In this week’s Coach’s Corner, we’ve asked Coach Mark Murray of Fort Belvoir Swim Team to answer one of the most asked questions by parents and young swimmers: how to go about the college recruiting process and when to get started?
The college search can be intimidating and frustrating for any student-athlete. Throw in the desire to continue your swimming career and you have to take into account a mountain of other factors. Coach Murray has been on both sides of the recruiting process, having spent many years at the NCAA and club levels. Check out his take on the important steps and details to consider when you are making a decision about your collegiate swimming future, and check back next week as we ask another coach a follow up question about college recruiting. And remember, if you have a question you want answered, send us an email or leave it in the comments section on any Coach’s Corner post.
Coach Mark Murray
“Getting started with your college search, academically and athletically, should become a preliminary search during your sophmore year in high school. If you are positive that you want to swim in college, then create a plan to do so.
“Planning to swim in college makes the process more streamlined to find schools that have a swim team. Finding schools that have swim teams is easy if you go to www.collegeswimming.com and click on the teams icon. There is a complete list of all the collegiate teams. The site does a nice job of offering information about each schools’ team, roster, and times.
“Once you have identified the schools with teams, the next step is to determine if the institution has the academic prowess you desire. This is a very individual thought process. For example, if you are a top-notch student, then there may be schools that you would consider that are rigorous, to suit your academic ability. You can then begin to decide if you want a large, medium, or small school. Go take visits during your school breaks to ascertain if you like the feel of the campus. You may set up campus tours and meetings with academic personnel prior to your visit. Do your internet research and make sure your visit counts.
“Do not go to a school without researching it. It could be a complete waste of time for you and the staff at the institution.
“You may speak with the coach at the school if you are visiting the campus. This is referred to as an unofficial visit. There are no limitations for any prospect (this is you), to be able to speak with a coach on the campus you are visiting. Do not expect the red carpet to be rolled out for you when you meet with the coach, unless you have a slew of national cuts. Have a list of questions to ask the coach, and keep them consistent with other places you visit so you can compare answers, apples to apples.
“Keep in mind there are different levels of swimming in college. There are Division I, II, and III schools that compete under the NCAA umbrella. There are also NAIA institutions that offer swimming in college.
“Each school offers different types of aid whether athletically, academically, or through financial need based aid. You would be surprised how creative the private schools are if they really want you to attend their school. Do not shy away from the sticker shock on private schools, many of them can beat the public school costs if they want you bad enough.
“Okay, so how do you get noticed by these collegiate coaches?
“Do your research!!! Be realistic with where you are as a swimmer. If you are looking at a team that has a bunch of Olympic Trials qualifiers and you do not have one Junior Nationals time standard, do not have expectations of being a member of that team. You can get angry about it, but it will not do you any good.
“Find a school that is a good match for you athletically. This is simply done by looking at the schools swimmers and times. You don’t have to be as fast as they are yet, but you should be within striking distance.
“Once you have identified these schools, begin to fill out the questionnaire that they have on the team’s Web site. The coach or assistant coach will review these questionnaires to determine if they have interest in you as a swimmer. If the school is Division I or II they have rules to not be able to call you, or see you off campus, prior to a certain date of your senior year. Division III schools do not have this restriction. Then there are NAIA schools that have completely different rules.
“Division I and II schools may contact you via email prior to your senior year so that is a venue of communication that can be very helpful. Here is a link that is very helpful on the NCAA site to understand the recruiting guidelines for the schools you may be looking at:
“Here is the link to the NAIA rules and regulations for participating schools:
“A piece of advice I have for you. Do not snub your nose at a place who is interested in you. Take a look at it seriously. This interest they may have in you is valuable and may be full of financial incentives. You may not have heard of this school, but guess what, they have been an institution for a long time for a reason. It just may be the school for you, so give it a close look!”
Mark Murray has been a swimming coach for 26 years. Coach Murray has been a head/asscociate head coach with Division I and Division II universities as well as USA Swimming, high school and summer club teams. Currently, Coach Murray is the coach of Fort Belvoir Swim Team, Mount Vernon High School, and Mount Vernon Yacht Club. Murray has held positions at the University of Maryland-College Park, Salem-Teikyo University, University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University. Coach Murray has had the pleasure of working with every level of swimmer which includes novice swimmers to Olympians.