What Are Coaches Looking For In College Swimmers? Part 4

What Are Coaches Looking For In College Swimmers? Part 4

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

Character

Coaches are looking for swimmers who will represent the team and the university well both in and out of the pool. This can be a hard quality to measure as prospective athletes usually know when they are being evaluated. However, coaches will ask club coaches about athletes they are recruiting and they sometimes see them at competitions. It is a small world in swimming and often someone knows someone who knows someone…..

The way a swimmer presents himself tells a lot about his character. Does he treat all of his teammates kindly or only the fastest swimmers? Does he clean up the trash in the team area after a meet? Does he look his coach in the eye and listen to him when he is speaking to him? Does he skip laps during practice or warm ups?

Social media is another area where coaches get an idea about an athlete’s character so remind your swimmer to be careful what they post and who they follow. If a potential recruit posts rude or derogatory remarks about a friend or teammate, it reflects poorly on him. If he posts “happy birthday, Mom” or “congrats” to the school soccer team, a coach will feel much more favorable toward him.

There is a saying “your character is who you are when you think no one is watching”. However, in the days of social media, almost everyone is connected in some way and often your reputation can precede you. Coaches are looking for athletes who are mature and who will respond to their coaching – strong character can be a good indicator of this.

Interest in the Program

College coaches want to spend their time and energy recruiting swimmers who are likely to attend their school so they will ask questions to assess the level of interest in a potential recruit. Reaching out to contact the coaches at schools that interest your swimmer is the first step in indicating that interest.

Always be prepared for any discussions with coaches, either on official or unofficial visits or during phone calls. Learn about the college and the swim program beforehand by looking at the web site. Asking questions will help your swimmer learn more about the program and demonstrate that she spent time preparing for the conversation.  (Lists of questions to ask college coaches are available to College Swimming Guide members.)

The coach may ask about academics and possible areas of study. Your swimmer should have looked at their academic offerings enough to know whether a school offers majors that interest him. It is perfectly acceptable for a swimmer to say he is undecided and is looking for a school with a wide variety of programs to study since many incoming freshmen don’t know what they want to study.

If a coach asks what other schools are recruiting your swimmer, it is fine for him to mention the schools but he shouldn’t rave about another school or program. He should make it clear that he is extremely interested in the coach and program he is talking to at that moment.

It is a good idea for the swimmer to mention what makes the school a good fit – both academically and in swimming. Some coaches will ask this question directly, but the swimmer can bring it up if the coach doesn’t ask. Mentioning specific traditions or reputations about the school if they are relevant shows that they have spent time researching the school and are truly interested.

Time Management

Swimmers have grueling schedules and it is just as demanding in college so coaches want to know that the athlete can manage his time.

Coaches want to see athletes who earn good grades, join clubs in school, volunteer in community service, and who show that they put 100-percent effort into everything they do. During conversations with coaches, they will often ask about a student’s interests outside of swimming. This question serves multiple purposes – to get to know the swimmer better, to find out if they are a good fit personality-wise for the team and to gauge whether or not they use their time wisely.

An indication of how swimmers use their time can be gleaned from social media usage as well. Many coaches follow prospective recruits and they will notice if the student is tweeting 50 times a day or their snap chat story goes on forever.

Coaches don’t want to recruit a swimmer who will miss practice to study or who can’t maintain good grades because he can’t manage his time and handle academics and swimming.

 

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

In future articles from the series, we will discuss more qualities that coaches consider to be important.

 

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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Should We Attend Junior Day for College Swimming?

Should We Attend Junior Day for College Swimming?

Your swimmer may be invited to attend Junior Day at some of the schools where she has had contact with the college swim coach. If it is possible logistically to attend, it is a great opportunity. The program is usually about a half day and is geared toward both swimmers and parents. The plan can vary by school though.

You and your swimmer will learn far more than you would on a regular college tour. It is also helpful to find out more about some of the schools where your child will hope to schedule official visits. Since swimmers are limited to 5 official visits in Division I and Division II, they will want to select carefully. There is no limit to the number of official visits a swimmer can take in Division III and NAIA and no limit to the number of unofficial visits a swimmer can take to any school.

 

Tour Athletic Facilities

It is beneficial to see the athletic facilities when you visit. Swimmers spend so much time in the pool that it is nice to get a look at their “home away from home”. Be careful not to be “wowed” by a beautiful pool and weight room though and not consider the other pros and cons of a particular school. The fully-equipped weight room is only so good if the school doesn’t offer your child’s desired major or he doesn’t click with his team mates.

 

Lunch With Swimmers

If the program includes lunch with members of the swim team, definitely take advantage of it. This is a casual event where you can ask many questions and get a feel for the team members. When speaking with them think about whether they seem to have bonded as a group and support each other, as well as the emphasis placed on academics within the team.

Another benefit is that your child can see what he thinks of the cafeteria food there.

 

Campus Tour

The campus tour may not be as inclusive as a regular campus tour, but you should be able to get a good idea of the campus. These tours are often led by the swimmers so you can ask questions about where the swimmers live, how far it is to the pool, which dining hall the swimmer use and so forth. A lot of the information will help give perspective on a day in the life of a swimmer.

 

Meet Coaches

The coaches often hold a “meet and greet” session where they meet the attendees and chat casually. This is a nice chance for your swimmer to introduce himself and to put a name with a face if he has been talking to any of the coaches.

 

Swim Program Details

The formal presentation will include a lot of information about the team, such as when they practice and the distance/yardage they typically swim each week. The strength and conditioning program will probably be described and they will tell you if they have a separate strength coach. They may also give an example of the meet schedule so your swimmer can see which teams they compete against.

 

Academic support

You will be told about academic support in the areas of tutoring and academic study halls. Some teams have required study hall, especially for freshmen, and others make it optional unless the swimmer’s dips below a certain GPA.

You should be able to get a feel as to whether the focus is more on academics or swimming.

 

Scholarships

The coaches may describe the number of athletic scholarships they are able to offer and give an idea of the possibility of merit scholarships from the school. This is always dependent on the student, but it helps to know if any money is available and the criteria.

 

Overall Feel Of The Team

Junior Day will allow your swimmer to get an overall feel of the team. He should consider whether these are people he will want to hang out with nearly every day and ask himself the following questions:

  • Am I comfortable with the other swimmers?
  • Do I like the style and philosophy of the coaches?
  • Can I see myself at this school?

 

After Junior Day, your swimmer should email the coaches thanking them for inviting her. This will help continue the dialog with the coach as the recruiting process moves forward.

 

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

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When To Begin The Research To Swim In College

When To Begin The Research To Swim In College

Whether your child has been certain he wants to swim in college since he was young, or he is still vacillating on the decision, the question always arises: when should we begin the research to swim in college?

It is never too early to begin discussing colleges and swim programs at an overview level. Well, maybe elementary school is too early – at that point, most kids are still rooting for the hometown team and dreaming of competing there! By late middle school, it is appropriate to encourage your child to think about different colleges and what he might want in a college – as a casual and infrequent conversation.

Freshman Year
As a freshman in high school, conversations should become a bit more in-depth, but still center on generalities, such as location, climate, possible programs of study, and distance from home. Even if your swimmer is planning to swim in college, most freshmen cannot predict where they will fit into a program time-wise yet as many are still growing and getting faster.

If you are on vacation out of town, try to swing by and see any college campuses that are nearby or on the way. This can prompt discussions, such as how your child feels about a campus in the middle of a large city vs. one in the middle of corn fields. There are, of course, many options between these two extremes!

Sophomore Year
As your swimmer enters sophomore year, it is time to get more serious. The general discussions are still important, as well as thinking about where he wants to fit into a program in terms of being the fastest on the team and setting school records, not making the travel team his first year or somewhere in-between. Most kids have a pretty good idea about where they want to fit – they might find it very exciting to see their name on the record board as a freshman or they might know they will not train their hardest without faster swimmers to push them during practice. This is a very individual decision that only the swimmer can make.

It is also a good time for your swimmer to begin reaching out to college coaches and introducing himself. Review the NCAA Rules for what to expect in terms of when and how coaches can respond depending on their school.

If you are touring colleges, be sure to drop by the pool to see the facilities. Depending on the division, coaches may not be able to respond to emails or phone calls from your child or to talk to him if you are visiting campus. Make sure your child has a few questions in mind to ask if you do encounter a coach in a division that permits contact with sophomores.

Junior Year
By junior year, the search is becoming more intense. Students should have a good idea of the type of college they prefer as well as some idea of their academic goal. They are still kids, though, so all decisions are made knowing they may change the next week!

If you and your swimmer did not begin researching programs as a sophomore, it is not too late to do so as a junior but you need to get busy.

You can figure out where your swimmer fits in a particular program by looking at the times required to score in conference meets then looking at which schools are in that conference. This is where your swimmer’s feelings about being a big fish in a small pond and vice versa come into play. If your swimmer can already score in the A final at conference champs but she wants to train with swimmers who are faster to push her, she should look at a faster conference. Conversely, if she wants to be on the podium at conference champs, she should not be looking at conferences where she would place 49th with her current times.

During junior year, you should take as many college tours as fit into your schedule and budget to give your swimmer an idea of options. When you visit schools, be sure to check out the pool and see if you can meet with a coach. Coaches in all divisions are allowed to talk to swimmers visiting colleges by junior year.

Coaches can call and return emails in all divisions by junior year. Your swimmer should be emailing back and forth with coaches at programs that interest him.

Official recruiting visits can take place during junior year and come coaches will offer them, while others will wait until senior year.

Senior Year
Senior year is usually filled with official recruiting visits (at schools that offer them), phone conversations with coaches, and further narrowing down which schools are a good fit.

When possible, it is important for your swimmer to meet potential teammates at programs he is considering to see if he clicks with the team.

Evaluating offers along with the academic programs at schools is the last step before making a final decision.

The process can seem overwhelming at times, but it can be accomplished by approaching it in an organized manner and allowing enough time to research colleges and swim programs.

College Swimming Guide helps with the research to swim in college with spreadsheets of times required to score in each conference and by college, sample emails to send to coaches, questions to ask coaches, guidance to help organize the process and answers to your questions. Membership is good for your swimmer’s entire high school career to there is no need to wait. There are also many free resources on www.collegeswimmingguide.com like the NCAA Rules Summary and blogs with questions for coaches, things to consider about colleges and more. Knowing what you’re doing in advance and having a knowledgeable resource as a guide and to answer questions will make your journey a better and more successful experience.

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

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A New Year: Getting Organized To Swim In College

A New Year: Getting Organized To Swim In College

At the beginning of January, many people focus on getting organized, setting new goals, and being motivated. This can apply to your swimmer’s approach to being recruited to swim in college as well. It can sometimes be an intimidating process, especially if you and your swimmer are just getting started. It is never too late to start, though, and it is often helpful to break it down into manageable segments.

Here are some tasks to get the New Year off swimmingly –

 

Set Reasonable Goals for Swim Times in Best Events

If your swimmer is struggling to get a Senior Champs time in his best event, it is unlikely to expect to achieve a US Open cut and to be recruited at a top 10 swim program. Talking to a club coach can help your swimmer develop realistic goals for time improvements between now and his junior year in high school when coaches begin getting serious about recruiting swimmers.

Most coaches try to recruit swimmers who will score points in the conference championship meets. After your swimmer sets some reasonable goals regarding times, he needs to see which conferences he fits in by looking up the times achieved in the previous year’s championships.

 

Identify 20 Target Schools

The first step is to identify some schools that would be of interest based on climate, geographic location and size. If your swimmer hates the heat and humidity, going to school in Florida or South Texas is probably not a good idea as he will only like the climate for about 4 months of each school year.

If your swimmer has an idea of his academic interests, it is helpful but many students do not at this age. Fortunately, most colleges expect this and offer a wide variety of programs. Approximately 75% of students change their major at least once during college so do not be alarmed if your child does not have career goals in mind yet.

Your swimmer may have grown up rooting for the hometown team and always dreamed of swimming at the state flagship school but most of these schools are very fast and this may not be a realistic goal as your swimmer gets older. There is no need to be discouraged though as there is a school for (almost) everyone – it is a matter of finding the right fit.

 

Be Sure Social Media is Clean

Some coaches and college admissions officers truly do check the social media accounts of prospective students and athletes and once something is put on the internet, it can be found.

This is the time for your swimmer to check all of her social media accounts and make sure nothing offensive is posted. If a friend frequently posts offensive or off-color material, it is a good idea to unfollow the friend as it can show up on your child’s wall. I always told my kids “you are judged by the company you keep” and your child would hate to be eliminated as a potential recruit based on something that one of her “friends” posted.

 

Designate Time To Accomplish Reasonable Tasks

Instead of deciding to research 50 colleges in a weekend or to complete 20 Recruit Questionnaires in one day, your swimmer should decide what is manageable along with homework and swim practice. My son used to take about an hour on Saturday afternoons to complete Recruit Questionnaires (found on most college athletics web sites) and to look up information about schools. He came home from swim practice to eat and sleep (of course!) then woke up and spent some time on recruiting tasks before going on to another activity.

As he got further into the recruiting process, he would use this time to email coaches to introduce himself and to correspond with the coaches he developed a rapport with.

 

Executing these steps will help your child get off to the right start in the New Year.

 

College Swimming Guide simplifies the process of being recruited to swim in college by providing sample emails to coaches, lists of questions to ask coaches, a community to interact with other parents, and spreadsheets of colleges and conference championship times to see where your swimmer fit. We also have lots of information available, such as an NCAA Rules Summary, how to identify colleges of interest and more. We will walk you through the process and let you know what to do and when to do it.    

 

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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Extra-Curricular Activities: Are They Important?

Extra-Curricular Activities: Are They Important?

Swimmers have grueling schedules between attending school, studying, swim practice and swim meets. They have a hard time fitting in other activities, including family time and a social life, let alone a job or extracurricular activities.

Is it important for swimmers to fit in extracurricular activities? The answer is a resounding YES for several reasons.

College Admissions

Colleges are looking for students with unique traits who will contribute to the student body as a whole. Depending on the school, some coaches have enough pull to get athletes admitted based solely on their athletic performance without taking other factors into account. However, this is not always the case and swimmers should not count on it. The more competitive of a candidate your swimmer is, the more likely he is to gain admission to a school.

Coaches are more likely to recruit swimmers who have a better chance of being admitted to the school as they do not want to waste their time and recruiting budget on an athlete who will not get in to the school.

An exception is for Olympic caliber swimmers who will be recruited at top schools, regardless of participating in other activities.

 

College Scholarships

Many colleges award scholarships based on leadership and service activities. Since Division III colleges cannot award athletic scholarships, all scholarships are based on grades, leadership, and service.

Even at schools which do have athletic scholarship money for swimmers, they rarely cover a full ride and the financial award can be a combination of scholarships based on grades, leadership and service. Two of my sons received scholarships for their leadership and service in high school – they did not apply for the scholarships, their universities awarded them in their financial packages. In the case of my swimmer, it supplements his athletic scholarship.

 

Outside Scholarships

A large number of outside scholarships (not awarded by a particular school) are based on involvement in a particular area or community service.  When you search for college scholarships, you can look for scholarships in areas of music performance, visual arts, robotics, science competitions, community service, and many more.

 

Time Management

Participating in extracurricular activities helps swimmers learn time management to balance their activities along with school and swimming. They may decide that the majority of their activities need to take place in the summer when they do not have school. This is fine – it requires them to think through when and how to schedule their activities.

 

Preparation For Life After College And Swimming

Many times, extracurricular activities help our kids learn about their interests and future career interests. Participating on a Robotics Team may help a student decide on a career in Mechanical Engineering. Conversely, participating in a Future Health Professionals Club may help them realize that they cannot stand the sight of blood and a career in healthcare is not a good plan!

In college, students must participate in activities and organizations in order to be competitive candidates for jobs after graduation. If they are already used to fitting extracurricular activities into their high school schedule, it will be easier to figure this out in college.

 

Be A Well-Rounded Person

It is important to be well-rounded for personal growth and as a candidate for colleges and jobs. In addition, if a swimmer is going through a plateau or frustration with their performance in the pool, it is beneficial to have something else to focus on and another way to feel successful.

It is also helpful to have friends in multiple interest areas. My college swimmer hangs out with his teammates but he also has friends in the science and pre-health clubs in which he participates. He enjoys both groups and feels that it is nice to have options.

 

There is no doubt that our swimmers have tough schedules and trying to fit in extracurricular activities can be overwhelming. However, it is possible to find activities that do not require huge time commitments and that meet at convenient times. College Swimming Guide suggests some extracurricular activities that work well for swimmers (LINK TO BLOG POST) and there are many more options, depending on your swimmer’s interests.

 

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

 

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How To Determine Which Questions To Ask Coaches

How To Determine Which Questions To Ask Coaches

One of the most common questions I get at College Swimming Guide is “what should my swimmer ask a college coach?” The answer is not as cut and dry as you might think as it depends on many factors.

Is the school in NCAA Division I, II or III or NAIA or NJCAA?

Communication between swimmers and coaches varies depending on which governing body oversees the college. Schools are allowed to email swimmers as follows:

NCAA Division I schools: coaches can email swimmers and reply to emails after September 1 of their junior year

NCAA Division II schools: coaches can email swimmers and reply to emails after June 15 when they are rising juniors

NCAA Division III schools: coaches can email swimmers and reply to emails any time

NAIA schools: coaches can email swimmers and reply to emails any time

NJCAA schools: coaches can email swimmers and reply to emails any time

Swimmers can contact a coach at anytime but should understand whether or not a coach is able to respond at the time. Many coaches create a file for the swimmers who contact them. If swimmers email coaches prior to the date in which they can reply, the coaches will likely file the email for future reference.

 

How old is your swimmer?

The communication will be different for a swimmer in their sophomore year compared to a swimmer at the end of their junior year. The questions will become more in-depth as the swimmers gets closer to college and as the swimmer become more interested in a program. The tone is often set by the coach depending on his interest as well. He will communicate more frequently and offer more information to swimmers that he is recruiting more heavily.

In sophomore year, the questions should be more general as the swimmer is still researching many schools and learning about the colleges as well as the swim programs. Questions about type of training and coaching style are appropriate at this time.

 

Is a rapport established with the coach?

Questions will obviously differ when the swimmer and coach have been emailing back and forth for a period of time. At this point, questions are often more in-depth and more specific to the swimmer, such as needs for the swimmer’s events, dryland training, practice expectations and academic support.

Before emailing coaches, swimmers should complete the Recruit Questionnaire for the college (found on the college athletics web site). This includes information about the swimmer and event times. If a swimmer emails a coach without completing the questionnaire, the coach will most often reply and ask for the questionnaire. Questionnaires can typically be completed in 5-10 minutes so your swimmer may want to set aside a period of time to complete several at once since they all ask for the same information.

 

College Swimming Guide Membership includes lists of questions to ask coaches at the different points throughout the recruiting process, along with sample emails to send to coaches.  Check out the other benefits of becoming a member here.

 

 

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

 

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