Recruiting. If you have ever held a college coaching job, applied to a college coaching job, or talked to a college coach, you have probably heard this word more than you'd ever like to. Recruiting is the lifeblood of college athletic programs, and most coaches will admit that it is at least as important as your actual coaching ability at this level.
That is true. Recruiting is incredibly important. It's also something anyone can learn to do, and may already have a lot of skills for that they don't even know. Coaches who look past well-qualified coaches because of lack of "recruiting" experience do so at their own disadvantage.
This is one of many reasons that college coaching remains a weird, cliquish sub-culture in the swimming world. Every year, hundreds of otherwise nice resumes face rejection from the college ranks because of this.
What is recruiting? For one thing, recruiting is marketing a college swimming program. A club coach who runs their own business may have experience with marketing. Now, in college coaching you have to deal with NCAA rules around how you can market.
These rules are made by what I can only assume are miserable people paid to ask the question "What would the most insane college football coach try to do to get an edge?" and then get their legislative pens out.
Recruiting is also sales. You sell to a family and a student athlete the promise of studying and swimming at your school. Coaching any kind of practice is it's own kind of sales job- after all you will not be successful as a coach if your swimmers are not "buying" the workouts you are "selling".
In fact, career club coaches can bring a lot to the table that career college coaches cannot when it comes to recruiting. Many of them have way more "reps" in their back pocket interacting with families and high school age swimmers.
They have seen the process from the other side and know what works and what doesn't. They have sat and wondered "why doesn't (anonymous college coach) just call me? Don't they know I could help them right now?".
The final absurdity is the notion that coaches without college experience are a great risk to commit NCAA violations. It doesn't hold water- especially when you consider how easy it is to pass a NCAA recruiting test (an open book test on one chapter of the NCAA manual) and the infrastructure that athletic departments have built in compliance to prevent this very thing.
Ultimately, the divide that exists between the skill set it takes to be a successful college coach and a successful club coach is not as great as the hiring market would indicate. College swimming would benefit from a more open coaching pool, and individual programs that see the opportunities in hiring "club only" coaches will gain a competitive advantage.
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