College swimmers can be great resources for high school swimmers going through the recruiting process. Most of our swimmers have the chance to interact with college swimmers at least occasionally and should be prepared with questions when the opportunity arises.
Some of these questions may vary depending on how well your swimmer knows the college swimmer. If it’s someone he grew up with on a club team, he may be more comfortable asking questions. Sometimes you will meet college swimmers on college tours or when visiting colleges and this is likely to be a quicker, more surface-level conversation. Swimmers spend a lot of time with the college team on official visits and the host and teammates are typically happy to answer questions.
What do you like about your college team?
Most college swimmers love their team and will welcome the chance to tell younger swimmers about it. The reply may give your swimmer an idea of another college to research if it looks like he would fit well from a swimming standpoint. It also gives your swimmer features to look for in other college teams.
What is the coaching style on the team?
Your swimmer probably knows what style he responds to best based on his coaches growing up. This question can help him decide whether he would enjoy swimming at this school.
He should also think about his swimming goals with regard to the coaching style. If he hopes to improve in college, he wants a coach he responds well to. If he is swimming more for exercise and team spirit, he may want a more laid-back coach.
How are class conflicts handled?
Athletes have to miss meets, and sometimes practice, for class conflicts. Knowing in advance how the coaches and professors handle it can be helpful.
For example, there are some majors that require labs which are only scheduled at certain times. If the lab conflicts with swim practice, will the coach accommodate swimmers with a different practice time? Or does the coach insist that the swimmer not take the course?
Also, some professors are more accommodating than others with make-up work for classes missed and it might be beneficial to understand the university policy on this.
Is the culture of the team positive?
Hopefully, the team members support and encourage each other on most teams. This is a question worth asking though to confirm that this is the case. Swimming is a unique sport since the athletes are competing both individually and as a team. In college, meet line-ups are done for the good of the team and to maximize team points.
Most swimmers don’t want a cut-throat environment where they feel like they are fighting for a spot and their teammates are hoping they don’t succeed.
The majority of teams become like a family. If one member suffers a rough time or a disappointment, the team members rally behind him and let him know they’ve got his back.
Is the team welcoming to new members?
Freshmen and transfer students can have a rough transition to college and having a team as a built-in community can help a lot. Ask if the team is welcoming to these new members and includes them in social activities.
Upperclassmen are a great source of information and will hopefully give advice regarding swimming, courses, professors and college life. Many teams eat together following practice each day which is a good opportunity for the new students to get to know the older swimmers.
Do the swimmers socialize together?
A lot of teams socialize together but it varies by school. At some schools, the swimmers are expected to socialize with the team and are discouraged from attending other social events. At other schools, there are team social events but the swimmers can also join other groups and make other friends.
It’s rare for athletes to join fraternities and sororities, but it happens at some schools and this can limit the amount of socializing done by the team.
There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. They give high school swimmers food for thought as they are researching schools and getting to know different teams. Swimmers will have to decide how important these factors are to them.
I had the opportunity to ask some college freshmen and sophomores questions about the recruiting process and they gave advice that is helpful to high school swimmers.
College Swimming Guide Membership includes monthly action items, lists of questions to ask coaches at the different points throughout the recruiting process, sample emails to send to coaches, and a directory with information about every college with a swim program and questions answered directly by college swim 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 and swimmers, she can be found at www.collegeswimmingguide.com.