What year in high school does recruiting begin for track and field?
The track and field recruiting process can begin whenever a student-athlete decides that they want to pursue their sport at the college level. There are no restrictions on requesting or receiving admissions materials, such as college brochures and pamphlets, camp invites or on filling out athletic recruiting questionnaires.
According to a 2017 NCAA study, which surveyed over 600 D1 men’s track and field student-athletes, only about 18 percent of high school underclassmen reported receiving contact from a college coach. If you’re an underclassman who hasn’t heard from a college coach yet, it’s okay. Forty-three percent of surveyed athletes reported that their first contact with a college coach occurred during their junior year of high school, followed closely by 39 percent during senior year. However, this survey was conducted before the new NCAA rules went into effect in 2019.
In 2019, the NCAA adopted new rules to curb the rise of early recruiting—for most sports. The current rules state that D1 track and field college coaches can start reaching out to prospective student-athletes as early as June 15 after their sophomore year. For track and field recruiting, the new rules shifted the timeline up by a few months—previously, any contact was prohibited until September 1 of an athlete’s junior year—meaning that these changes may speed up the recruiting timeline.
So, how is it possible to get a head start on track and field recruiting if there is zero off-campus communication allowed between a coach and a recruit before June 15 of an athlete’s sophomore year?
It’s important to remember that these rules only apply to D1 programs and coaches. While D2 recruiting timelines are similar to those at the D1 level, athletes are still able to reach out to D2 and D3 coaches and to NAIA and JUCO programs. Also, there is still plenty to do when managing your recruiting process. You’ll have to stay on top of your to-do’s during every season, make sure you’re on track to meet eligibility requirements, and stick to a regular workout schedule to improve your PRs.
You can also:
- Research the best men’s track and field programs at every division level.
- Focus on getting verified, accurate measurables to add to your profile.
- Explore competitive track and field meets and championships—so you’ll have an idea of the level of competition outside of your high school or local area.
- Continue to set goals for upcoming high-school, club or competition track and field meets.
Based on the new rules, track recruiting will begin to pick up speed for rising juniors and seniors. For D1 programs, off-campus contact, official visits and unofficial visits are allowed starting August 1 before an athlete’s junior year. This means that coaches will be able to meet with potential recruits at their homes or high schools, invite them for a fully funded campus tour or meet with them on campus to talk more about their recruitment.
What college track coaches look for in recruits
What do college coaches look for during track and field recruiting? For prospective track and field athletes, it often comes down to stats. Potential recruits will either have the times, distances and/or heights to compete at the college level or need to put in the time and effort to improve and get to that level.
Here are four ways to stand out in the track and field process:
- Valid and accurate data. For runners, coaches prefer Fully Automatic Times (FAT) over the use of handheld or stopwatch times. For throwers, make sure you’re using accurate measuring tapes and don’t forget to specify the exact weight of your discus, shot put, javelin or hammer throw.
- No guesstimating. Coaches don’t want to see projected or estimated times. If you had a great indoor time, don’t report it as a projection for the outdoor equivalent. Report your best times/marks in the specific events you achieved them.
- Training history. Coaches want to know how long you’ve been competing in your event—did you just start running recently? How long have you been a hurdler? Did you start in high school, middle school or even earlier?
- Accessible information. They want to see a recruit’s contact information, GPA, test scores and measurables all in one place—coaches don’t want to waste time looking for or requesting this info.
When it comes to landing a roster spot, or even getting scholarship money, all programs, regardless of division level, also have their own needs and coaching philosophies. For instance, some college coaches:
- Prefer strength over speed, and vice versa
- Focus on team building or bonding activities—making sure potential recruits will fit in with the team dynamic despite competing in more individualized events
- Devote more or less time to technical training and event-specific practices
- Value a recruit’s character over their athletic abilities
- Believe in different coaching styles—from motivating and educating athletes to do their best to pushing them to their limits during grueling practices
Coaches will also be evaluating a prospective athlete’s ability to meet the academic requirements for admission, and their capacity to maintain their eligibility once in school. To succeed throughout the track recruiting process, potential recruits will need to understand the track and field scholarship standards for their top schools and how to balance their sport with their academic strengths to find the best college fit.