The Nebraska swim and dive team’s constant improvement under head coach Pablo Morales has been helped by the team’s recruiting, retention and improvement. With those efforts, the Huskers have been able to build a team which can compete with the top programs.
In 2018, swimswam.com ranked Nebraska No. 1 in the nation in recruiting, retention and improvement.
The Huskers never rest in recruiting as they start looking for new talent as early as high schoolers’ sophomore years, which is the earliest the team is able to get in contact with athletes under NCAA rules.
Before getting in contact with the swimmers, associate head coach Patrick Rowan, who also handles recruiting, said they look at the swimmers’ times and that the main part of recruiting starts after that first glance.
The next step is creating a database where everything can be organized and looked after. The database contains the swimmers that the school is interested in and wants to talk to.
“Beginning in the summer, going into the swimmer’s junior year, we start to have contact with them, some phone calls and emails to really see if the people we are interested in feel the same way or take a look at us,” Rowan said.
Once that first layer of communication starts and the Huskers take a look at the grades and times that meet what the Huskers are looking for, Rowan or Morales will try and get their eyes on the swimmer in person.
In-person, the coaches look to see what the swimmers have to offer, such as seeing if they are a young swimmer with some mistakes that are easily manageable or if the swimmer’s technique can get better, according to Rowan.
Rowan and Morales also sit down and talk with the swimmer’s coaches because they want to know the other side of the swimmer.
“Seeing if the swimmer does other sports in their free time that takes away from swimming, or if their practice schedules don’t involve two practices per day, little things like that that we want to figure out before going further with any swimmer,” Rowan said.
Rowan said that he looks for two main things, a good streamline and great kicking, because those are two of the most fundamental areas that a swimmer has to get down.
Another thing Rowan likes to do is interview them and ask them some questions they may not have heard before so he knows they aren’t just going to say what he wants to hear.
One of the main ways to get a commitment from an athlete is through the campus visit. Rowan said he likes to be in touch with the swimmer four or five times before bringing up a potential visit.
“Getting a chance to know one another, getting to know the parents as well because they are a main factor in the decision as well,” Rowan said. “Making sure that we can get everyone involved in the process before visiting so then when the time comes, everyone feels the same way.”
During the official visit, the swimmers will stay with other swimmers on the team to see if they will fit with the team and vice versa. Along with the time spent with the other swimmers and the contact with Rowan, the Huskers will look toward what they call their “big hitter” to seal the deal on the swimmers coming to Nebraska.
“No matter what, to end off the visit, I will have the swimmer sit down one-on-one with Pablo, with his amazing background and the success that he is growing here, he will tell you what you are going to have to put in here and what we are expecting,” Rowan said.
Once those foundations are set, it’s time for the swimmer to start making their decisions. Rowan said he likes to keep in contact with the swimmers at least once a week to check up and see how everything is going in that process.
Along with communication, Rowan said he tries to update his list as much as he can, making sure he didn’t miss a swim the swimmer had or see if someone not on the list popped up and could be a potential recruit.
Another part of recruiting that makes everything easier is being honest with the swimmers and hoping they are honest back, according to Rowan.
“We have to be honest with the spots we have left or the scholarship money that we can offer or if we don’t feel like it would be a great fit because we hope they are the same way with us,” Rowan said.
Improvement and retention come in once the swimmers are on the team, because if the swimmers are improving, they are likely becoming happy and want to stay, according to Rowan.
Rowan and Morales both said they want to bring in the best swimmers but also bring in swimmers that will fit with the team.
“Being able to come into a place that I was sure of yet and be with the girls and the coaches and feel like this is my new home was the only feeling I had once I started here at UNL,” junior Madison Coughlen said.