College

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Planning and Placement

Track and field is unique in the world of collegiate sports because there is no “typical” recruiting process. Rules vary based on where you live as well as where the school is located at which you want to compete. In addition, every track event is scouted differently. For example, a distance runner will be evaluated on different criteria than a sprinter or hurdler will.

Knowing how to navigate the track and field recruiting process may give you a potential advantage over other student athletes who are not as familiar with the requirements. SPIRE has created a resource to help you during your college planning and placement process that will help you learn how to get noticed, meet deadlines, and stay on track.
If you take away nothing else, remember this: in track and field—as in all collegiate sports—you need to take charge of your own recruiting. Narrow down the schools you’d like to attend and compete for. Then, take responsibility for introducing yourself to your sport’s decision-makers at these schools. Keep yourself in front of them in a professional, respectful way with regular emails or phone calls. Work hard to improve your athletic performance but on track in the classroom at the same time.

  • Men’s Track and Field—Indoor and Outdoor Divisions

    This sport is divided into indoor track and field, whose events take place in the winter with national championships in March, and outdoor track and field, which awards national title in June. At the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, eight field, 12 track and one multi-event competition events (decathlon) are held.

    Points scored through all NCAA track and field events count toward team totals at competitions throughout the season, at conferences, and at national championships. However, more focus is generally given to college track events vs. college field events. Of the field events, shot put, pole vault and long jump are the most popular.

  • Men’s Collegiate Track and Field by the Numbers

    More than 600,000 young men compete annually in track and field events at the high school level annually. Less than 29,000—or fewer than 5%– go on to compete at the NCAA DI, DII or DIII level. About 11,400 (1.9%)) athletes compete at the DI level, 7,200 (1.2%) at the DII level and 10,200 (1.7%) at DIII. Nine percent of DI and 5 percent of DII men’s track and field recruits are international student athletes. Nearly 4,000 athletes go on to compete at the NAIA level.

    These numbers should demonstrate that the high school athlete who wants to continue competing in track and field at the college level is about to enter a very competitive arena. Earning a spot on a collegiate track and field roster—and being awarded athletic scholarship money—will take time, discipline, and persistence—but it’s not impossible.

  • What does it take to become an NCAA track and field athlete?

    It doesn’t hurt if you have some of the best times in the country, but there are other attributes that add to your appeal to a coach or scout. For example, how do you respond to adversity? Can you keep your head when you are behind the field? How do you manage stress or pressure? Don’t forget– recruiters are looking at the whole picture.
    Getting recruited also takes name recognition. In almost all instances, you need to let coaches know that you are interested in getting into their track and field programs.

    • Take every opportunity possible to learn from top track and field coaches in your area so that you can improve your times and distances. Volunteer at your local Boys and Girls club, or mentor a younger student athlete. in the future and, in some cases, working with college coaches who you may be competing
    • Participate in track and field camps and showcases. This is a good way to catch the eye of the coaching staff at the college, university, or other organization that is sponsoring the event. Track and field staff from nearby schools often lend a hand at these camps and showcases; they’ll be watching, too. Overall, these events are a great way to build connections, improve your physical performance and mental toughness, and get an idea of to what kinds of coaches and programs you respond best. Many of these session will also create a video for you that will prove invaluable as you put yourself in front of coaches whose programs interest you.
    • If you don’t have one already, create a good quality video that shows you competing in each of your events that highlights your form, and—if you’re a distance runner—your strategy.

    In short, you may have talent, you may have self-discipline, but unless you get your name out there in a consistent, respectful way, you may fly right under your preferred program’s radar. Show those coaches how much you want to compete in for them in their track and field program. That type of inner drive gets attention and distinguish yourself as one of the fewer than 5% of high school athletes who goes on to a DI, DII or DIII collegiate track and field program.

  • When can colleges start recruiting for men’s track and field programs?

    The NCAA has always had a strict set of rules dictating when, where, and how college coaches and scouts can contact potential recruits. Note that the COVID-19 pandemic has altered NCAA recruiting and eligibility for the foreseeable future, but typically recruiting rules are as follows:

    • For DI and DII coaches: Almost all contact is off-limits until June 15 after a recruit’s sophomore year in high school.
    • DIII and NAIA coaches: These coaches can reach out to student athletes who show interest in their schools at any time.
  • Impact of COVID-19 on College Track and Field Recruiting

    The risks associated with the spread of COVID-19 have significantly changed college level track and field recruiting. The NCAA has suspended all in-person recruiting at the DI level through August 31, 2020. Coaches are not allowed to do any in-person scouting or meet face to face with recruits on campus. Strength and conditioning coaches, however, are now able to view workouts virtually when a student athlete requests it.

    While the NCAA has encouraged colleges and universities to stop all official and unofficial visits to campus, recruiting has not stopped altogether. Coaches, scouts and recruits can still communicate through phone calls, text messages, email, and social media.

  • Impact of COVID-19 on Eligibility Requirements for Track and Field Student Athletes

    COVID-19 forced the NCAA to cancel all championships in the spring of 2020, prompting the organization to propose “eligibility relief” to senior student athletes who missed out on the opportunity to compete in their sports at that time. The decision to offer this additional year of eligibility is at the discretion of individual schools, and seniors who opt to return will not count towards the team’s scholarship limit.

    What do these changes in eligibility mean for the student athlete trying to earn a spot on a DI or DII track and field roster for the 2020-21 or the 2021-22 school year?

    2020-21 Recruits
    Because eligibility relief allows senior athletes to compete for an additional year, a program’s coach’s recruiting needs may change—especially if they decide to hold roster spots for current athletes who plan to return for a fifth year. If you have been in touch with a coach, or have committed to play for a program, make sure you check in with your contacts at that school now, and continue to do so regularly.

    If you are a 2020 senior who has already committed, eligibility relief could impact your rookie year. If the program you plan to play for includes several seniors, you could be facing a very different roster if your school decides to honor an extension of eligibility. Fortunately, the NCAA DI Council announced that seniors who return will not count against the team’s scholarship limit.

    2021-22 Recruits
    We don’t know exactly how the NCAA’s proposed eligibility extension for current 2020 college seniors will impact 2021 recruits, but it’s safe to say that roster spot availability and scholarship opportunities will not be affected for DI programs. However, the recruiting “dead period” in effect through at least August 31st will change the recruiting process. Just because swimming coaches can’t recruit in person, potential 2021 NCAA college program recruits can still stay on the scouting staff’s radar.

  • Getting Noticed

    Just because in-person visits by coaches and scouts aren’t possible right now doesn’t mean that recruiting has to stop. Again, it’s up to you to think of creative ways to get yourself in front of the coaching and scouting staff at the colleges and universities on your short list. Here are a few things you can try:

    • Create a highlight video. Even though coaches currently can’t evaluate you in person at events, deliver the next best thing: create a highlight video and embed it on your student athlete profile. If a picture’s worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million. Put together the best one you can.
    • Reach out via email. An introductory email is a great way to start the recruiting conversation with the coach of a program you’re interested in. Be informed about the school in general, and how the coaching staff approaches your sport. Embed the link to your highlight video, and end the email letting the coach know you’ll be following up in the coming week or so.
    • Pick up the phone. Keep the conversation going with a phone call to the coach several weeks later. Asking if they’ve had an opportunity to review your email and view your video is a good opening. Know what else you want to say on the phone call and practice in advance.

    Remember: The NCAA has proposed and approved “eligibility relief” to student athletes who missed out on the opportunity to compete in the spring of 2020, but the actual decision to offer this additional year of eligibility is at the discretion of individual schools. Therefore, the best advice is always to keep in touch with your contacts at the schools you’re interested in to determine what—if any—changes COVID-19 has created in their sports programs related to eligibility and recruiting.

  • Men’s Top NCAA College Track and Field Programs

    Next College Student Athlete™ (NCSA), one of the first athletic recruiting networks to introduce digital technology to the world of college recruiting, recently analyzed 950 four-year colleges with men’s track and field programs. The list* included colleges that offer track, field, and cross country programs, only track and field, and only cross country at the NCAA DI, DII, DIII levels as well as the NAIA level.

    Division I

    1. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    2. Stanford University
    3. UCLA, University of California at LosAngeles
    4. Princeton University
    5. University of Florida
    6. University of Michigan
    7. UVA, University of Virginia
    8. University of California
    9. Harvard University
    10. Yale University

    Division II

    1. University of California, San Diego
    2. Hillsdale College
    3. California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
    4. Western Washington University
    5. Colorado School of Mines
    6. Grand Valley State University
    7. Bentley University
    8. California State University, Chico
    9. Truman State University
    10. Lewis University

    Division III

    1. MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    2. California Institute of Technology
    3. Amherst College
    4. Johns Hopkins University
    5. University of Chicago
    6. University of California, Santa Cruz
    7. Tufts University
    8. Emory University
    9. Carnegie Mellon
    10. Pomona-Pitzer Colleges

    NAIA

    1. Loyola University, New Orleans
    2. Bethel University, Indiana
    3. The College of Idaho
    4. University of Michigan, Dearborn
    5. Asbury University
    6. Indiana Wesleyan University
    7. Concordia University, Nebraska
    8. College of the Ozarks
    9. Robert Morris University, Illinois
    10. Taylor University

    For a searchable list of the 950 men’s collegiate track and field programs evaluated by NCSA, visit https://www.ncsasports.org/best-colleges/best-naia-mens-track-and-field-colleges

    *based on a proprietary analysis of NCSA Favorites data obtained from the college search activity of the more than 2 million student athletes on the organization’s network, general academic rankings by US News & World Report’s Best Colleges, IPEDS graduation rates, and IPEDS average “cost after aid.”

  • Women’s Track and Field

    Coaches award women’s track and field scholarships to NCAA DI and DII college and universities, NAIA schools, and junior colleges. This section contains includes general information about how these scholarships are awarded, what coaches look for in a potential recruit, and standard times and marks used for evaluation and comparison at the collegiate level. We hope this information is helpful to you in building a short list of colleges and universities where you as a student athlete might potentially be recruited.

    Let’s start by reviewing the terms and concepts you are likely to encounter as you research what it takes to participate in track and field at a college level, and what you need to do to earn a possible athletic scholarship.

  • What Kind of Sport is Women’s Track and Field Classified As?

    NCAA DI and DII, NAIA, and junior colleges classify their sports programs either as “head count” or equivalency sports. Track and field—both women’s and men’s—is considered an equivalency sport.

    What does that mean?

    • Head count sports are the so-called revenue sports that include men’s DI basketball and DI-A football, and women’s DI basketball, tennis, volleyball and gymnastic. These scholarships are always full rides.
    • Equivalency sports scholarships include DI men’s baseball, rifle, skiing, cross-country, track and field, soccer, fencing, swimming, golf, tennis, gymnastics, volleyball, ice hockey, water polo, lacrosse and wrestling. For DI women, equivalency sports include bowling, lacrosse, rowing, cross-country, track and field, skiing, fencing, soccer, field hockey, softball, golf, swimming, ice hockey and water polo, and all DII and NAIA sports. These types of scholarships are usually partial.

    NCAA DIII programs can’t award athletic scholarships, but coaches can get the college’s Admission’s department’s assistance in creating financial aid packages made up of grants, need-based or merit-based aid, and/or academic scholarships.

    Breaking News: Beginning August 1, 2020, any need-based or merit-based aid awarded to a student athlete in an eligible collegiate track and field program will not count against the mandated maximum athletic scholarship limit. Prior to this rule change, athletes had to meet certain criteria for their additional aid to not be counted against a team’s athletic scholarship limit.

    There will still be a cap on the amount of athletic scholarships track and field teams can award, but student athletes can apply for as much need-based aid and merit-based aid as they can qualify for. This rule will allow track and field programs with funds available to extend more aid to athletes who need it.

  • Women’s Collegiate Track and Field by the Numbers

    Although there are more than 1,000 US colleges and universities that offer track and field programs for student-athletes, not all of them award athletic scholarships. See the chart below for a breakdown of the track and field scholarship limits for the NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA levels:

    Women’s INDOOR track and field scholarship limits by division level

    Division Level Number of Teams Average Team Size Scholarships Limit Per Team Scholarship Limit Type
    NCAA DI 332 39 18 Equivalency
    NCAA DII 196 31 12.6 Equivalency
    NCAA DIII 290 29 n/a N/A
    NAIA 165 21 12 Equivalency
    NJCAA 68 11 20 Equivalency
    Totals 1,051 26    

    Women’s OUTDOOR track and field scholarship limits by division level

    Division Level Number of Teams Average Team Size Scholarships Limit Per Team* Scholarship Limit Type
    NCAA DI 338 39 18 Equivalency
    NCAA DII 249 29 12.6 Equivalency
    NCAA DIII 320 28 N/A N/A
    NAIA 201 21 12 Equivalency
    NJCAA 109 11 20 Equivalency
    Totals 1,745 25    

    *Scholarship limits per team indicates the maximum number of scholarships a program may award each year.

  • What are Women’s Collegiate Track and Field Recruiting Standards?

    In most sports, including track and field, coaches set benchmarks, known as standards, which represent the baseline that potential recruits need to meet in order to obtain a scholarship. The more points that an athlete can earn at meets, the more likely they are to earn a scholarship.

    Compare your personal bests against these standards to determine at which college or university’s you are likely to make the biggest impact. Use this information to create a target list of schools so you can focus your efforts to be recruited. Remember: although showing motivation, having room to go, and being flexible are pluses, coaches are looking for student athletes who can earn points right away.

    Women’s Track and Field Recruiting Standards— DI

    Event DI Top DI Low
    60m 7.32 7.73
    3000m 9:02.81 10:56.92
    60mHH 8.31 8.83
    Weight Throw 70’6″ 50’10”
    Pentathlon 4197 3049
    100m 11.49 11.84
    200m 22.78 23.9
    400m 52.23 57.89
    800m 2:07.54 2:15.30
    1500m 4:12.77 4:42.15
    1600m 4:32.84 5:02.56
    5K XC 15:46.50 19:08.67
    10,000m 33:14.56 43:50.99
    100mH 13.51 14.05
    400mH 59.92 1:01.33
    3000m Steeple 9:49.87 12:39.31
    High Jump 5’10” 5’3″
    Pole Vault 14’2″ 12′
    Long Jump 21’1″ 18’6″
    Triple Jump 43’3″ 39’6″
    Shot Put 56′ 42’5″
    Discus 176’9″ 132’6″
    Hammer 208’5″ 143’1″
    Javelin 173’4″ 115’7″
    Heptathlon 5748 4470

    Women’s Track and Field Recruiting Standards—DII

    Event DII Top DII Low
    60m 7.58 8.13
    3000m 9:31.71 13:45.21
    60mHH 8.79 10.24
    Weight Throw 61’9″ 44’6″
    Pentathlon 3702 2150
    100m 11.97 12.9
    200m 24.26 25.04
    400m 55.11 59.55
    800m 2:09.22 2:34.55
    1500m 4:27.39 5:16.44
    1600m 4:47.55 5:34.89
    5K XC 17:00.35 21:10.58
    10,000m 35:08.56 44:25.68
    100mH 13.72 15.96
    400mH 1:00.98 1:10.75
    3000m Steeple 10:27.35 14:11.56
    High Jump 5’7″ 5′
    Pole Vault 12’6″ 9’6″
    Long Jump 19’9″ 16’10”
    Triple Jump 40’4″ 36′
    Shot Put 50′ 38’8″
    Discus 161’5″ 116′
    Hammer 181’5″ 155’4″
    Javelin 145’6″ 96’10”
    Heptathlon 4974 3679

    Women’s Track and Field Recruiting Standards- DIII

    Event DIII Top DIII Low
    60m 7.77 8.86
    3000m 9:44.34 11:08.42
    60mHH 9.04 9.93
    Weight Throw 56’1″ 41’2″
    Pentathlon 3431 2109
    100m 12.34 13.26
    200m 25.39 27.04
    400m 55.64 1:01.36
    800m 2:11.51 2:30.72
    1500m 4:33.98 5:08.80
    1600m 4:53.75 5:18.76
    5K XC 17:25.67 21:31.71
    10,000m 36:37.99 44:33.39
    100mH 14.39 18.54
    400mH 1:01.31 1:10.66
    3000m Steeple 10:41.30 12:47.78
    High Jump 5’7″ 4’8″
    Pole Vault 12′ 9’6″
    Long Jump 18’8″ 16’6″
    Triple Jump 38’6″ 33’9″
    Shot Put 45’1″ 35′
    Discus 146’1″ 112’4″
    Hammer 175’5″ 131’7″
    Javelin 131’5″ 103’1″
    Heptathlon 4487 3182

     

  • What does it take to become an NCAA track and field athlete?

    It doesn’t hurt if you have some of the best times in the country, but there are other attributes that add to your appeal to a coach or scout. For example, how do you respond to adversity? Can you keep your head when you are behind the field? How do you manage stress or pressure? Don’t forget– recruiters are looking at the whole picture.

    Getting recruited also takes name recognition. In almost all instances, you need to let coaches know that you are interested in getting into their track and field programs.

    • Take every opportunity possible to learn from top track and field coaches in your area so that you can improve your times and distances. Volunteer at your local Boys and Girls club, or mentor a younger student athlete. in the future and, in some cases, working with college coaches who you may be competing
    • Participate in track and field camps and showcases. This is a good way to catch the eye of the coaching staff at the college, university, or other organization that is sponsoring the event. Track and field staff from nearby schools often lend a hand at these camps and showcases; they’ll be watching, too. Overall, these events are a great way to build connections, improve your physical performance and mental toughness, and get an idea of to what kinds of coaches and programs you respond best. Many of these session will also create a video for you that will prove invaluable as you put yourself in front of coaches whose programs interest you.
    • If you don’t have one already, create a good quality video that shows you competing in each of your events that highlights your form, and—if you’re a distance runner—your strategy.

    In short, you may have talent, you may have self-discipline, but unless you get your name out there in a consistent, respectful way, you may fly right under your preferred program’s radar. Show those coaches how much you want to compete in for them in their track and field program. That type of inner drive gets attention and distinguish yourself as one of the fewer than 5% of high school athletes who goes on to a D1, D2 or D3 collegiate track and field program.

  • How do Women’s Collegiate Track and Field Coaches decide who gets a scholarship?

    Coaches tend to give athletic scholarships based on a recruit’s performance in individual or multiple events: Typically, they prioritize scholarships for recruits who can make an impact right away and put big scores on the board at meets. Consider targeting divisions and programs where your scores not only meet the standards but really stand out. You may be able to meet the standards of a DI school, but you may earn more scholarship money at the DII levels where you may be able to make a bigger impact. Make an effort to get to know the coaches who run the programs at your programs of choice so you can understand what their recruiting needs are. This will help you position yourself in the best way possible to fill a gap on the team roster.

    • Jumperswith proven track records of good marks who can score points immediately will catch a coaches eye, but solid performers who show room for improvement and a motivation to participate in year-round training are also invaluable.
    • Throwerswho are athletic and strong are valuable additions to any track and field team. Willingness to try specialty events like hammer and javelin that were not as popular at the high school level, is also a plus. Keep in mind that college weights are heavier than in high school, so coaches are always looking for strong discus or shot throwers.
    • Sprinterswho show an ability to compete and score across multiple events are move to the top of the list of potential recruits. As long as the sprinter is fast, most coaches will work with them on technique and form.
    • Middle distance runnerswho have outstanding speed, solid biomechanics, and a willingness to try different events such as cross country at the college level get noticed.

    Distance runners are recruited based on how well their running style fits within the college’s training program.

  • Impact of COVID-19 on Women’s NCAA Track and Field Recruiting

    The risks associated with the spread of COVID-19 have significantly changed college level track and field recruiting. The NCAA has suspended all in-person recruiting at the D1 level through August 31, 2020. Coaches are not allowed to do any in-person scouting or meet face to face with recruits on campus. Strength and conditioning coaches, however, are now able to view workouts virtually when a student athlete requests it.

    While the NCAA has encouraged colleges and universities to stop all official and unofficial visits to campus, recruiting has not stopped altogether. Coaches, scouts and recruits can still communicate through phone calls, text messages, email, and social media.

  • Impact of COVID-19 on Eligibility Requirements for Women’s Track and Field

    COVID-19 forced the NCAA to cancel all championships in the spring of 2020, prompting the organization to propose “eligibility relief” to senior student athletes who missed out on the opportunity to compete in their sports at that time. The decision to offer this additional year of eligibility is at the discretion of individual schools, and seniors who opt to return will not count towards the team’s scholarship limit.

    What do these changes in eligibility mean for the student athlete trying to earn a spot on a DI or DII track and field roster for the 2020-21 or the 2021-22 school year?

    2020-21 Recruits

    Because eligibility relief allows senior athletes to compete for an additional year, a program’s coach’s recruiting needs may change—especially if they decide to hold roster spots for current athletes who plan to return for a fifth year. If you have been in touch with a coach, or have committed to play for a program, make sure you check in with your contacts at that school now, and continue to do so regularly.

    If you are a 2020 senior who has already committed, eligibility relief could impact your rookie year. If the program you plan to play for includes several seniors, you could be facing a very different roster if your school decides to honor an extension of eligibility. Fortunately, the NCAA D1 Council announced that seniors who return will not count against the team’s scholarship limit.

    2021-22 Recruits

    We don’t know exactly how the NCAA’s proposed eligibility extension for current 2020 college seniors will impact 2021 recruits, but it’s safe to say that roster spot availability and scholarship opportunities will not be affected for D1 programs. However, the recruiting “dead period” in effect through at least August 31st will change the recruiting process. Just because swimming coaches can’t recruit in person, potential 2021 NCAA college program recruits can still stay on the scouting staff’s radar.

  • Women’s Track and Field—Getting Noticed

    Just because in-person visits by coaches and scouts aren’t possible right now doesn’t mean that recruiting has to stop. Again, it’s up to you to think of creative ways to get yourself in front of the coaching and scouting staff at the colleges and universities on your short list. Here are a few things you can try:

    • Create a highlight video. Even though coaches currently can’t evaluate you in person at events, deliver the next best thing: create a highlight video and embed it on your student athlete profile. If a picture’s worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million. Put together the best one you can.
    • Reach out via email. An introductory email is a great way to start the recruiting conversation with the coach of a program you’re interested in. Be informed about the school in general, and how the coaching staff approaches your sport. Embed the link to your highlight video, and end the email letting the coach know you’ll be following up in the coming week or so.
    • Pick up the phone. Keep the conversation going with a phone call to the coach several weeks later. Asking if they’ve had an opportunity to review your email and view your video is a good opening. Know what else you want to say on the phone call and practice in advance.

    Remember: The NCAA has proposed and approved “eligibility relief” to student athletes who missed out on the opportunity to compete in the spring of 2020, but the actual decision to offer this additional year of eligibility is at the discretion of individual schools. Therefore, the best advice is always to keep in touch with your contacts at the schools you’re interested in to determine what—if any—changes COVID-19 has created in their sports programs related to eligibility and recruiting.

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