USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities and play at the college level. Jason Smith is a former NCAA DIII athlete and college coach at all three division levels. Jason is just one of many former college and professional athletes, college coaches and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience and dedication, along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community, have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.
With so much training in the sport, men’s track and field recruiting can feel like it’s all about getting the best possible PR. But the truth is that potential recruits will have to do more than just perform on the track or field to earn a difficult-to-secure roster spot on a college team. Athletes and families need to be mindful of the recruiting calendar and rules and always stay proactive about communicating with college coaches. To provide insight on the college recruiting process, we here at NCSA put together the Men’s College Track and Field Recruiting Guide, which potential track and field recruits should read and reference. In this article, you’ll find some key takeaways from the guide.
Recruiting rules and calendar
Like in many college sports, college coaches at the NCAA Division I and Division II levels cannot contact potential recruits until June 15 after their sophomore year of high school. But college coaches at the Division III, NAIA and NJCAA (junior college) levels don’t have the same restrictions—they’re allowed to reach out to recruits who show interest at any point in time. Prior to the important June 15 date, Division I and Division II programs start the recruiting process by watching results, searching prospect databases and sending non-recruiting materials, such as questionnaires, camp information or non-athletic information. Read more about the recruiting rules and calendar.
Men’s track and field differs from most college sports in that the recruiting guidelines are quite varied and there is no “typical” recruiting process. That’s because track and field has shot putters, hurdlers, long-distance runners and a variety of different athletes with different competition PRs. Regardless of when or where you start, or which events you compete in, all potential recruits should be proactive and take charge of their own recruiting because college coaches can’t find all the recruits they need on their own.
According to a 2017 NCAA study, 43% of surveyed athletes reported that their first contact with a college coach occurred during their junior year of high school, followed closely by 39% during senior year. When recruiting, college coaches look for valid and accurate data from Fully Automatic Times (FAT), training history and accessible information. Read more about men’s track and field recruiting guidelines and specific times and distances.
Scholarships and financial aid
Athletes and families can potentially find athletic scholarships for men’s track and field at the NCAA Division I and Division II levels, as well as at the NAIA and junior college levels. At the Division III level, there are no athletic scholarships, but coaches can help recruits secure merit and need-based aid. Men’s track and field is an equivalency sport, meaning that coaches do not have to award full scholarships and can instead break them up among athletes on the roster. Fortunately, fully funded track and field teams do tend to have more scholarships per team than many other sports. There is a limit of 12.6 full scholarships per team at the Division I and Division II levels and up to 20 scholarships at the junior college level. Read more about men’s track and field scholarships.
Men’s track and field camps
It’s beneficial for potential recruits to get seen by college coaches firsthand. Though coaches do sometimes attend big meets to check out athletes, track and field camps provide a great opportunity for elite athletes to showcase their skills in a competitive environment, while gaining maximum exposure to college coaches. Track camps may not be essential for top recruits, but they are still a great way to work on improving skills, build a relationship with college coaches and check out college campuses. However, athletes and families should make sure camps fit their budget and are tailored to their current ability level. For example, freshmen may be outmatched at a Division I premier camp. Read more about camps and see a full list of men’s track and field camps.
Colleges with men’s track and field
There are roughly 1,160 men’s track and field college teams across all the major athletic divisions: NCAA Division I, Division I and Division III, as well as NAIA and junior colleges. Though that may seem like a lot, earning a roster spot on a college team is still difficult, with only around 4.8% of men’s track athletes earning a college roster spot. Additionally, recruits will want to find the college that offers them the best athletic, academic, financial and social fit so that they have the best chance of staying on the roster all four years and completing their college degree. Read more about men’s track and field colleges and see a full list of teams.