Bearcats Dip Into Rich International Talent Pool
Weronika Wasiakowska

Nov. 16, 2011

By Megan Roehm

When it comes to recruiting for the University of Cincinnati swimming and diving team, head coach Monty Hopkins looks beyond just the local areas--and even beyond the United States. With three more commitments just this week from international students, Hopkins has the luxury of coaching a team full of very talented and very diverse athletes.

According to Hopkins, UC has been recruiting international students from all over since before he became coach, so he knows no different. While it may seem unusual to some, Hopkins said it is very common and simply happens through word of mouth.

"Before I got here we had signed three international guys just through word of mouth," he said. "That led to more international students coming here from other countries. We don't go over there, we don't have a network or anything like that, we just hope people that are here have a good experience and pass it on to the next."

That seems to be the case at Cincinnati, as more and more international students are committing to the team each season and having plenty of success. In the last five years at UC, the swimming and diving team has had four Jimmy Nippert Award winners, three being international students. Before that, there were three more international students taking the prize.

"That's the award for the most outstanding senior student athlete," Hopkins said. "Those names go in our record book. They are great swimmers and great students. They leave here with a tremendous appreciation for what the University of Cincinnati does for them and a tremendous loyalty and love for the university."

The rest of the team has equal respect toward them, as they make sure to make everyone feel welcome on the team and feel like they belong there.

"Our team really does a great job of making these international students feel welcome, making them a part of the team immediately," Hopkins said. "I think our swimmers make a huge impact by making these students from other countries feel welcome. Any of them would tell you that when they came here they weren't sure if they would like it and they leave here with more friends than they ever imagined."



While leaving everything behind to come to UC can be an extreme adjustment for these students, sophomore Weronika Wasiakowska agrees that the experience is well worth it.

"At first I thought I would for sure go back home after school, but I'm thinking about applying for grad school here or at least staying here for a little bit," she said. "And I hope to keep swimming for a long time too but we will see how it goes."

Wasiakowska said while Hopkins and her teammates drew her to Cincinnati in the beginning, the campus life, facilities and the city in general make it even better.

Freshman Awse Ma'aya said there are many benefits to coming to the US, including being able to achieve his goals in life, but admits he is still trying to get used to everything new to him.

"I can do what I set out to do, which is co-op in biomedical engineering and get my swimming level at the highest degree I can reach," Ma'aya said. "Coming here, leaving everything behind and focusing on swimming and my degree at the same time is the hardest part, plus just getting used to everything."

Hopkins said his overall responsibility to UC is to recruit the best athletes he can find, no matter where they may be from.

"My responsibility to UC is to have the best team I can put together," he said. "So if we can get good swimmers to come here, it seems to me that's the right thing to do."

Hopkins said he has yet to be disappointed with any of his recruits, and though some may be from Cincinnati and others may be from Sweden or Poland, it makes no difference to him as their coach.

"My experience with these guys is that they are great leaders and hard working," he said. "I don't look at them as being `international' so to speak. They are just Bearcats. And I think they see it that way too."