Written By: Zach Mertens
Recruiting is at the heart of every NCAA swimming and diving program. Every year, thousands of prospective student-athletes will flood recruiting databases and services each year in an attempt to find “the right school” that balances their athletic and academic goals. On the other side of this are college coaches staring at a nearly endless stream of emails, calls, texts, and filled questionnaires who have the job of sorting out which prospective student-athletes will work, and which ones won’t. This is one of the most competitive arenas in all of college athletics, and for good reason: the team that can effectively recruit is the team that will be the most competitive and the most consistent. Drury University sits in an odd place in the world of NCAA Swimming and Diving. A Division II program with one of the longest histories of success found anywhere in the NCAA requires a special sort of student-athlete to continue this tradition. Drury’s success is in part perpetuated by its recruiting process that highlights diversity in almost every class. This type of diversity isn’t just about recruiting swimmers internationally, it is about creating an environment that has many different impactful voices that lend their experiences and talents to the team. This style of intentional diversity stabilizes the team and empowers each individual to contribute, creating sustained success.
Division II Swimming and Diving has long been the landing ground for a diverse group of student-athletes. The strong international swimming influence on this level of the sport often makes teams far more diverse than most of their Division I and III counterparts. However, Drury University’s roster is not solely composed of the fastest international swimmers that find their way to campus, but with student-athletes from many different swimming backgrounds, educational goals, and life experiences. We believe that here at Drury, it’s not just about recruiting faster swimmers or those swimmers who will develop to impact the team, but the resources that each swimmer will bring to the team environment in order to accomplish the team’s goals. This diverse team places international medalists with high school only swimmers; graduate students with true college freshmen; transfer students who didn’t pick Drury on their first recruitment with second generation Drury swimmers and tells each one that they are a critical piece to the team’s most successful puzzle-to-date. Drury University Swimming and Diving values how each individual’s own experiences enrich those around them, bringing the team closer together and interconnecting the success of each individual to the overall success of the team.
The long term success of any team is determined by the members that make it up. The continued embrace of diversity at Drury University only deepens its ability to create success for all its student-athletes. At a time when the NCAA faces unparalleled adversity, Drury University’s Swimming and Diving Program relies upon diversity to connect the team and grow personally and athletically though a season of uncertainty.
Zach Mertens is entering his second season as assistant coach for Drury University Swimming and Diving. During his tenure, his swimmers have broken multiple team, GLVC, and NCAA Division II Records. Prior to serving as assistant coach for Drury, Mertens was the Head Coach for Rock Bridge, Hickman, and Battle High Schools in Columbia, MO while also serving as an age group coach for Columbia Swim Club. His high school programs won multiple Missouri High School State Championships, and set multiple state records, and while at Columbia Swim Club his swimmers set multiple central zone and Missouri Valley Records across age categories ranging from 10u to 17-18 before moving to Drury University as the graduate assistant in the fall of 2017. Mertens also currently an age group coach for Springfield Aquatics and for the Springfield Panthers, a summer league team.