Matt Musiak | Assistant Coach | Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving | Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)

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

1. Self-motivation and the ability to go beyond what the coach is asking for. For example, on a team which contains athletes of a whole range of abilities from just starting out to qualifying for NCAA championships, the workouts tend to be “average” so that everyone can do them. The weak people would have to push themselves while the elite athletes might be taking it easy. An athlete who can take the workout and do it just a little bit better then what the coach is asking is always noticed and those athletes tend to improve the most each year in their sport. Such people also tend to be generally more successful in school. Grades and athletic performance are usually a good indicator of this. People who are consistently at the top of their class academically and at the top of sport athletically are showing, in my opinion, that they have the motivation not just to complete the assignment, but complete it to the absolute best of their ability.

2. A team oriented individual who raises others around them to higher levels. This might also be defined as leadership, although it’s harder to identify this quality. The best athlete in the conference is absolutely useless if they do not integrate well into the team structure. Such an individual is divisive to the team structure and although they might compete at the top of their game, the rest of the team is so angry or distracted that they can’t reach their own potentials. I personally prefer to see people who come into the team motivated but unsure of themselves at first, who rise to the occasion and improve through hard work. This is ideal for the team because it sets an attitude of “if they can do it, then so can I”. They didn’t walk on to the team a star, but they became one the old fashioned way, which ultimately all of us can achieve, but few of us rarely believe.

3. Intelligent athletes are always appreciated. To be the best at any sport, you have to be smart and understand why you do certain things a particular way. Nutrition is always the example that comes to mind. It’s not enough just to know that you need to eat fruit and vegetables “because they are healthy”. If I can’t explain to an athlete why you need to eat certain foods, and when you need to eat certain foods, then I can’t help that person maximize their potential. And if that person can’t retain the knowledge after I am away from them, then the lesson is lost. Saying that the lesson is retained 2 seconds after it’s done being taught is not the same as going home and reaching for the apple instead of the Coke.

4. Finally, this isn’t so much a quality of a person, but love of the sport is probably the most important. We need people who love what they do. We need people who love to practice their sport, love to compete when the time comes, love the culture of the sport, the team mates, the type of person the sport attracts, and loves how all those different facets of the sport interact and combine. Without passion, no one gets better, intelligence doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t matter if you’re the best or the worst team mate.