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January 13, 2020

South Dakota’s Swim Coach Dives into Academics and the Recruiting Process

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Photo by CSCSAA

Jason Mahowald, University of South Dakota‘s men’s and women’s swimming and diving coach, dives into his 15th season with the Coyotes this 2019-20.. Coach Mahowald’s helped progress the program from a DII to DI in the 2009-10 season. 

At the NCAA DII National Championships, Mahowald led the women’s swimming and diving team to three-straight-top finishes. This same year his team was named an Academic All-American team by collegeswimming.com. 

Some of Coach Mahowald Accolades: 

  • Coach of the year honors twice 
  • 2006-07,  named the North Central Conference Coach of the Year
  • 2008-09, named the NSC Coach of the Year
  • 2008-2009 honored as one of the outstanding coaches for the season by the American Swimming Coaches Association 
  • Received the Coaching Excellence Award

Coach Mahowald’s Team Achievements:

  • Mahowald coached the men’s and women’s teams to second-place finishes in 2019
  • 2018-19 the Coyotes claimed their first Summit League title in school history in swimming events with a win in the 800 free relay 
  • 2017-18 season, men finished second in the Summit League Championships for the school’s highest-ever placing with a score of 695 points
  • 2016-17 season, Mahowald helped the men’s and women’s teams set 16 school records

Coach Mahowald dove in with LRT Sports to share recruiting advice and talk about the importance of hard work and respect. 

LRT: What motivated you to coach for the University of South Dakota? 

Coach Mahowald: It was in my mind that I wanted a  job that has a lot of potential for team growth, and it was relatively close to my family. 

LRT: What are the 3 most important qualities you look for in an athlete? 

  1. Hardworking – they have to be able to put the work in to be successful. 
  2. Respectful – I try to watch how they treat their parents, it is usually a good indication of how they will treat me and their teammates. 
  3. Fit – I want it to be the right fit for both the athlete and our team. 

LRT: What advice can you give a recruit who is looking to play for you?

Coach Mahowald: If you are looking for a family-style environment, then we are the place for you if you’re not then you should look at other schools.

LRT: Do you think about the team’s dynamics when recruiting? 

Coach Mahowald: Yes and no.  I try and look for people that will be a good fit for what we are trying to do.  And team dynamics play a role in that.  However, our team dynamic change every year, and someone that might not have fit a year ago may fit well with the new group of athletes. 

LRT: What is something you wish all high school students who wanted to swim or dive in college knew prior to being recruited?

Coach Mahowald: What it really takes to get a scholarship.  A lot of kids have the idea that all athletes are on full scholarships, that is not even close to the truth. 

LRT: What age do you start the recruiting process? Is there a typical timeline followed for a given recruiting class?

Coach Mahowald: I typically start looking at kids in their junior year of high school.  We try to get them on campus early in their senior year and commit to us before Christmas.  

LRT: Do you recruit internationally?

Coach Mahowald: Yes. We still stay close to home and mostly recruit Canadian student-athletes.  Canadians are the easiest group of all the international kids to get admitted to USD.  

LRT: How heavily of a factor are academics during the recruiting process? When do you recommend student-athletes begin taking standardized tests (SAT, ACT, etc.) and what is an ideal score to strive for?

Coach Mahowald: Academics play a huge role.  If you can’t be academically successful, you won’t be able to swim. We would like to see an ACT score from early in your junior year if possible.  We also see a big difference in the success of our students with ACT scores at or above 24. We see success below that as well, but above 24 seems to be a magic number.  

LRT: Is social media an important aspect of recruiting? What advice do you have for student-athletes regarding their online presence?

Coach Mahowald: We try and check all of our recruit’s social media accounts before we have them on campus.  I would tell recruits to be careful of the pictures and statements that they post online.  I have stopped recruiting kids because of the pictures that I saw on their Facebook accounts.  

LRT: What do you hope to get out of on-campus visits from a recruit (both unofficial and official)?

Coach Mahowald: A feel of how they would fit on our team.  I like to hear from our swimmers and what they think of the recruits.  And also give the recruit an idea of what it would be like to go to school and swim here.  

LRT: What is the most fulfilling part of being a coach?

Coach Mahowald: Watching the swimmers and divers grow up and mature into adults. The amount of change that happened in the four years is amazing.  

Edited by Caroline Kurdej

YOUR JOURNEY STARTS HERE