Recruiting 101 for HS Divers
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Please keep in mind as you read through this guide, this is a general outline - this is not specific to any one diver. Every diver's recruiting experience will be unique. Variables from experience, exposure, skill level, academic achievements and goals, will all have influence in each athlete's recruiting journey.
The constants for all divers will be...
- Academic standards having more influence in college options than diving
- More meets means more exposure - consider AAU & USA Diving meets whenever possible
- Camps/clinics can be helpful, but they're often just an income opportunity for college coaches
Focus on building great academic habits and being coachable as a diver. Lay your foundation. College coaches can’t even talk to you yet. Don’t add unnecessary pressure or expectations.
Start building a large library of diving videos, both training and competition. These will be essential to show your progress as a diver.
Start early but not too early – The end of your Sophomore year, or the summer before Junior year. While you can’t talk to coaches until after June 15th of your Sophomore year, go visit schools. The cumulative GPA and ACT/SAT test scores will also play a factor in schools that are interested in you and how much scholarship and grant money you’ll be eligible for – you just don’t know these things as a Sophomore. Once you’re a Junior AND you’ve taken your ACT/SAT and have the scores back is when you can consider narrowing down your schools. Most coaches aren’t recruiting Sophomores unless you’re a national standout.
Cast a wide net – Consider lots of schools. Take tours. Talk to admissions. Talk to other college athletes in your network. Be open to visiting and talking to schools you didn’t think you’d be interested in. If you think you want a small school, visit medium and large schools and vice versa. If you think you want a D1 program, make sure you visit high level D3 schools/programs. The best way to do this is either weekend trips, or plan to visit schools on family vacations. If your family vacations to Florida, schedule time to visit a few schools and take a tour, even if you know you're not going to go to school in Florida. What you see there could help with your perspective on schools that are more realistic. And be ok with going to a school for a tour without talking to the coach.
Continue focusing on your academics – The work you do the first two years in high school sets up your academic future with the classes you can take and how well you’ll likely do in those classes. Don’t underestimate how much your Freshman and Sophomore year will impact your cumulative GPA at the end of high school. Just a few points could have tens of thousands of dollars of impact in scholarships and grants that you’re eligible for.
Sophomore year is when you could start to consider camps and clinics held at college facilities by college coaches. This will get a diver a look into the coach's personality, coaching style and culture of their program. Reminder that any camps or clinics a diver is interested needs to be approved ahead of time by the AFD coaching staff.
Divers should continue building a video library of both training and competition videos.
This is when you can start taking official and unofficial visits to colleges and spending time with the coaches and athletes. Most coaches wont bring up scholarships if you haven't taken an official visit so don't bring that op until a follow up conversation sometime after an official visit
Talk to a lot of coaches. As you talk to coaches:
...Ask about the head swim coach – In most programs the Head Diving Coach reports to the Head Swim Coach. The Head Swim Coach will have significant input in scholarship allocation for divers, travel roster, conference meet roster/lineup, etc. The Head Swim Coach often sets the standard and culture expectations for the entire program. Make sure you know what you’re getting with the Head Swim Coach and understand the relationship your diving coach has with them.
...Ask about off-season training – What is required? What isn’t required? Are there different expectations for different classes? Is any payment required for off-season training? Are you required to go to meets in the offseason? Who pays for those meets? Off season includes breaks from school, Thanksgiving, winter break, spring break, etc.
...Ask about their academic standards for the team – Are you expected to maintain a certain GPA? What is the requirement for attending class? How are classes and exams that are missed due to travel handled? What access to tutors and academic support is available to you? Are study tables required?
Know what you’re trying to accomplish – Most college athletes compete in college because they love the sport, and the sport has helped them in intangible ways. The vast majority of college athletes are doing what they love to do at the highest level they’ll ever do it. The goal of college is for you to learn skills, both academic and life skills, so that when you graduate, someone will pay you money.
Don’t dive in college if you don’t love diving – Your club and HS coaches will love you no matter what you do in college as a diver. You’re not diving for them, or your parents, or your friends. Dive for yourself and yourself only.
Don’t pick a school based solely on diving – While we wish every athlete have the storybook ending to win a championship their senior year, not every career ends that way. Some end due to illness or injury, some end due to academic workload, some end because of burnout and falling out of love with the sport, some end due to budget cuts from the athletic department...there are a number of reasons that your diving career might not make it all 4 years of your eligibility. Pick a school that you will enjoy and trive at, even if you weren't on the diving team.
Don’t pick a school based solely on the coach – There’s a lot of movement in college coaching. The coach you have when you start college might not be the coach you have when you finish. The coach that recruits you to a school and gets you to commit might not even be there by the time you get there. Coaches change jobs often. Make sure you like everything else about the school and program, not just the coach.
Don’t pick a school based solely on a major – Over 80% of college students change their major at least once. Don’t pick a school that has the best program of all the ones you’re considering even though you liked other schools better when you have an 80% chance of not finishing college with a degree in that major. Academics matter, but you’ve probably never asked a nurse or a teacher where they went to college before you let them take care of you or teach you.
Don’t pick a school based solely on location – You can get to most places in the country from most places in the country in 6 hours or less. By car or by plane. If you need to travel home or parents need to travel to you, you’ll make it work. Granted, the closer your school and your team’s opponents are to your parents the more meets they’ll be able to easily come to. But keep in mind that if you go to a school that’s local but all conference opponents are several hours away this gets negated.
Keep the video library growing. Make sure you're including good dives, bad dives, practices and meets, water and dry land training.
Questions on official visits vs. unofficial visits...?
Senior year should be spent building on the work you've done and the relationships you've made over your sophomore and junior years. Start to narrow your options down by eliminating schools that aren't in your top 20, then top 10, then top 5.
If you have any official visits left, now would be the time to take them, but only take them to schools that you think will end up in your top 5. If a school doesn't end up in your top 5, that's ok - knowing where not to go is as important as knowing where to go. Again, most coaches wont bring up scholarship options if you haven't taken an official visit so you shouldn't bring it up until a follow up conversation sometime after an official visit.
Your college selection as a 16 or 17 year old does not have to be a perfect process or even end with you making the perfect decision. That's okay! If you make a decision on a school and it ends up not being what's best for you, you can always transfer. This decision is never final.
Remember - your coaches and parents love you with or without diving.