Are you ready to blast out of the blocks with your recruiting?
With more than 1,300 colleges and universities offering track and field programs, it’s often assumed that landing a spot on a college roster is easy. But the fact is, only 6.9% of female high school athletes who compete in track and field will compete at any college level. For men, the odds are even lower, with only 5.7% of all high school track and field athletes competing in college. Add in that track and field is an equivalency sport, which makes full scholarships rare, and getting yourself recruited may take a little extra work.
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to fast-track your track and field recruiting. Just follow these four steps:
• Start Early
While the recruiting cycles for college football and basketball are fairly well known, track and field is unique in that there is no established recruiting process. That means you can start your recruiting process as early as your 9th or 10th-grade year. Granted, you may still have room to grow and improve at that age, but showing more coaches your potential sooner will improve your chances of competing in college later.
The best way to start is to fill out recruiting questionnaires for the schools you might be interested in attending. Doing so simply indicates your interest in that school and that program, and it’s the first step to landing on a coach’s radar. There’s no limit to how many college questionnaires you can fill out. However, since college coaches are prohibited from contacting potential recruits until September 1 of their junior year in high school, don’t worry if filling out a questionnaire doesn’t immediately bring coaches to your door.
• Know What Coaches Are Looking For
College coaches have plenty of recruits to consider, but usually very little time. That means it’s very important that you give them what they want to see. Make sure your recruiting profile includes valid and accurate data. If you’re a runner, coaches want to see Fully Automatic Times (FAT). If you’re a thrower, be sure to measure using accurate tapes and include the exact weight of your discus, javelin, shot put, or hammer. Make sure all the times and data you provide are accurate and not estimates or guesstimates. You should also include your training history so a coach will have a feel for how long you’ve been competing in your discipline. And, remember to make it easy for coaches to recruit you by putting all of the information above, as well as your contact information, GPA, entrance exam scores, measurables, and recruiting video together in one, easily accessible recruiting profile.
While your personal record times and marks are what will grab a coach’s attention, there are some intangibles most look for as well. Some coaches emphasize strength or speed. Others consider your personality and how you’ll fit with their existing team dynamic. Others will focus on your training habits and how they mesh with their own training and practice philosophy. So, while there’s no way to prepare for everything every coach might look for, putting your best foot forward in your recruiting profile can help you…
• Know Where You’ll Fit Best
When starting your recruiting process, it’s important to honestly assess your skills and talents to help you more accurately target your search. The easiest way to do that is to compare your stats to those of the most recent recruiting class at the schools you’re interested in. Finding the schools where your stats or size measure up to the current recruits can be a good guide to figuring out where you might fit best. Remember that you still have time to grow and improve if your stats aren’t comparable, so don’t get discouraged. And if you’re still not sure, ask your high school or club coaches for their opinion on where you might be best suited to compete in college.
One other thing to consider is what you want out of a college experience. Competing at higher levels means you’ll spend the bulk of your college years competing or training, while athletes at lower levels have more time to enjoy a full college student experience. Make sure the experience you want factors into finding the best fit.
• You’ve Got To Take The Lead
As noted above, most college track and field programs lack big recruiting budgets and their coaches may have little time to recruit all across the country. That means it’s up to you to get on a coach’s radar and get yourself recruited. Fill out questionnaires and reach out to college coaches via email or in person at camps or meets. If a coach from a school in a lower division contacts you, be sure to reply. If a school that’s not on your list asks you to fill out their questionnaire, do it. Keep all your options open and keep pushing until you find the recruiting opportunity, and the college track and field opportunity, that’s right for you.
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