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Augustana College Swimming’s Scott Johannsen Shares His Favorite Recruiting Advice

augustana college swimmingScott Johannsen of Augustana College Swimming & Diving program drops by to share some recruiting tips and insight. He just completed his 6th season at Augustana. Over the course of the 2013-2014 season the Vikings broke 23 school records, and for the second straight year placing 4th at the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin Championships this past February.

Augustana College is a private liberal arts college based out of Rock Island, Illinois, and the Vikings, who compete in Division III, have both a men’s and women’s swim team.

What are the biggest mistakes or assumptions student/athletes make during the recruiting process?

I think the biggest mistake made during the recruiting process is not keeping the lines of communications open. When I talk to a recruit the first thing I do is introduce myself and my program. I talk about how I do things at Augustana College. I talk about my training philosophy, the importance I place on the academic side of college and a complete over view of the team make up. I try to give a clear description of what being a part of the Augustana program is all about. The whole time during that initial conversation I keep asking the athlete if they have any questions and I also ask what is important to them, what they want out of swimming in college. It is hopefully a very open conversation.

At the end of the conversation, I remind them that this conversation started because I feel they would make a good fit with my program. I have already seen their times and know what they are capable of. I then tell them that the ball is now in their court, if they like what I have told them about the Augustana program, then the more they communicate with me the more I will continue to communicate with them. Communication is as simple as keeping me updated on how their season is going, what meets they have coming up, any questions they have about the school or the swimming program.

I will always respond to a recruit. It is when I don’t hear from a recruit that sends a signal to me. If I don’t hear from a recruit that tells me that either the school is not for them or the swimming program doesn’t fit what they are looking for. That is perfectly understandable, however I am not going to continue to call or communicate if there is not genuine interest. My advice, if you are the slightest bit interested in any college program, communicate regularly with the coach or the coaching staff.

What surprises student/athletes most during their first year? What do you find they are least prepared for, or possibly, are most surprised to see/experience.

I think the biggest adjustment that most freshmen have to make is being treated as an adult. At the college level you are expected to be on time to your scheduled activities. We expect you to be on time to practice, on time to class, where ever you need to be. We also expect you to be prepared. If you have morning practice, I expect you on the deck ready to go when practice starts. I don’t care whether you were up late and are tired. You need to know how to manage your time and get things done so you can get a good night sleep so you can have a productive practice. Mommy and Daddy aren’t here to tell you when to go to bed or when to study. It is all up to you.

I find that freshmen are least prepared for the rigors of the academics during their first term on campus. It is not subject matter that is difficult; it is learning what college instructors expect. In high school a good student could usually write a paper the night before it was due. As long as they had a good idea of the subject matter they usually received a good grade. In college the instructors expect you to thoroughly know your subject matter; you are not going to BS your way through a paper in college.

What are some non-swimming and non-academic questions that you ask athletes during the recruiting process?

During the initial conversation with a student/athlete I always ask them to tell me a little about themselves away from the pool. I already know about their swimming, what they like to do. Sometimes I have to coax it out of them; I want to know about their families, do they participate in other sports, involved in community activities, clubs at school or anything that is important to them.

By asking this question I can find out ways to make this athlete feel comfortable about Augustana as a school and as a team. I may know that someone on the team shares those same types of interests, I may know of an organization on campus that is a good fit. Deciding on what college to attend is a big decision, there is more to the college experience than just swimming and class work. College is where you really learn about yourself, knowing that others share your ideas and passion makes for a better overall fit.

What is the most important answer you look for from a student/athlete when talking to them for the first time?

I don’t listen for any specific answer to any specific question, I listen for passion. I want an athlete that is passionate about swimming and being a student. I want someone who has goals both in the pool and out.  I want someone that wants to be the very best they can be and is willing to give the effort that it takes to reach those goals. I want a team player that is willing to work hard and push and be pushed by their teammates.

Going to college and swimming in college is a privilege, not a right. You have to enjoy and want to go to the next level.

What are some “red flags” of prospective student/athletes?

The biggest “red flag” is attitude. I will end a conversation or a relationship quickly if the student/athlete I am talking to comes across that they are too good for my school or program. Don’t get me wrong I like a little cocky attitude, every athlete has a little bit in them. I don’t like arrogance.

You have to remember, that as a coach I have researched your times, I know how fast you are. I am talking to you because I feel that you would be a good fit for my program, a good asset for which to continue to build my program. I firmly believe that attitude is a big part of being a competitor; you have to believe in yourself, your training and your abilities. Just make sure your attitude reflects you in a positive image.

What make your program and team culture unique from other swim teams?

What makes the swimming program at Augustana unique is our pure sprint based philosophy. When I say sprint based I mean completely sprint based. I believe that what you do in practice, you will do in a meet. If you want to swim fast you need to train fast, it is that simple.

Here is how a typical season progresses at Augustana College. This year the men’s team reached the 18th national ranking during the season in division III. The first week of the season we will do nothing but 25’s. We won’t do one single flip turn. We will swim 25’s as hard and fast as we can go; we will do them on a little rest, a lot of rest and everything in between. We will do stroke, kicks, under waters, you name it but it will be as fast as you can go, all out effort. The next week we will move to 50’s with the same type of intensity. We will progress throughout the season adding 25 yards each week to our sets. By the end of the season we are sprinting 500’s on a regular basis.

Now if you think about the events in college, there is only one championship event longer than the 500 and that is the 1650. Our milers train right along with our sprinters. At Augustana we train the way we want to race, fast! Sprint training is a season long process; we aim for championships and learn how to swim fast throughout the season. Sprint training is both physical and mental. An athlete has to learn how to sprint when they are tired, how to take a race out fast and have the confidence that they can finish fast as well. We train the way we want to race, HARD & FAST.

We live by the motto, Sprint, Die, Repeat. This past year the men’s and women’s teams broke 23 school records, last year 14, the year before 10. I just completed my 6th season at Augustana and every year the talent levels get better and better. Next year I expect to make a big splash at the national meet.

What does your school offer that is unique or special from other institutions?

The nice thing I like about Augustana College is that it is a select private liberal arts school. I like the fact that I interact with the faculty on a regular basis and can keep a close eye on my athlete’s academic progress. One area of study that the swimming program seems to attract is those with a biology base, Pre- Medicine, Pre-Veterinary, Pre – Dentistry etc. I know the national average to get into the first two graduate programs of your choice is 46%, at Augustana it is 74%. Swimmers are usually good students with high career goals. It is fun working with them both as a student and as an athlete.

Outside of swimming and academic performance, what most impresses you about a new recruit?

The recruit that knows what he or she wants out of life impresses me. They know what they want to be when all the swimming and studying is over. I like a recruit that knows what they want and knows that it will take hard work to get there and is willing to put forth the effort. In life, effort is everything; if you want to be a great swimmer, you need to put forth the effort. If you want to be a great student, you need to put forth the effort. If you want a great career, you need to put forth the effort. If you want a great family life, you need to put forth the effort. Nobody is going to hand you anything; if you want it, go out and take it. That impresses me the most. I am more impressed with the average swimmer that works hard than the talented swimmer that is lazy and wastes their talents. In the long run, hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard.

What is the best piece of advice you can give to someone about going through the recruiting process?

The best advice I can give is to keep the lines of communication open. Ask questions when you have questions, don’t assume anything. Making the decision where to attend college is a big one, you have to feel comfortable with the coach, the school, the team, everything. Don’t try to impress anyone; the coach has contacted you because you have the swimming talent to be an asset to their program. Be honest in knowing what you want out of your college experience.

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Olivier Poirier-Leroy Olivier Poirier-Leroy is the founder of He is an author, former national level swimmer, two-time Olympic Trials qualifier, and swim coach.

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