John Barry | Head Coach | Diving | American University

Describe the qualities that your program is looking for in a potential student-athlete?

I seek open minded, enthusiastic, and organized young people who are excited about studying here. We explain very early in the recruiting process that as a student athlete, they must be students first…..if academics are not the focus, then the athletics won’t matter. Most often, our most successful athletes are also the most successful students. Those who are less focused/too casual about academics almost always fall behind in athletics as well.

Prospects should show a proven track record of balancing their excellent academics with regular training. The perfect candidate would be passionate about learning in class, and equally passionate about elevating our Team. I’d hope that they would be serious about these things, but not take themselves so seriously as to ruin the journey.

Prospects should be mature enough to communicate with others regularly, with respect, speed, honesty, integrity, and present themselves and their Team in the best light. A great athlete or student with poor communications skills is a nightmare for a coach.


Could you give us an example of a current or former player who exceeded your expectations, highlighting the reasons that player excelled?

Our best diver in over a decade came a few thousand miles to study Biology here, and was actually considering not diving in college. She has excelled in academics her freshman and sophomore years, having one of the highest GPA’s in the Patriot League (USMA-West Point, US Naval Academy, Bucknell, Colgate, others), while scoring 2nd and 3rd place in our Conference Championships.

As our Swimming AND Diving Team MVP, she practiced less than others due to class requirements, scored more than anyone else, took it in stride, did extra work when she could, and seemed to have everything in order. Her single mindedness for academics was consistently equaled by her focus in practice and in competition. Academically and athletically, she is energetic, patient, organized, supportive of others, confident but humble, not dramatic, and able to keep things in perspective. Her only fault might be putting too much pressure on herself, which is something more manageable than most other coaching functions.

The best recruits have a zest for learning in the class or in their sport, and do not tend to sweat the small stuff. They are happy at work, and they are great at prioritization. They lead by example, are highly motivated, and driven by results. They respect and expect more from those around them.