still working on filling a few roster spots for this fall (2020). We are also building our database for 2021s and plan to start pushing hard for that class by the end of April. We are an NAIA school, so our timeline differs from DI and some of the larger DII colleges. We have scholarship money and positions available for both men and women for the fall of 2020 and 2021.” 

Alicia Kemnitz, Head Swim Coach, Lindsey Wilson College

 

“Don’t worry — if you want to swim, there’s a place for you on my team regardless of your times.”

Jonathan Powers, Head Coach, Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving, Knox College

 

“While disappointing to miss an opportunity to swim your best, at the end of the day, no one is solely defined by a couple of personal best times. A prospective student athlete from a coach’s perspective is the sum of many things and a total body of work including: personality, character, work ethic, intellect, etc. As a coach, I am finding now is a great time for me personally to review and reevaluate things like my coaching philosophy, training plan, etc. Likewise, recruits may spend this time instead focusing on their personal statements to coaches, reevaluating their goals and narrowing down what they are truly looking for in a collegiate student athlete experience.”

Michael Kokoszka, Head Coach Women’s Swimming & Diving, Hunter College

 

What Can We Be Doing Now?

In the meantime, there are things that parents and swimmers can be doing to help them be prepared when recruiting activities pick back up again:

Take virtual tours of colleges online

Be informed so you can avoid our Recruiting Horror Stories

Learn about the different types of college swimming scholarships

Look for extracurricular activities that work well for swimmers to participate in once social distancing has relaxed

 


Michelle Lombana is committed to helping parents like her whose children want to swim in college.  When she’s not explaining recruiting rules for college swim programs, she can be found at www.collegeswimmingguide.com.

Make A Splash!


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Challenging Times Offer Unique Opportunities

Challenging Times Offer Unique Opportunities

Alicia L. Kemnitz

 Head Swim Coach, Lindsey Wilson College

Nearly every industry and organization is currently being affected by COVID-19, and collegiate athletics is no different. For high school student-athletes trying to get recruited by college coaches, the perception might be that this pandemic has created serious challenges to getting noticed or adhering to recommended recruiting timelines. While these are certainly valid concerns, I argue, instead, that COVID-19 is providing high school student-athletes with unique opportunities to set themselves apart in the recruitment process while learning about institutions and athletic programs. The key is to use this time of social distancing to the recruit’s advantage:

  1. Be proactive and reach out
  2. Highlight abilities and interests
  3. Develop meaningful relationships with collegiate coaches
  4. Be creative in finding new ways to learn about the college and the athletic program
  5. Look for unique and engaged programs

Before going into detail about each of these four tips, it is important to provide some information on my background and vantage point. I have been a collegiate swim coach for 16 years, 14 of which have been as a head coach. For the past 10 years, I have been the head men’s and women’s swim coach at Lindsey Wilson College, a small, private, liberal arts college in rural Kentucky. Over the past 10 years, our programs have earned top-10 finishes at NAIA Nationals 12 times. Our women have placed as high as 4th, and this season, our men earned a record-high 3rd place finish. In all, I have coached 5 National Champions.  I have also been an assistant coach and head coach at NCAA DIII institutions and worked briefly (when I was in graduate school) in NCAA DI compliance.

Be proactive and reach out:

Nearly all coaches are working from home right now, which means we are all spending a lot of time in front of our computers, most likely on email and social media. For better or worse, we do not have athletes coming to our offices each day; we are not running dryland or weight room workouts; fundraisers (like community swimming lessons) have been cancelled. So, whether you’re a 2020 recruit (yes, it’s late in the game, but some schools still have a few roster spots open…), a 2021 prospect (I’m recruiting these swimmers heavily right now), or a 2022 high school grad, now is the time to be reaching out and getting noticed. Chances are, you’ll actually get more individual attention from coaches right now because we have fewer distractions and recruiting is at the forefront. I suggest targeting a number of coaches at a variety of schools. I always recommend including both in- and out-of-state schools, private and public institutions, and large and small colleges to a swimmer’s initial list of possible university choices. Most important, it’s time to be proactive and start the recruiting process. Don’t wait to be contacted by a coach; it’s perfectly acceptable and sometimes even preferable that you to take the first step by emailing them. The COVID-19 situation has actually accelerated the recruiting process; it has not slowed it down in any way.

Highlight abilities and interests:

When you reach out to a program, be ready to sell yourself. Coaches get hundreds of emails from prospective athletes each year. With this in mind, make sure that you take some extra time to make yourself stand out. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to send a long email, detailing your life story. What it does mean, is that you want to include a few interesting personal details that will help a coach remember you. In my view, a good introductory email is going to give me some basic information on the swimmer’s abilities (best and favorite events with times), academic interests and stats (yes, it’s okay to include GPA and test scores, especially if those are strengths), and a few fun facts or hobbies about the swimmer (this is where you are trying to stand out). End the email by asking a question of the coach, thereby increasing your chances of getting a response and making an impression. This isn’t the time to ask multiple questions, nor is advisable to ask something basic like “do you think I’m a good fit for your team?” Good questions might inquire about a coaching philosophy, practice strategies or routines, or the program’s biggest strength.

Develop meaningful relationships with collegiate coaches:

Don’t let the current COVID-19 crisis scare you away from building meaningful relationships with collegiate coaches. In fact, this could actually be a unique opportunity for you to get to know coaches better and begin to see which programs fit your wants and needs the best. Since in-person contact is prohibited, consider creative ways to connect with coaches. Phone calls, Zoom, Skype, and other video conferencing options are all ways to have real conversations with coaches during this time of isolation. These tools certainly aren’t new options for coaches or prospective athletes, but they will likely play a more important role in the recruiting process this year than previously. In the past, campus visits have been vital to determining if a college and program is the right “fit” for you. While hopefully in-person visits will be in the works for everyone by the fall, for now, and for at least the beginning of the summer, technology like teleconferencing and virtual tours will fill that gap. Finally, remember that coaches are people too! We have family and friends and are social distancing as well. Don’t be afraid to ask how we are doing and what we’ve been doing to pass the time at home.

Be creative in finding new ways to learn about the college and the athletic program:

Since campus visits and other recruiting visits are not going to be happening for a bit, start looking for college programs that are going the extra mile to make up for this deficiency. Now is the time to pay extra attention to social media posts that hopefully detail the college and program in new ways. In all reality, the COVID-19 disaster is more of a challenge for the recruiter (the coach) than it is for the recruit. Coaches are developing different ways to communicate their program’s and campus’s uniqueness to you. If you’ve enjoyed your contact with a certain college, then start to follow them on social media and seek them out on YouTube. Don’t ust follow the coach and the program. Be creative and follow the college president, the admissions page, and maybe even some professors. While you might not be able to see the campus in person, hopefully you can get an idea for what it’s like by watching videos and the like.

Look for unique and engaged programs:

Because many classic recruiting strategies, like campus visits, have been eliminated due to COVID-19, it’s more important than ever that prospective student-athletes look for coaches and programs that are fully engaged, not only in the recruiting process, but also in attempts to show recruits what life on their campus is like. This is also a wonderful time to seek out unique programs. While the three NCAA divisions are normally on every swimmer’s radar, don’t forget about the NAIA. According to the Collegiate Swimming Coaches Association of America, the NAIA is the fastest growing scholarship collegiate swimming division in the country. Since 2016, the NAIA has added 16 new scholarship programs, and in the fall of 2020 there are 7 new programs joining the association. Many high school swimmers either don’t know what the NAIA is or they write it off as a sub-par level of swimming. The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) is actually older than the NCAA, and swimming is the second oldest championship sport for the association. When explaining what the NAIA is, I typically say that in terms of academics and size, most of our schools resemble DIII institutions. In terms of athletics, scholarships, and competitiveness, we are more similar to a DII or small DI school. Currently, most NAIA programs are finishing the recruitment process for their fall 2020 roster and starting to seriously contact 2021 recruits. When exploring your options, it’s important to not pigeonhole yourself and only consider certain divisions. You might be surprised about the competitiveness of DIII schools, or the scholarship amounts available for swimmers in the NAIA. Explore your options.

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