Dear Coach Bryant,
My son is a junior in high school and we think we have zeroed in on the perfect college for him. It’s in his dream city, it has a great swim team, and his grades should be strong enough for him to be accepted. He’s been giving it his all during practices and would love to join the swim team. He has contacted the coach a few times, but he can’t even get the coach to call him back. What gives?
Salty in South Carolina
It’s an exciting time for your son, and you’re understandably thrilled to find a school that feels like the perfect fit. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean that everything will fall into place. Almost always, student-athletes consider many schools that would be a good fit for them athletically. If he’s getting signs that his dream school is a reach, the simple truth is that his best may not be good enough.
- Be open-minded to all options. I constantly advise my clients to cast a wide net. Your list of potential schools should first take academics into account, along with the size, location, and culture of the campus. Keeping those factors in mind, assess the competitiveness of the swimming programs. Find many schools where he could likely earn a spot on the team, and reach out to those coaches.
- Don’t be laser-focused on one team. Be your son’s biggest cheerleader but also remind him not to get his heart set on one outcome. Sometimes parents themselves can be obsessive about a particular school, which could lead to the child feeling like he let his parents down if it doesn’t pan out. What he really needs is your support and a reminder that no single school is a path to the perfect college experience.
- There is no magic wand. Sometimes a student is just not the right fit for a particular team. Perhaps they don’t have enough competitive experience or simply lack the X-factor that the coach needs to fill out their roster. Even if a school seems to be “perfect” in every other way, no one, not even a parent, can wave a magic wand to make a coach recruit their child.
- Luck is part of life. Occasionally, a student will hear about a friend’s perceived lucky break and get stuck in comparison mode. The truth is, you never know the complete picture that an admissions department or coach has pieced together. A teammate could appear less talented at first glance, but have a stronger academic record or a palpable “team player” mentality that catches a coach’s eye. Or, it could simply be lucky timing. A coach could attend a swim meet and see a standout swimmer in the exact event for which he’s recruiting.
Set your child up for success by helping him pursue multiple opportunities to swim in college. Be encouraging, and acknowledge that a chance to compete in his sport at a level commensurate to his talent is a great outcome.
All the best,