Musings on a Recent Conversation

Last week I had the pleasure of catching up with my former assistant coach at UVa, Kerry Smith. While Kerry did not directly oversee the backstroke/ butterfly group during practice, she always made sure to ask us about our personal lives and get to know us as individuals with interests outside of the pool. For me, it was wonderful to catch up with someone who had witnessed my college years and see me mature, both as an athlete, a student, and as an individual.

I originally reached out to Kerry because she is a wealth of knowledge regarding NCAA rules on Ivy League Schools, Division I schools, and Division II schools, as she is currently an Assistant Coach at Yale, previously an Assistant Coach at Virginia, and was also an Assistant Coach at Wingate. I thought her commentary on recruiting, what Yale is like, and how they are combining the swim programs would be great information to pass on to my clients. However, over the course of the forty-five minutes we caught up on our personal lives, talked about Yale, and the future of Yale’s recently combined program, I realized one really important thing. 

I am very lucky.

I have had many amazing opportunities to be coached by and interact with so many incredible coaches and swimmers across the country. Beginning with age group swimming and my own college recruiting process, I was able to meet college coaches from across the country, as they recruited my teammates and me. Then in college, I had the opportunity to be coached by TWO amazing coaching staffs. Mark Bernadino, Chip Kline, Doak Finch, and Anna Miller during my freshman year and Augie Busch, Clif Robbins, Sam Busch, Cory Chitwood, and Kerry Smith for my final three years. While it was difficult to deal with a coaching transition after first year, I look back and feel thankful to have had all of these coaches influence me as an athlete and as an individual over the course of four years.

Not only was I fortunate enough to be able to swim for the University of Virginia, I was also able to be a member of the US National Team in 2014 and compete for Team USA in 2015. These experiences brought me into contact with individuals who have influenced the sport of swimming in some way, big or small. Whether they were on deck coaching athletes who would go on to break World Records or they were athletes who were warming up chase their dreams or even the individuals behind the scenes who coordinate travel and logistics. I feel so thankful to have met all of these people who have and who continue to make swimming the sport it is today.

Even though I still intend to post a blog on what Kerry and I discussed last week, I wanted to say thank you, to not only her, but to all the coaches, athletes, and individuals who have helped influence the athlete I was and the individual that I am today.

Managing and Navigating the College Placement Process

Being mindful of these best-fit list suggestions can keep your pursuit of collegiate swimming on track.

The process of assembling a best-fit list of schools is crucial for a prospective student-athlete who aspires to swim collegiately. Developing a list of colleges and universities that matches academic and swimming credentials, as well as other selection criteria, establishes the roadmap for finding collegiate swimming opportunities. However, if a swimmer’s list directs him/her toward the wrong schools, he/ she can potentially miss an opportunity because of this incorrect judgment.

So what makes an incorrect best-fit list of schools? With access to school websites, as well as useful online tools like the NCAA and SwimSwam, families have a lot of helpful information available to put together a proper list.  And yet something is still getting in the way. In my work with age group swimming families, I often find they tend to overlook a variety of key points while attempting to assemble their best-fit list. To make sure your list is on track, be mindful of the following suggestions:

  • Assess talent level accurately and establish realistic expectations. Overestimating a young swimmer’s capabilities, academic ability, and the improvement that can be achieved during the recruiting process can all result in the pursuit of too many “reach” programs. Consequently, more appropriate college swimming opportunities may be missed as precious time is lost focusing on unrealistic options.
  • Coaches recruit contributors. College swim coaches are interested in signing athletes who can contribute as college freshman. Coaches are looking for swimmers to fill the void left behind from graduating athletes. They are also searching for individuals who would contribute on relays (the more relays the better!). This dynamic in the recruiting marketplace emphasizes the need for age group swimmers to build a list of schools with a strong core of programs that match their swimming abilities.
  • The “Academics and Swimming- Fit” component is crucial. You should attempt to find programs where you can race competitively as a freshman and achieve your academic goals simultaneously. Focusing on the academic-athletic objective as you select schools will accelerate your personal development, both in and out of the pool.
  • Age Group Swimming does not equal Collegiate Swimming. To more effectively pinpoint reasonable “target” schools from a swimming standpoint, seek swim programs where your best times from tapered competitions and in-season races fall within the times of the college travel rosters. This is a great principle to start your selection of teams that align with your swimming abilities.
  • Maintain an open mind. The college landscape is full of quality schools (Divisions I, II, III, NAIA, and NJCAA) that offer great coaching, facilities, academics, and campus settings. Some of these schools may be lesser known, but they can offer great environments for academic and athletic achievement. Do not write a school off if you have never heard of it; it could be a really great fit academically and athletically!
  • Your best-fit list may differ from your friends’ lists. Each age group has unique talents, abilities, interests, and preferences. As a result, your school selections (and recruiting plan) will likely be different than those of your peers. This is normal! Sticking to the school list and plan that is best suited for your wants, needs, and abilities (academic and athletic) will maximize the effectiveness of your recruiting efforts.

Admittedly, the task of creating a best-fit list of schools can be difficult when facing such a large pool of college options. Taking a realistic and informed approach in selecting schools that are true matches will position you for a much more streamlined recruiting process. I feel confident the insights I share can be instrumental in creating the best-fit list of schools for you. If you need assistance in the process please visit my website,, for more information.