College Swimming: What Happens On Official And Unofficial Visits?

College Swimming: What Happens On Official And Unofficial Visits?

As your swimmer approaches their junior year, you will hear a lot about official visits and unofficial visits. They typically take place in the fall although some schools offer them in the spring as well for athletes who have not yet committed. NCAA rules determine when coaches can extend invitations for official visits.

  • Division I: coaches can schedule official visits after September 1 of junior year
  • Division II: coaches can call, send emails, schedule official visits after June 15 before junior year
  • Division III: coaches can call, send emails, schedule official visits any time
  • NAIA: coaches can call, send emails, schedule official visits any time
  • NJCAA: coaches can call, send emails, schedule official visits any time

A visit is considered unofficial if the prospective athlete pays the expenses of the visit – the only expense the school can incur is that of tickets to an athletic event. Swimmers can go on an unlimited number of unofficial visits.

Swimmers can take tours of the campus, meet with coaches, meet with admissions and spend time with the swimmers on an unofficial visit. Some schools offer unofficial visits to recruits who live nearby and won’t incur much in the way of transportation costs.

On an official visit, the school pays all or part of the athlete’s transportation (bus, train, airfare or gas mileage), housing, food and entertainment costs. In some cases, a school will pay some of the costs of the official visit but ask the recruit to cover the plane fare or some other portion of the expenses. This may be due to limited funds in the athletic budget or to gauge interest on the part of the swimmer. I know of one school in California that is located in a place that everyone wants to visit – they ask the recruits to cover plane fare partially to make sure they are truly interested in the school as opposed to looking for a free weekend at the beach.

Division I limits athletes to 5 official visits which can take place after the September 1st of junior year of high school. There is no limit on official visits in other divisions, nor on the number of unofficial visits in any of the divisions. Division I coaches are not permitted to speak with prospective recruits visiting campus on unofficial visits until September 1st of junior year.

Swimmers can’t accept more than one official visit to a particular school. Time is limited so your swimmer needs to limit the number of visits he schedules. Narrowing down the list of target schools the summer before junior year will help him select realistic schools to visit.

There isn’t time for your swimmer to go on too many visits as he is juggling school, his own swim training, swim meets, sleep, studying, and possibly ACT or SAT tests. Division I visits can begin after coaches can schedule official visits after September 1 of junior year and are typically scheduled on weekends from early September to early November and each school may offer 2-3 weekends for visits. They are not usually held once a college team is in season and having regular meets, nor after NCAA Signing Day which typically begins on the second Wednesday of November and lasts for a week.

Official visits can last for no more than 48 hours. A swimmer will usually arrive on campus on Friday morning, meet his host and attend a class. He may watch practice or engage in other activities, such as a tour of campus or a meeting with admissions during the team’s swim practice.

A recruit may not practice with the team at a Division I school. The recruits are usually given pool time on Saturday morning to practice on their own. The scheduled activities on Saturday afternoon often include a football game or other college sports event. Activities on Friday and Saturday evenings vary and may include the entire team or a small group of swimmers.

Even though it’s against NCAA rules, it is not uncommon for recruits to be taken to parties where alcohol is served. This can be an uncomfortable situation for some swimmers. Obviously, they shouldn’t drink and usually aren’t pressured to do so. It does give an impression of how much the team parties which may impact whether or not a recruit is interested in a particular school. The recruit will usually leave campus on Sunday morning to return home.

On one of my son’s official visits, the team had a huge party both Friday and Saturday nights with an indescribable amount of alcohol and marijuana. The swimmers all moved off campus sophomore year and lived in a row of houses next door to each other and the weekend parties rotated between the houses. This factored into his decision when considering programs.

The recruit should view the visit as a 48-hour job interview and be on his best behavior. The coach will often ask the current swimmers what they think of each recruit and if he would be a good fit on the team. Every year, I hear of swimmers who don’t receive offers to join programs due to unfavorable feedback on an official visit. Some just don’t click with the team while others drink too much at team parties and make fools of themselves.

Per NCAA rules, colleges must have transcripts (unofficial is fine) and standardized test scores from potential recruits before they can go on official visits. Swimmers should gather these documents during the summer so they are prepared to send them when coaches request them. Most often, swimmers will scan them and email them to coaches. Don’t wait until the last minute and come up against vacations or other reasons that prevent your swimmer from having the necessary forms.

If your swimmer is invited on an official visit, the school is interested and wants to meet them and get a feel for how they fit. Likewise, it’s the opportunity for your swimmer to be interviewing the program and envisioning themselves as part of that team in order to see if it’s a good fit for them as well.

 

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

 

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How To Ask About College Swimming Scholarships

How To Ask About College Swimming Scholarships

One of the most difficult topics to discuss when going through the college recruiting process is that of scholarships. It is awkward to discuss money in general, and even more so for a teen to ask an adult coach about it. Coaches are well aware of the high cost of attending college these days, but vary greatly in terms of their approach to discussing it with potential recruits.

There are many different types of scholarships including athletic, academic, leadership and service, and need-based so don’t focus only on discussing athletic scholarships. Availability of scholarships varies by college and depends on the school’s Division. NCAA Divisions, NJCAA and NAIA have different rules regarding scholarships.

Many coaches prefer to wait to discuss money until an official or unofficial visit has occurred. This lets them gauge the swimmer’s interest and to see if they would be a good fit for the team. Some bring it up when scheduling visits with a swimmer. In any case, don’t ask about scholarships until a rapport has been established, preferably over the phone, but at least via email.

The best approach is to be upfront about it if finances could be an obstacle to your swimmer attending that particular college. There is no point in a swimmer accepting an invitation for an official or unofficial visit to a school if he won’t be able to attend. He should phrase his question tactfully and let the coach know this. I provide College Swimming Guide members with lists of questions to ask coaches and suggestions of ways to word some of the more important conversations like scholarships since it’s best to have a plan for this before getting to that conversation.

The coach may not have a specific answer off the top of his head, especially if it’s a newer assistant coach, so he may have to look into it before giving specifics. Some coaches can ask for an early read from both Admissions and Financial Aid on an athlete to be sure the student will be admitted and to see if they are likely to qualify for any scholarships. At some schools, coaches are limited as to how many they can ask for each year. Whether this is the case or not, a coach certainly won’t want to ask for a pre-read on every swimmer he communicates with or he will quickly wear out his welcome in the Admissions Department!

College Swimming Guide members have access to a Directory of College Swim Programs which includes input from college swim coaches. I communicated with coaches all over the country and asked them fifteen different questions ranging from what they are looking for in a swimmer to their typical practice schedule to when they prefer for potential recruits to bring up the topic of scholarships. Their answers vary on many of the questions, but have been consistent with regard to scholarships – they want to know that a swimmer is sincerely interested in their program before discussing scholarships.

Just like your swimmer only wants to spend time talking to coaches who are truly interested in them, coaches want to focus their time and energy on swimmers who are likely to attend their school. There is no point in a coach or swimmer wasting each other’s time if it is doubtful that the swimmer will be accepted or if the swimmer can’t afford to attend the school.

Coaches will usually try to find as many sources of scholarships within the school as they can if they are really interested in a swimmer. The amount of money available varies between schools and even year to year.

Swimmers are likely to be nervous when broaching the topic of money with a coach so it’s a good idea to role play the conversation with them so they are prepared. Once they have had the conversation a couple of times, they will feel more at ease. As long as they ask politely and have a rapport with the coach they are talking to, the conversation should go smoothly.

 

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

 

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What Are Coaches Looking For In College Swimmers? Part 5

What Are Coaches Looking For In College Swimmers? Part 5

A common question during the topic of college recruiting in any sport is “What are coaches looking for?” This can vary from sport to sport and even from coach to coach, but there are many characteristics that are heard frequently. This multi-part series explores some of the more common qualities that coaches are looking for when recruiting swimmers. In previous parts we discussed:

Part 1: Speed, Events and Academics

Part 2: Sportsmanship, Being Coachable and Team Spirit

Part 3:  Work Ethic, Supportive Parents and Leadership

Part 4: Character, Interest in the Program and Time Management

Social Media

We have all heard stories of athletes who had an offer to compete in college retracted due to something they posted on social media. Sadly, it happens multiple times each year. Per NCAA Rules, coaches can “friend” prospective recruits on social media and can “like” and “share” their posts, although they cannot comment. This means coaches can see what the swimmer tweets as well as what he likes and comments on. They can also see who his friends are and what they tweet.

Sharing posts with alcohol or skimpy clothes or using profanity reflects on a student’s character and college coaches definitely take note. They can be very creative in how they connect with athletes too.  Coaches have been known to create a profile of a cute guy or girl then reach out to “friend” the athlete. Once it is accepted, they have access to everything on the student’s feed.

The “grandma test” is a safe one – don’t post, like or share anything you wouldn’t want your grandma to see. Also, some kids tweet song lyrics but that is risky as a coach might think the athlete is actually saying it.

Social media can be used positively. My son and I followed the swim programs at colleges he was interested in to see what they posted. It gave him a good idea of the sense of team at some schools as well as their workouts. He also got to see posts from home and away meets to see some of the competition.

Coaches notice positive posts as well as negative ones. If your swimmer is sharing activities like academic accomplishments, swimming success stories, working at a job, volunteering in the community, or participating in family activities, coaches will be favorably impressed.

 

Goals and Passion for Swimming

College coaches look for recruits who are goal-oriented and passionate about swimming. Passion is often what drives a strong work ethic and this is exhibited through determination, drive, and mental toughness.

When a coach asks a swimmer about his goals for the season, he is making conversation but also trying to assess his passion for the sport and his desire to improve. The swimmer should have some well thought out goals to share with the coach that shows he aims high, but is also realistic. Often club coaches help with goal-setting at the beginning of each season.

A swimmer conveys how passionate he is in his talk as well as his actions. When he says he hopes to qualify for Summer Juniors or to achieve a Futures cut, the coach can tell whether he is committed to achieving the goal or just saying what he thinks the coach wants to hear. Detailing the steps he will take shows organization and the right mindset which will impress a coach.

College coaches want to place as high as possible in the Conference Championship Meet each season so they want to recruit swimmers who are committed to helping the team succeed.

 

First Impression

A first impression can be made on the phone when speaking to a coach or on campus during an unofficial visit or college tour. As the saying goes “you only get one chance to make a first impression” and it applies in recruiting. If your swimmer makes a poor first impression, the coach will cross him off the list and move on to the next option.

It is important to be confident, but not cocky. The swimmer should convey that she is capable of competing at that level and how she can be an asset to the team. Be specific when mentioning strengths with examples such as “I am able to finish strong in a close race” or “my stamina is a benefit in distance events”.

When meeting with a coach in person, your swimmer should sit up straight, look the coach in the eye, give a firm handshake, and speak politely and clearly. These sound obvious but can really make an athlete stand out from the rest of the recruits. Coaches are trying to make decisions about recruits quickly to determine which ones to pursue.

It is a good idea to practice role playing for phone calls or meetings so your swimmer feels more confident.

There are so many factors for coaches to consider when recruiting swimmers. . In previous parts we discussed:

Part 1: Speed, Events and Academics

Part 2: Sportsmanship, Being Coachable and Team Spirit

Part 3:  Work Ethic, Supportive Parents and Leadership

Part 4: Character, Interest in the Program and Time Management

 

Michelle Lombana is committed to helping parents like her whose children want to swim in college.  When she’s not working on Conference Championship Meet spreadsheets, she can be found at www.collegeswimmingguide.com.

 

 

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