Just to review, collegiate track and field is a team sport. How the athlete fits into each team dynamic is critical in the recruiting process. Being a state qualifier or even a state champion means nothing if the athlete can’t contribute to collegiate team scoring immediately.Therefore, choosing a program that is a good fit for the athlete’s success is more important than choosing a program that is fitting for the ego. Success is always better than failure in the long-run.
With over 5,000 collegiate programs to choose from, narrowing down the right fit can be difficult. The process takes time, so starting after freshman year in high school is a great time to start. A simple process to keep in mind on how to go about the process is to remember the three C’s: Create a List, Contact Schools, Clearinghouse Protocols.
Create a List
It is an impossible task to ask a high school freshman kid to think about their future, nonetheless, the school they want to attend after they graduate. However, it is a necessary task that will eliminate possible stress junior and senior year. Sitting down and starting that list should take all of sophomore year.
Start first with future goals as a career, and then find what schools offer the best course work for that related career. Start with schools that have always been a dream, schools in states you would love to visit, schools with a “cool-factor” that stand out to the student. The list should be long so to eliminate every missed possibility.
Athletically, choose schools in each division level (Division 1, 2, 3, NAIA). A simple way to look at the differences in division levels would be on the spectrum of Athletically focused onto Academically focused programs. Division 1 programs will be more focused on athletics, Division 3 schools more on academics, and Division 2 laying in between. Of course, it is more complicated than that, but that is just a simple way to divide the division levels.
The great thing about track and field is that when an athlete puts out a great mark/time, it counts across the world, no matter what division you are in. Keep that in mind.
Division 1 is the top level of college track and field. The athletes are generally the top in the world, and usually are from all around the world. For Division 2 level, athletes have the marks and ability to make a D1 program, but choose D2 because they can get a better scholarship package and be more competitive. Division 3 programs do not offer athletic scholarships, but offer an insurmountable amount of academic scholarships to athletes in comparison. Athletes choose D3 for the fit of the school and academic programs.
NAIA is a separate entity from NCAA, but run the same. Think of it as the brother of NCAA, a brother with equal skill and ability. Athletes in NAIA have shown to compete with the likes of D2 schools and even D1 marks. Again, the great thing about track is that affiliation, age, location all have no effect on ranking across the world. Also, no matter the school, you can all still run at the same meet during the season.
Throughout your sophomore year, your long list should begin to become shorter through researching schools, preferences changing, focus on career narrowing, etc. The creating of your list is an ongoing process that will have scratches and additions, but should hopefully narrow down the search for the right program. The summer before Junior year should be the time when you contact coaches, filling out “prospective athlete” questionnaires on their websites to show your interest. With over 50,000 new students graduating each year, make it easy for coaches by showing your interest in the program.
Once you have made contact, use that opportunity to learn more. Ask about the academics of the school, the type of athletes they are in search for, ways to improve your chances to selection. Ask how scholarships are given and opportunities for other scholarships at the school. Ask about the life at the school, and even set up trips to visit the school. This will be the life for the next 4-6, so interview the candidate before making the choice.
To be a student-athlete in NCAA and NAIA, athletes must first meet the criteria to be eligible. The criteria made of a minimum GPA score, ACT or SAT test score, as well as intent to be an athlete. Once the athlete has created a profile and cleared by the eligibility center, then the recruiting process can begin. All this can be found by looking up “NCAA Clearinghouse”.
The recruiting process involves coaches being allowed to contact you, as opposed to you contacting them. Scholarships offer can be officially made to athletes and acceptance into a collegiate program are all completed during the recruiting process.
The process should be made fun as opposed to stressful. A lot of the stress comes from not knowing the process or not knowing what the future holds. By creating a list, contacting schools, and going through clearinghouse protocols, the stress of finding a school that will accept the athlete should be simplified. If the research was done properly and the right programs were found, the confidence of being accepted into a program can be eliminated, and the only stress left will be making the final choice of picking through accepted offers.