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.