What you should know before you begin your recruiting process.
Just as javelin throwers are very different from sprinters, track and field recruiting is a different process when compared to sports such as football or basketball. Given that, make sure you’re familiar with these facts about track and field recruiting so that when you’re ready to consider different college programs, you can hit the ground running … or throwing.
Different Disciplines Are Recruited Differently
Since a track and field team is comprised of several different disciplines, just about every coach and every school take a different approach to recruiting. For instance, some teams place more emphasis on track athletes than those in field events. Other schools may more actively pursue cross country athletes. In addition, many college athletic departments lack the budget to fully fund a track and field team, meaning a given team may not necessarily recruit to fill out every available spot. In some other cases, a school may only fund a women’s team. Ultimately, every team has a different culture and different expectations for different disciplines. As you consider different track and field programs, make sure the team’s goals, direction, and expectations align with yours.
A Full Ride Scholarship Isn’t Guaranteed
At the NCAA Division I and II levels, track and field is an equivalency sport and that means a coach can award partial scholarships to many athletes so long as the total of those partial scholarships doesn’t add up to exceed a team’s scholarship limit (12.6 scholarships per team for men and 18 scholarships per team for women). However, with an average DI roster of 39 men and 40 women, it’s quite clear that just about everyone will wind up with a partial scholarship at best. Full track and field scholarships can certainly be earned by elite athletes, but in doing so, a coach reduces the scholarship money he or she might have for the rest of the team proportionally. All of the above is to say, if you’re exceptional but not elite, don’t count on a full scholarship for track and field.
It’s A Numbers Game
There are roughly 100 more women’s track and field programs than men’s, but just about the same number of college athletes for each gender. However, since fewer female athletes compete in track and field, about 6.9% of those female athletes go on to compete at the collegiate level, compared to 5.7% for men. However, once you narrow it down to only Division I, just 2.5% of female high athletes step up to compete collegiately. For men, the percentage is just 1.7%. And remember, since there are more roster spots than scholarships, even an elite DI track and field athlete may not have a full scholarship.
Add it all up, and for females, the odds of making a Division I track and field roster are roughly 40 to 1, while the odds of making any college roster sit about 14 to 1. For males, the odds are even longer with the chances of making a DI team at about 60 to 1 and the shot of competing for any college at 17 to 1. The point is, if you want to improve your odds of making a college track and field team, make sure you’ve got the numbers on your side, athletically and academically.
You May Have To Carry The Baton
NCAA recruiting regulations say that a college coach can’t contact you before June 15th after your sophomore year of high school. That said, if a college coach doesn’t reach out to you, don’t worry about it. That actually makes you part of the majority. Given the limited nature of many schools’ recruiting budgets, track and field coaches may often lack the funds to recruit on a broad scale. In fact, according to one NCAA survey, only 18% of the track and field athletes reported any contact initiated by a college coach. Further, the vast majority of male and female track and field athletes surveyed said they didn’t receive a verbal scholarship offer until their senior year of high school
With all that said, you can reach out to college programs at any time to request information on athletics or admissions, recruiting questionnaires, or camp invitations. Have an online recruiting profile and highlight video prepared and then, once coaches can contact you, take the initiative and call or email coaches yourself. Since college coaches may not be able to aggressively recruit, it’s OK to work aggressively to get on a coach’s radar and get yourself recruited.
Perhaps more than in any other sport, individual statistics can tell a track and field coach a lot about the athletes they’re recruiting. That’s why it’s important to use accurate times and scores on your recruiting profile with no guesses or estimates. Further, make sure to document your experience in your discipline so a coach can track your growth and improvement. And finally, make sure all your stats are easily accessible and all in one place. In addition to lacking big recruiting budgets, college track and field coaches often lack time, so be sure to provide everything they need so they can see everything you have to offer quickly and efficiently.
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