And how you can become a more attractive recruit.

Unlike football or basketball, track and field is a team sport that’s focused on individual results. Therefore, it should be no surprise that the college recruiting and scholarship process is different as well. And, if you’re hoping to compete in track and field at the collegiate level, and earn a scholarship to do so, there are a few things you need to know first:

Full Scholarships Can Be Limited

At the NCAA Division I level, the average track and field team roster size is 39 for men and 40 for women. However, since track and field is a smaller sport compared to football or basketball, DI teams are limited to 12.6 scholarships for men and 18 for women. As an equivalency sport, track and field can offer partial scholarships to be able to provide at least some funding to more athletes on the team. However, using the average women’s roster as an example, a coach could offer a scholarship covering 50% of one’s college expenses to 36 team members and potentially still leave four team members without any scholarship assistance.

In addition, there are two big scholarship “ifs” to also consider in track and field. If a program is not fully funded, a coach may not have the funds to max out his team to the full scholarship limit (i.e. only having the budget for 10 scholarships for men and 15 for women). On top of that, no scholarships may be available for a team in a given recruiting year if a coach already has his or her scholarships committed.

Performance Counts, But So Does Potential

If you’re a sprinter, speed is obviously important. But if you have the potential to improve your form and technique to compete in multiple events, you may gain more interest and scholarship opportunities from college coaches. If you’re a middle-distance runner, a coach may consider your potential and willingness to push yourself into longer-distance events and even into cross country. Make sure your recruiting profile and highlight video not only shows off your speed, form, athleticism, and strength but also your potential to grow as an athlete in college.

More Events Can Equal More Scholarship Money

Everyone loves a 2-for-the-price-of-1 offer, and college track and field coaches are no different. For a college coach looking to stretch his or her scholarship budget, an athlete who can fill more than one role on a track and field team can likely earn more scholarship money. For instance, if you’re a sprinter who can also run hurdles or a discus thrower who’s willing to try throwing the hammer, you’ll be more attractive as a recruit. That’s because a coach can offer you more scholarship money for two events for less than the scholarship cost of two separate athletes. In other words, as a multi-event athlete, you make yourself a scholarship budget-friendly recruit.

Some Teams Focus On Certain Disciplines

You may be a hurdler with your heart set on attending College A, but if that school’s track program puts a greater emphasis on its cross country efforts, you may be out of luck. By contrast, as a pole vaulter, you may be more attractive to some programs than others. The lesson here is, when you’re assembling a list of schools you’re interested in, look at the current track team roster to ensure that your specialty will make the team interested in you.

Academics Matter As Much As Athletics

As noted above, full track and field scholarships are the exceptions, not the norm. And, since partial track and field scholarships are far more prevalent, it’s likely you or your family will still be responsible for some of your college expenses. However, if you’ve got a solid GPA and good entrance exam scores, you may also qualify for an academic scholarship. That’s important because good grades in high school show a coach you can handle the load in college, and that means you’re less of academic risk. In addition, the ability to earn an academic scholarship also makes you more attractive as a recruit, as the more academic scholarship money you can earn can help a coach stretch his or her scholarship budget further.

Remember too that, after Division I, there are more opportunities to compete collegiately at Division III schools than anywhere else. The only problem is, DIII schools don’t offer athletic scholarships. The majority of them do have abundant academic scholarships available, however. And that means, if a track and field scholarship doesn’t happen at a bigger school, your good grades can still keep you on the track in college.

Regardless of your event, earning a track and field scholarship will take some effort. And whether you’re a sprinter or a high jumper, the recruiting process can feel like a marathon, so make sure you’re prepared.

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