A big question that we asked Coach Smyth was, what’s the essential quality that you look for in a recruit? According to BU Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving coach Bill Smyth, the answer is to be “fit.” However, it’s not the kind of fit that you would normally expect. Smyth says it’s more about “[fitting] your athletic criteria, academic criteria, culture, ability to improve and camaraderie with the current team.” It’s hard to argue with that tactic; throughout Smyth’s career, his athletes have boasted 116 individual conference championships. Through Smyth’s first ten years at BU, he owned a combined .746 dual meet win percentage with both the men’s and women’s teams.
Smyth got his coaching start as an assistant at the University of Virginia in 1994, where he helped develop their men’s and women’s teams until he came to BU in 2005. During his time at UVA, he was also heavily involved in recruiting high school athletes for the program, and things are no different at BU. When we asked about the dos and don’ts of the recruiting process, Smyth says the one thing you shouldn’t do is “assume. Ask any questions that come to mind during the process.” In contrast, he stressed the importance of making a positive impression on the team and coaches through every communication.
In May of 2005, Smyth took the head coaching job at Boston University. Since then, every school record with the exception of one has been reset at least once throughout his time there. He has also had one diver, and two swimmers qualify for the NCAA championships, including one who reset the Patriot League record in the women’s 1650-yard freestyle. With a winning record like Smyth’s comes a rigorous practice schedule, and his expectations for incoming athletes highlight this. He expects his athletes to train “eight to ten times per week for most of their club career.” He also is looking for a “tough curriculum, with more A’s than B’s on the transcript” in addition to honors, AP, and IB courses. Regarding weightlifting, he prefers some necessary experience; but nothing too sophisticated. What’s the best way to get on Smyth’s radar? Fill out his athletic questionnaire as thoroughly as possible.
In the world of swimming and diving, as applied to college recruiting, the process seems to be taking place earlier and earlier in high school. Smyth is no stranger to this concept; when we asked him what the best way an athlete can get a hold of him, he said “Earliest should be a month before their junior year begins all the way through the end of their junior year. Email is best initially, soon followed by phone calls on their end.” Junior year tends to be the most crucial year for athletes to reach out when it comes to swimming and diving, and according to Smyth, they should whittle their college choices down to their top five schools by the end of that year. He also recommends that athletes visit their schools of interest during spring break, summer, and any free time they have throughout their junior year. This isn’t to say that prospective athletes should only apply to five schools. His advice for recruits who get turned down by their dream schools is to “be ready for backups, and backups for the backups.”
Highlight videos can be an essential part of a prospective athlete’s recruiting profile. But in the realm of recruiting for swimming, these videos don’t exist, nor would it make sense to send one in. Instead, prospective swimmers should send in their best race videos, particularly a race of your fastest time in your best event. Stroke technique turns, and kicking ability are the three things that jump out at Smyth when he sees these videos, as it will give him more of an idea of what he could potentially be working with.
Last but not least, I want to end on the topic of social media. When it comes to an athlete’s social media page, Smyth believes that it’s a big factor when it comes to recruiting potential newcomers. He said that he doesn’t research his athlete’s social media habits, but advises prospects looking to get their foot in the door that a tweet or post that they make is in many ways permanent. In this aspect of recruiting, athletes should proceed with caution, as they may not be able to get away from something they posted.
When doing research in the recruiting process for my daughter I came across the LRT Sports website. I was immediately intrigued as this was another dimension of the recruiting process that many people don't even consider. My daughter and I could "short list" schools based on the education she was looking for, as well as the opportunity to play her sport. LRT Sports not only gave us pertinent information into the recruiting process with different interviews of coaches and players, it also gave us insight into current and/or former players' opinions on the coach of that school in her sport. We could use this information to re-prioritize my daughters list of schools based on this feedback. I have many friends that are, or will be, going through this process shortly and I highly recommend using LRT Sports as part of anyone's recruiting process.
The college process presents a myriad of challenges. Factor in athletics and it becomes even more daunting. Now, add the fact that you have zero experience with sports. What is a the mother of a college bound student-athlete to do? LRT Sports has truly lived up to its promise. It has kept "the college recruiting process honest and easy by providing first hand information about coaches, schools and the recruiting process." Their interviews with current students, coaches, and professional athletes have provided realistic guidance. I am much more informed because of LRT Sports! The coach ratings are the most helpful. LRT Sports interviews allow us to hear from students as to how the adults are impacting not only their athletic experience but also how they are helping to shape their adult self.
The C.A.L.C. was thrilled to have Keirsten Sires come and speak to us on multiple topics relevant to high school athletics today, including recruiting. Keirsten reached all of our students and left them with great strategies that will not only help on the fields, courts, and mats, but also in the game of recruiting. She was a true professional and delivered a wonderful message.
Now that the recruiting process and the related stress is over, I wanted to thank you for your guidance. You did so much more than we had expected. Once you started the process by matching the best academic schools first, not the best sport programs, I knew you were the one. The way you laid out a timeline of contacting coaches, visits, and camps completely took any guesswork out of the plan for us. All of the student athletes that you put us in touch with gave us a look from the inside, and made us more comfortable knowing what was coming. Finally, using your website as a resource for knowing what to expect from different coaches based on former recruit reviews gave my son confidence before our meetings. There is no way we could have figured this out on our own, you really put us in a great position when decision time came.
I think hearing from other athletes is very beneficial. To be able to learn from people’s mistakes, and to be able to have access to those voices is really helpful; especially voices that have been there and done that. It’s very important for people to have access to information that could benefit them, and in this case there are many voices that can help the next wave of athletes.
If you have something that’s going to spell [the recruiting process] out for you… it’s so valuable. I think what everyone at LRT Sports is doing to spread the word and help advocate and educate athletes on the recruitment process is incredible.
Without question would have used LRT Sports. It would have probably been one of the most valuable tools that I could have had. If you want to know what these coaches are really like then I think this is the best tool out there. I’m really glad you are allowing recruits to have a resource like this moving forward.