For probably the last decade, I’ve obsessively tracked the game of musical chairs that is college swim coach hiring. First, it was because I was obsessed with getting a job, then wanted to get one that actually paid money.
I never quit, despite the fact that I haven’t coached college swimming (gulp) for five years. Over the years of reading the hiring announcements, I noticed a silly trend. It wasn’t until recently until I fully understood what it meant.
Look up the most recent college coaching announcement that you care about. I give it better than 50% odds that it contains the phrase “wealth of experience”. It’s used so frequently that it has lost all meaning. Coaches with a few years to a few decades both get cited as having a “wealth”.
Let me decode this almost meaningless phrase for you. It almost always means “this person was employed in the same/similar job somewhere else in college”. If it’s an assistant coach getting hired, the person was an assistant coach somewhere else (or occasionally a high level swimmer). If it’s a Head Coach, this person was a head coach (or Associate Head Coach) somewhere else.
There is a creativity crisis in college swimming. I already discussed how this lack of creativity really hurts the gender balance.
It’s not a joke to refer to the hiring process as I did in the opening sentence as “musical chairs’. A great many talented people are overlooked for a whole host of positions because they do not possess the narrowly defined “wealth of experience” that is necessary to land a college job.
It’s as if, as I said to a friend on the phone yesterday, people really believe that a club swimming coach cannot possibly learn how to sell people on swimming for them and log phone calls (recruiting). Or pass an open book 20 question test that you GET AN HOUR TO TAKE?
The absurdity of this lack of creativity is only highlighted by the fact that the higher up the ranks you go, the more creative hiring gets. At the very top, programs almost always just try to hire “the best person available” versus a very narrow list of qualifications.
When Gary Taylor left NC State to coach Auburn, did Braden Holloway look for another up and coming distance coach in the mold of Taylor? No, he plucked perhaps the most overqualified non-head coach in college swimming, and former conference rival, Mark Bernardino.
Now perhaps that is a poor example for what I’m arguing, what with Bernardino being a lifelong college swim coach. But what if Matt Kredich had decided a few years back that Bill Boomer was “just a d3 coach” who wouldn’t understand how to coach D1 swimmers?
In fact, you could probably make a long list just of Matt Kredich hiring people who didn’t “fit the mold” of an SEC assistant coach.
Again, if you want a competitive advantage, the opportunity it sitting there for the smart people in college swimming to think beyond a “wealth of experience” and look at the broader pool of talented, brilliant and hard-working people who would fill their job opportunities in ways they can’t even imagine.