Swimming in college is a fantastic opportunity and is one of the great goals many ZAP swimmers have. There are hundreds of schools with teams around the country, and it is important to find a school that is suited best for YOU, not based on their name. NCAA Division 1 scholarship opportunities are limited, but available to recruitable athletes. Division 2 and 3 schools as well as NAIA schools have great athletic opportunities as well. This page is an important read for anyone who even THINKS they may want to swim in college so you can get an idea of the commitment necessary to make your dream a reality.
College coaches look for:
• Student-athletes who have the experience and ability to train at increasingly difficult levels.
• Swimmers who can swim fast during the dual meet season while training hard.
• Swimmers who have three strong events at their championship meets, and can handle the
challenges of individual event and relay prelims and finals over the course of a 4-day meet.
• Students who have a proven record of excelling both academically and in the pool.
Recreational and High School Swimming do not provide young swimmers the chance to succeed at the college level. If your swimmer aspires to be a contributing member of a college team, they should be a year-round swimmer before they begin high school. Once they are in high school they need to keep their eyes on their long-term goal so they can make the appropriate decisions that will keep the doors open for being part of a collegiate program.
College Recruiting Timeline
•Start searching universities on the www.ncaa.org webpage and/or at school via Naviance.
•Find schools that have the major you want or may be interested in (your diploma will be more important than your swimming times after graduation!) If you aren't sure what you want to major in, that is okay (and common); start with what you DON'T want to study and try to eliminate school that way first.
•Find out about the academic reputation of the school, but realize that just because it may have a “brand name” doesn't mean it is the perfect fit for you. This is the time to be selfish; pick a school that is right for you, not what others think is right for you.
•Check out the team records, coach’s history with the program
•Most teams have questionnaires posted online so make sure you complete that first. Then follow up by emailing the coaches a cover letter with an athletic resume including: Your name, birth date, address, phone number, email GPA and test scores as well as your current times and training background (ie how many workouts per week, yardage, hours per workout, if you’ve done weights, running, medicine balls---all dryland; how many years you’ve been swimming; Competition background: Send them a record of your times/improvement), and any/all other activities you’re involved in. Send updated letters/info annually. It should go without saying, but make sure you spell the coaches’ names correctly and that you use correct punctuation. ALWAYS. It matters.
•During your first two years of high school, college coaches can send you a questionnaire and general team info, in response to your initial contact, but no recruiting materials.
•Check Initial-Eligibility Requirements; Different schools have different classes that you will need to take in order to be eligible to swim as a college freshman.
•You may go to any campus “unofficially” (where you pay for all your expenses) as many times as you like, and at any point in the selection process... during any year of school. This is a great thing to do early on.
•After you have begun your junior year, college coaches can send you official recruiting material. You should be sending updated information to them as well, and narrowing your list of universities to select from.
•Sign up NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse. You can do it online at www.ncaachlearinghouse.net. It currently costs $60.
•You may go to any campus “unofficially” (where you pay for all your expenses) as many times as you like, and at any point in the selection process... during any year of school; this is a great thing to do your junior year!
July 1 between your Junior and Senior Years
College coaches can officially begin calling you on this date. They may only speak with you once per week, but may send unlimited mailings and email. Continue your contact with them as well.
Once your senior school year has begun, you may take 5 “official” visits (where the university pays for your trip) to college campuses. These 5 visits must be to different campuses (you cannot use two visits to visit the same school more than once). You may go to any campus “unofficially” (where you pay for all your expenses) as many times as you like, and at any point in the selection process... during any year of school (this is a good thing to do your sophomore and junior years). Be sure to take a copy of the list of questions with you, to cover all your bases. Keep a journal/notes of your visits... write down your impressions of each place....what you liked, didn’t like, etc.
Put down as many details as possible, so that you can compare the campuses after you’ve visited a number of them. Remember, you are choosing the place where you want to be happy for the next 4 years of your life!
•It’s very “flattering” to be recruited.... having college coaches paying all this attention to you. Be sure to get your questions answered, and keep your eyes and ears open to what is best for you! If you decide you’re really not interested in a particular school and the coach continues to call you, please tell him/her you’re not interested. It’s a difficult thing to do, but it will save both of you time in the long run. If the coach gets mad or says mean things to you for not wanting to join his/her program, then it probably confirms that you didn’t want to swim for this person anyway!
There are two “signing” periods for scholarships if you are offered one... early (early November) and late (mid-April). There are pros and cons to both: if you take your visits early and are sure of your decision, then by all means, sign early! It takes a load of pressure off your shoulders in the spring semester! Some coaches may say to wait... they may have more scholarship money available in the spring semester to offer. This is a gamble... maybe they will, maybe they won’t... it’s not always a guarantee. Some coaches may offer a full scholarship (room/board/tuition/fees/books)... others may offer a partial scholarship, which can include any of those components. Division I and II schools offer athletic scholarships, Division III only has academic scholarships. If you are not sure, then do wait ‘til the spring. Give yourself more time to think over the decision, and make the one that’s right for you.
Your High School guidance counselor can help you through this process, too... s/he can help you with financial aid information, getting your test scores, etc sent to places before your official visits, and may also have resources to tell you about the academic reputations of the schools you’re looking at. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get help!
The more informed you are, the more easily you’re going to make the best decision for yourself!
Questions To Consider During Your College Search
When you are doing your college search and when you go on a school visit, find out as much information as you can. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! It is a good idea to keep a notebook and write down the answers. You can also use the “Recruiting Worksheet” to compare schools as well. You will be coming into contact with different people, some of these questions can be asked of more than one of them. Keep track of what different schools have to say. Some of these questions can be answered by doing your homework and reading the websites of different schools; get as much info as you can before talking to the coach(es) so when you do, it is clear that you cared enough to do your homework.
Remember, you will be spending the next four or five years of your life on this campus; make sure it is a good fit for YOU!
QUESTIONS FOR THE COACH:
1. What times do I need to have to be considered for a scholarship?
2. Are there other sources of financial aid I should be looking into?
3. With a partial scholarship what are my out of pocket expenses?
4. If I don’t get a scholarship for my freshman year, can I earn one for my sophomore year? If so, what do I need to do?
5. How do I improve my chances?
6. What is the process for annual scholarship renewal (they cannot “guarantee” a 4 or 5 year scholarship)? What is needed to get 5th year aid? How can a scholarship be taken away?
7. Can the amount of my scholarship be increased or decreased through my years at this school?
8. What happens if I am offered a non-athletic scholarship as well?
9. What kinds of grants, etc. are available and how do you get the information on them?
Team and Practice information
1. How many are on the team? (you should be able to get an estimate of this from the website) How many travel?
2. Is the team Co-ed? If so, do men and women train together? If not, what is the relationship between the two? Do they travel together? Are the conference meets together? How many coaches are there?
3. What coach will I be working with the most?
4. What is the training like during all phases of the season? Yardage? Types of training?
5. What is the practice schedule for a typical week, including water and dryland (strength training) workouts? How many hours a week? Example workout?
6. How long is the season? (you should be able to get an estimate of this from the website)
7. What are the attendance requirements? Are they different for scholarship and non-scholarship swimmers?
8. What events do you see me swimming in dual meets?
9. Will I be traveling with the team? What is the travel schedule, how many days of school will be missed?
10. How does the team travel to away meets? Who drives?
11. Do my times fit into the team? (you should be able to get an estimate of this from the website)
12. Are you recruiting others with similar times?
11. Is there a Christmas training trip? Am I required to go? How is paid for? How much? Do you train over Thanksgiving?
12. Is there a strength training coach that works specifically with the swim team?
13. Is there a trainer assigned to the swim team like the basketball team or is there a different one at every meet?
14. Do you have a spring training program? How much time do I have off after my last meet and spring training?
15. What are summer training expectations?
16. How many stay on campus to take classes and train over the summer months?
17. Is there any possibility that the swim team will be dropped from the athletic department? (Yes, this can happen!)
18. How much value does the Athletic Department put on the swim program?
1. Do you practice or compete during finals?
2. Are tutors available throughout the year? To both scholarship and non-scholarship athletes?
3. Is there an Athletic Academic Counseling Department? What is my access to it?
4. What is the team’s GPA and graduation rate for the past 5 years?
5. What is the graduation rate for the whole school and for the athletic department?
6. Is study hall available or is it mandatory? Required hours? For all four years or just the first two?
7. May I contact any of the current members of the team? (specifically those that swim my events)
QUESTIONS TO ASK CURRENT SWIMMERS ON THE TEAM:
1. What is the coaching philosophy?
2. Is the coach consistent and fair? (Ask upper classman)
3. Does the coach play favorites?
4. Does the coaching staff work well together?
5. Is there an alcohol problem on this team?
6. What are the goals of the team this season?
7. Do the swimmers get along?
8. What is the reputation of the program within the Athletic Department?
9. What is the biggest strength of the team?
10. What is the biggest weakness of the team?
11. Do teammates hang out outside of the pool?
12. Do you like being on the team?
13. What parts of town should I stay away from?
QUESTIONS FOR ACADEMIC COUNSELING DEPARTMENT:
1. How can I take advantage of your counseling?
2. How many credits do you recommend that I take?
3. Do athletes get priority registration? If so, does this apply to the off-season?
4. How easy is it to get required classes?
5. May I come to you with non-academic problems?
6. Are there professors that a student-athlete should avoid?
QUESTIONS FOR SPECIFIC DEPARTMENT OF STUDY:
1. What are the program requirements? (Is this available online?)
2. Are there other student-athletes in this program?
3. Can I do this course of study and swim? When are most of the classes?
4. What type of course work will I be doing? Internships required?
5. When do I have to declare a major?
6. Do I have to graduate in 4 years?
7. How can I get notes for missed classes?
8. What is the policy for taking tests when I am gone on team travel?
9. What is a typical teacher:student ratio in upper division classes?
10. Does this university have a graduate program that fits my interests?
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF:
1. If the coach were to leave, would I want to stay? Why, why not?
2. Would I choose this school if I were not a swimmer?
3. Am I choosing the appropriate academic AND athletic level for myself?
4. Do the staff and program fit my needs?
5. Do I fit in socially with this group of swimmers? (Look particularly at the Freshmen and Sophomores.)
6. Do I want an urban, suburban or rural area for college?
7. If the program is dropped what would I do?
I’m not interested, what do I do? Let the coach know as soon as you have made a decision!
College recruiting process for athletes swings toward clubs
I wrote a high school column last week on how some parents believe there is some sort of connection between information in the newspaper and a high school athlete being recruited to play sports in college.
That would be an incorrect belief.
Granted, I’m on the inside and know how things work. A high school kid being recruited based on a story or some stats in the newspaper? Come on, gang, think about it.
But what really puzzles me about this topic is how at least some parents aren’t seeing what is so clearly standing front and center. The landscape of sports at the high school level has changed dramatically from a generation ago. It’s not quite night and day, but there is a massive difference.
For most sports, when it comes to high school athletes being recruited, the club teams carry much more weight than high school teams. I’m not saying high school sports aren’t important. In fact, I’ll say that athletically and socially, there’s nothing like playing for a high school team.
However, in regards to being recruited to play in college, the clubs trump most high school sports.
Boys gymnastics in the region has disappeared at the high school level, and girls gymnastics is on life support, with clubs clearly taking over. Not all, but many of the top hockey players play club instead of for their high school team. Ditto for tennis and downhill skiing.
In other team sports, like basketball, soccer and field hockey, the athletes are certainly being predominantly recruited out of their club, not high school. Clubs are starting to pop up for wrestling, and many of the elite local swimmers compete for their clubs as part of the USA Swimming organization. In baseball and softball, showcase events in the winter, summer and fall – not the spring – have caught fire.
College coaches have a hard time getting out to watch high school games because the seasons coincide. Also, for a college coach to go out and watch just one potential recruit isn’t a constructive use of time unless that recruit comes highly recommended.
The club seasons usually aren’t at the same time as the college season, so college coaches have the opportunity to get to club events, like day-long tournaments. Also, the club teams are usually loaded with top-notch athletes looking to play in college, so a college coach can see multiple potential recruits at the same time.
Lastly, college coaches love to go to events like the Bay State Games and showcases. Again, they can see more high-level athletes all in one shot. The above examples are rarely offered through a high school event. And, for whatever reason, the college coaches and club coaches seem to be more in touch with each other.
My daughter is a goalie for field hockey. She’s already played in a tournament in front of the entire Bryant University coaching staff on campus, at Smith College in front of the head coach, she was coached by the head coach at Western New England University over the winter and spring, and she was coached over the summer by the head coach at Southern Connecticut State University. She’s also played at the Nutmeg Games, which is the equivalent to the Bay State Games.
In the spring and summer of 2012, if things go as I think they will, my daughter will be playing for a coach who was a two-time Division I All-American in college, and my gut tells me she will again be surrounded by current college coaches. She hopes to qualify for a national event this summer, and she also plans to play in the Bay State Games. At both venues there will undoubtedly be college coaches.
My daughter is 13. I believe she’s already had more college eyes on her because of her clubs than she ever will while she plays for her high school team. Again, that’s not a knock on the high schools, but that’s just the way it is now. For high school-aged athletes, when it comes to being recruited to play sports in college, the landscape has changed from a generation ago, and for most sports, that landscape now has club sports in the forefront and high school sports in the background.