Before anybody called or spoke with me I bought a spiral notebook to take notes in (this notebook is actually made of recycled elephant poop… just a random note). I’ve found it handy to have something to jot notes in as I talk to coaches. I make a page for each school as they call, and I write down the name(s) of the coach or coaches and their phone number. On the very first page of my notebook, I’ve written down some standard questions I ask everybody in case I experience a brain-fart during the conversation. Also, on the first page I’ve written down the things in a program that are important to me, which is a very common question coaches ask.
Step 1: The Introduction
Hopefully, you already know how to answer a phone and handle the standard ‘Hello, how are you?’ I’ve found that most coaches want to hear about practice that morning , and I usually tell them what kind of work-out it was (aerobic, VO2, sprinting, heart rate swimming, etc.) and a general description of how I felt. That’s usually sufficient for them, or at least it seems to be. Sometimes coaches will talk about the academic side of the school first, and ask what I’m interested in studying. I’m interested in secondary education, chemistry, or kinesiology. Usually I then get information about the different academic programs for each interest. After talking about the school or just standard small-talk, most times coaches will ask if I have any questions about their school. This doesn’t apply to all first calls though. On the first call some coaches just want to call to say ‘hi’ and let me know that they’re interested, but they don’t go into a lot about the school and swim program. But then on the second call they’ll tell me about the school and ask if I have questions. So don’t worry if they don’t go all out on the first call.
Step 2: Ask Questions
I have formulated a list of questions, as mentioned earlier, and I find it less stressful to have a routine when I get to this point in a conversation. If I don’t know the team’s set up, I ask if University XYZ’s team is a combined or separate. I personally have no preference if it is or not, but it’s something I like to know. Next, I ask what a week of training at University XYZ would look like. Most coaches have a pattern like on Monday morning they do some easy long swimming and Monday night is sprinting. Then on Tuesday morning they do power work and Tuesday night they swim IM, etc. I then compare how they train to how I’m used to training and what I think works best for me. If the coach doesn’t address different training groups they have, then I ask if they split up into sprint, mid-distance, and distance groups or whatever other groups they may have. After we talk about their swim training, I ask about strength training. Strength training is the one thing I’ve found that will most likely vary from school to school. Some do a lot of weight lifting in a gym, and some barely do any of that and stick with a lot of medicine ball exercises and running. After I know enough about their training, I ask if the coaching staff plans on staying at University XYZ for a while, or at least for the next 5-6 years (when I would be done). I personally don’t want to be recruited by one coach, and then train under someone totally different along the line. These are the questions I ask on the first call or first questioning session.
Step 3: Make a Full Circle
Towards the end of the call or conversation I like to tell coaches what I like about their program or what I found interesting. I personally always like to end on a positive spin and sometimes articulating what I like about a program or school helps me digest the information I just ingested. Even if we didn’t cover a lot about the swim program or school, I like to point out something that interested or entertained me in the conversation. It creates a ‘full circle’ in the conversation, and I think that it’s a nice way to ease towards hanging up.
Step 4: The End
Towards the very close of the conversation, sometimes coaches ask if I’m interested in University XYZ and if it’s ok for them to call during the next week. I try answer honestly, yet politely, so that I don’t waste their time or mine. It’s been awkward saying ‘no thanks’ to a coach I just shared a 35-minute conversation with (35 minutes has been the average conversation time for me, but it varies a lot depending on what all you cover). But I know it’s best to be honest with a coach so that they can move on and so that I don’t have to worry about it. The key thing to remember is to remain polite.
If I absolutely did not like something or am not interested one bit in a school, I don’t say that. I usually say something along the lines of ‘Coach, I appreciate the interest and I think you have a great thing going, but I don’t feel/think this is the best program for me. Thank you so much though, I enjoyed talking with you.’ I don’t want a coach to think poorly of me whether or not I go to their school. If it’s the alternate situation, I’m definitely interested in this school, then I make sure to let them know. I give the coach estimation as to where they rank (top six, eight, ten etc.). Sometimes an invitation to an official visit is extended, and I write down the dates in my notebook and tell the coach I’ll let them know. Unless I’m 110% sure that this school is in my top five, I just write down the dates and tell them that I’ll e-mail them or let them know later. I’ve found that after a call I’ll be on a ‘University XYZ- high’ and be thinking ‘This place is great! They’re definitely in my top five!’. Then after a few hours or a day, I can go over the phone call and think about the school with a level head.
So that was my take on the anatomy of a call. I hope it helps any others who wonder what happens on a call or what to say. I know I wish I knew what to expect when they first started rolling in, but hopefully my findings and outlook help!
Remember, when the black line ends, flip!