College Swim Coaches Look to Stand Against Recruiting High School Juniors

PHOENIX, Arizona, February 11. RECENTLY, the NCAA approved a boatload of recruiting deregulation that opened the floodgates for communication between coaches and recruits beginning this summer. The NCAA has, however, tabled the possibility of opening the door even wider by allowing high school juniors to also be contacted.

The College Swim Coaches Association of America looks to stand against this tabled rule from ever going into the rulebook. CSCAA Executive Director Joel Shinofield recently sent an open letter to his membership calling for all college coaches to fight to keep high school juniors from entering the recruiting pool in this way.

To put that in perspective, Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky (pictured above) would have been thrown into the recruiting pool this summer after completing her sophomore year at Stone Ridge. So, Ledecky, who will turn 16 in March, would see her incoming communication from coaches skyrocket heading into her junior year of school.

Here is Shinofield's letter in full:

Open letter to College Swim Coaches Association of America members by CSCAA Executive Director Joel Shinofield

I have three young sons who all seem to gravitate towards balls, rackets, lacrosse sticks and swimming. I have no idea if they will reach the requisite level of athletic ability for a college coach to recruit any of them one day, but if they do my vision for their recruiting process looks nothing like what the NCAA has proposed.

My hope is that they spend the bulk of their time in high school focused on school, practice, games, meets, youth groups and friends. I want them to develop great relationships with their teachers, coaches, friends and teammates. Most of all I want them to be kids who enjoy the moment they are in, with an eye on the future, but spending their time focused on today's practice, next week's term paper and a homecoming date. I recognize the idyllic nature of my vision, and many things out of my control may dictate the reality of the eight or so years my three sons will span in their consecutive high school careers. However, there is one thing I want to control, one thing I think we should all want to control and that is nature of recruiting in our sport.

The NCAA's proposed vision for the recruiting process involves essentially unlimited contact (approved) with my sons, your daughters or your neighbor's kids beginning after their sophomore year (tabled). During what is regarded as the most difficult academic year of high school and an important time for developing leadership ability, personal growth and social development, as well as an important time for training and acquiring new skills the NCAA proposes adding into that mix unfettered recruiting by NCAA Coaches. Given the developmental curve of our sport we will have far less of an idea of what athletes will fit into our programs in July after their sophomore year than we do now post junior year. The increase in our recruiting pool will not be linear, but rather exponential in nature. The effect of that exponential increase in recruiting files in our databases means that there will be more overlap of recruits. The workload of coaches will increase significantly, but the number of potential coaches interested in a single recruit explodes.

If you are a national junior team member you can probably manage just fine, you know you will get an offer from one of the schools on your list so you can politely fend off the myriad of calls, emails, Facebook messages and texts. However, just like us, the next level of recruit is uncertain of where their development will take them. Will they go from :51, or :52, to :48? Will they grow five inches or one? At what school will they be able to compete for a spot, will anyone make a scholarship offer or allow them to walk-on? These students have no idea where they will end up, so they accept every call, message and email. Imagine if that :52 is your child, receiving over 100 contacts per week as a high school junior. Imagine being the parent, the high school or club coach of that :52. Imagine getting 100 calls the week before your first SAT or ACT, as you prepare for your state meet or while you try to spend some quality time with your family.

Maybe that won't happen, but by extending our current recruiting time frame from 5 months, for early signing, or 10 months for late commitments to 17-22 months we certainly open up that possibility. 5 months is manageable, 20 months is intrusive. A top basketball recruit like Jabari Parks can self-limit his recruiting, he knows he is going somewhere on a full scholarship, can the :52 from a lower middle class family?

We all know the effect of more recruiting folders on our ability to coach the athletes currently on our rosters, to be engaged with our families, to attend church, fundraise, take part in professional development or even just take off for three days like Gregg Troy suggested at ASCA. I hope we don't have to figure that out, but we are professionals and we don't shy away from hard work, so if we have to we will. However, sixteen year-olds are not professionals and they should not be expected to spend half of their high school career as college recruits instead of high school students.

I urge all of you to work within your departments, institutions and conferences to make sure that Article 13.1 holds to a date after the completion of a prospect's junior year. Let your Athletic Director, conference commissioner, president know that this proposal is not in the best interests of the student-athlete, coaches, or the sport of swimming at the club, high school or collegiate level. There are better ways to reduce the number of pages in the NCAA Division I bylaws than by removing this common sense restriction.

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