While many seniors have made commitments to colleges for next year's cross country and track seasons, some are still making decisions, and others would love to simply be contacted by a college or university. While there are many articles out there about how one should plan to be recruited, this article will not be about that. We are obviously in late April and recruiting is starting to wind down in the next month or so. But there still is hope for you seniors who wish to get on the radar of colleges.
According to a 2016 SportsForce article, the average NCAA Division 1 recruiting budget for men's sports programs is $700,000. That seems like a lot, but 50% of that goes to football and basketball, leaving roughly $350,000 for all other sports: baseball, golf, lacrosse, track/field & cross country, etc. to find recruits. Basically, that's $50,000 for every other sport on a college campus. And depending on where track/field and cross country rank in importance on a particular college campus will also dictate if that dollar amount is even lower. In a 2018 Forbes article on the same subject, Forbes data pretty much matched SportForce's, plus it showed how women's sports' recruiting budgets are anywhere from 25% to 50% that of the men's. And this is NCAA Division 1. When it comes to NCAA D2, D3, NAIA, and NJCAA recruiting budgets, you are talking pennies on the dollar of what D1 programs are able to spend.
And why is this important? Well, unless you're a top nationally or state-ranked athlete, you might not be hearing from schools outside of your state (or for that matter, even schools within your state) because college coaches will first focus and use most of their budgets on their top athletic recruits; plus, as mentioned above, coaches usually don't have unlimited economic and staff resources to look for the good high school athletes. When I was a junior college coach for three years (which was only a stipend position not full-time), I had an assistant coach and that's it. I had no recruiting budget, and yet I still had to find athletes who were interested in running at the junior college level. Not to get sidetracked with my traumatic junior college recruiting woes (although I did find many great kids and runners in the long run - Go Gateway Geckos!), the point is that most coaches, especially the non-D1 schools of the world, have to be creative to attract athletes to their schools, especially when they are not "name brand ones" like ASU, Standford, Oregon, etc.
Bottom line is that you (as a senior) need to do your part to get recruited. Below are the DOs and DONTs of the recruiting process - especially late in the game, like we are now.
- Find schools online that you can compete for and email or call the coaches. How do you know you can compete there? Look up what past freshmen have done and see how closely your results match up.
- Make sure your grades are good enough for the school you wish to compete for. You're most likely not going to Standford with a C average and below-average SAT scores, even if you're a very good athlete.
- Have a "track and field/xc resume" or at least have links of your accomplishments to give to coaches when they ask for them.
- Respond to ALL coaches who reach out to you. You think you're a D1 talent but only D2 schools are contacting you. If you want to compete in college, then be open to ALL possibilities, not just the schools that you have heard of before. You never know what the best deal for you will be in terms of financial assistance, academics, team, coach, and location.
- If possible, have a video of yourself competing. Not as important in track/field and cross country, but it's good for a coach to see what you're all about.
- Know a few things about a school (other than their track/field team) that is reaching out to you or that you are reaching out to. This shows the coach you have a real interest in his/her program.
- Follow up with a coach or program, if you really want to go there. Again, make sure athletically and academically you fit the bill for the school you wish to attend. There are not many 4:40 high school boy milers going to be able to run at Oregon right away and there are no javelin throwers for Harvard who had below a 2.0 GPA in high school, even if they were tops in the nation.
- See if your high school coach has any collegiate contacts he/she could put you in touch with.
- Have your parents reach out to coaches on your behalf. You must be the one driving this ship - not mom or dad. Coaches want to see how you are going to handle yourself once on campus.
- Think you're not good enough to compete in college just because you're not D1 material (Breaking News: most of us aren't). There is a school for you to compete in if you're open to all possibilities.
- Wait for coaches to contact you. Be proactive as stated in the "Do" list above.
- Lie about times or distances. While today most of this can be found online, don't say you have jumped 24-feet, when really you've jumped 22-11. Own what you have done and be proud of your accomplishments.
- Follow the crowd. If there is a school in North Dakota that you've never heard of but is interested in you, then talk to them and find out about their program. There are hundreds of programs out there - most of them you have never heard of, I promise.
- Be another teen in high school who misses out on a collegiate career because you didn't take action and thought more coaches should be looking for you.
If you take this advice, then you will have a good chance to find a school for you. Good luck and those unsigned seniors, get us your info ASAP!