The NCAA has made two major changes to recruiting rules that you should know about.
In April 2018, the NCAA changed the recruiting rules for Division I to allow official visits beginning September 1st of a swimmer’s junior year of high school. Previously, swimmers weren’t allowed to take official visits until after the first day of classes of their senior year. With the recent wave of commitments for juniors over the last couple of years, this makes sense as swimmers were committing to colleges where they had never taken official visits.
The recruiting rules vary between divisions so it’s a good idea to be informed as to the differences between them. College Swimming Guide put together a calendar of important dates which is a helpful tool.
With this change, there may be both juniors and seniors together on official visits which will change the dynamic. It’s not unusual for swimmers to take recruits to parties while on official visits. High school seniors are already young for this but at least they’ll be in college the following year. High school juniors are often still 16 years old and are very young to be attending college parties.
Also, when high school juniors meet the team, only half of the current team will still be in college when that junior arrives on campus as a freshmen. This makes it more difficult to figure out if they click with the team and want to hang out with them for four years. There is a big difference between a high school junior and a college junior or senior!
It will also be more difficult for swimmers to determine where they fit on the team if they’re still improving. Coaches prefer to recruit swimmers who will score at the Conference Championship Meets and typically focus their recruiting efforts on swimmers who are already at that point, or barely out of scoring range. Juniors may not have reached their high school potential at this point.
The other major change is that coaches can no longer be a part of unofficial visits before September 1stof a swimmer’s junior year. There were no rules before so swimmers could try to talk to the swim coach when on an unofficial visit no matter what grade they were in – I’ve included this point in several blogs, in fact. It’s still a good idea, though, to tour colleges between sophomore and junior year to get an idea of what your swimmer is looking for in a school and to narrow down characteristics of a college. This will help students know which schools they like and which college swim coaches to reach out to and express interest in their program.
The research to swim in college should begin as a freshman and increase in intensity as high school progresses. There are tasks to be completed each year in order to be organized and to fully explore options.
Regardless of the age in which a swimmer is being recruited, coaches still want swimmers with good attitudes who want to work hard. College Swimming Guide wrote a series of articles on what coaches are looking for and these qualities will always be important.
Both official and unofficial visits will be impacted by these NCAA rule changes and it will take a while for coaches to decide how to handle the new rules. It will be interesting to see if most coaches transition to offering official visits to high school juniors or if many continue to bring seniors in for visits.
College Swimming Guide members will receive the most up-to-date information as the new rules develop and are put into practice through the Monthly Action Items, sample emails to coaches, Directory of College Swim Programs, and other materials they receive.
Michelle Lombanais 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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