The college swimming season is about to start and the NCAA swimming recruiting period is under way. Many athletes in the recruiting process will come across advice that instructs them to have a highlight video of their game play. For many sports, a highlight video is crucial to getting recruited. But for some sports, like college swimming, athletes don’t need a highlight video to get recruited and earn a scholarship. While swimming scholarship times vary between schools and division levels, they are the equation for swimming recruiting.
Swimming coaches don’t rely on game film and highlight videos to evaluate athletes as much as coaches in other sports. Just like cross country and track, coaches focus more on an athlete’s stats. They don’t need to watch a swimmer swim up and down the pool a dozen times to evaluate them as a potential recruit. A swimmer’s times and meet results speak for themselves. When a swimmer swims a 50m Freestyle in 22 seconds, it means just that. And swimming times are what earn scholarships.
Missy Franklin and her Swimming Scholarship Times
Top-ranked recruit Missy Franklin just recently signed her National Letter of Intent (NLI) with UC Berkeley. Her Olympic-medal times earned her full ride to the defending women’s championship team at Cal. Missy’s times at the London 2012 Olympics proved her abilities, like her 100m backstroke swim of 58.33 that earned her the gold medal. A swimmer who can compete at that level and post consistent times like that will attract the attention of big schools. Franklin had several big-time swimming programs recruiting her, so when she signed with Cal last week she effectively ended her recruiting process.
Obviously Missy had event times that would blow a lot of recruits out of the water, But swimmers who don’t have Olympic times are still able to find swimming scholarship opportunities. Swimming scholarship times are exactly what college coaches will be looking at.
What Happens with Swimming Scholarships
Signing a high level recruit like Missy has huge impacts on recruiting for a college coach. For the Cal coaches, having Missy locked in as an athlete on their team means they will have to shift focus to the remaining scholarships available and who will take them. If they’ve made an offer to a swimmer who hasn’t signed yet, they might have to reduce or pull the offer now that a full scholarship is going to Missy. In cases like this, it is crucial for swimming recruits to maintain contact with the college coaches and also have backup schools in case their offer is cancelled. Remember, a verbal scholarship offer doesn’t guarantee anything. Only an NLI can lock in a swimming scholarship.
Athletes getting recruited by the other schools that offered Franklin a scholarship could now have a better chance of receiving a scholarship offer since she committed to UC Berkeley. When recruits pass on scholarship offers from coaches, the scholarships are then available for other recruits on their list. This means that the more coaches you talk to, the better chance you have of finding a swimming scholarship if your times meet their standards.
Earning a Swimming Scholarship with Your Times
To get recruited for college swimming, athletes need strong and consistent event times. Since these stats are ultimately what college coaches depend on, determining whether you meet their standards is pretty cut and dry.
Here are some tips to help you find a swimming scholarship:
- Start early: The more time you are able to spend contacting schools and getting to know coaches, the better chance you’ll find a program that can use your swimming skills. Make sure to contact a variety of schools, in different division levels.
- Do your Research: Since swimming focuses on times, start researching what times current swimmers are putting up at programs you are interested in. This will help you set goals and help you determine which programs you are most suited for.
- Maintain Contact: Staying in contact with college coaches is crucial to your recruiting. They will want to see how you are improving throughout your high school and club swim seasons. Developing a great relationship with the college coach impacts your chance of being offered a scholarship.