COLLEGE TRACK AND FIELD RECRUITING -Ivy League Track and Field Recruiting

Princeton-8.jpg

Each year, Ivy League coaches use approximately 250 admission's spots on track and field/cross country recruits. Typically the divide between men's and women's programs is fairly equitable, leaving approximately 125 spots for each gender. Here is a list of factors to consider if you are hoping to compete and attend an Ivy.

 

1. START EARLY

 

Based on my 20 years as the head coach at Columbia University and recent conversations with many current Ivy League coaches, I estimate that approximately 75-80% of recruits apply with early decision. As a result, it is imperative that you get an early start on the recruiting process. Because of recent NCAA contact rule changes, coaches are now able to start calling you on September 1 of your junior year. Therefore, it is imperative that you ensure that you are on coach's radars prior to the start of your junior year.

 

2. DON'T BE DISCOURAGED

 

The idea of pursuing an Ivy can be somewhat intimidating due to impossibly low admission acceptance rates and the total cost of education. However, both areas of concern may be surprisingly less of a factor than you initially imagine.

It is not impossible to get into an Ivy League school: I cannot tell you how many recruits and future matriculants were told by their high school guidance counselors that they had no chance of being accepted and were discouraged to apply.

A great majority of outsiders grossly underestimate the value of athletics in the admission's process. If you are a great athlete, you will be able to overcome many perceived academic deficiencies. There are student-athletes being admitted to Ivy League schools who score in the 1100s on the SAT and 25 on the ACT.

Ivy League Schools can be affordable: It is possible that an Ivy can be among your cheaper financial options. When Harvard, Princeton and Yale changed how they calculate their financial aid awards a few years ago, Ivy League schools became very affordable for many prospects. Quite often while I was at Columbia, we would be among the cheaper options for many of our recruits. Most, if not all of the schools have financial aid online calculators that will give you an early indication of the cost of attendance. Do not be discouraged by the initial price tag. Approximately 60-percent of students attending an Ivy League school receive financial aid. On average, those students receive over $45,000 in grant money.

 

3. DETERMINE IF YOU ARE A GOOD FIT ACADEMICALLY

 

Ivy League schools are significantly better athletically than most people realize. In my last season at Columbia, we were ranked sixth in the NCAA national cross country poll. Over the last 10 years, 12 Ivy League student-athletes have become NCAA Division I national champions. Most of the programs post their recruiting standards online. Generally speaking, you are going to have to be very close to me marks listed below to get serious attention from an Ivy League coach.

If you are an athlete at or just below the standards listed below, you are going to have to be a very, very strong student.

EVENT MEASUREMENT ESTIMATES: BOYS/GIRLS

  • 100: 10.90 12.20
  • 200: 22.00 25.00
  • 400: 49.00 56.50
  • 800: 1:54 2:14
  • 1600: 4:15 5:00
  • 3200: 9:20 11:00
  • 110/100H: 14.4 14.4
  • 300H: 38.5 44.0
  • LJ: 22 ' 6" 18' 6"
  • TJ: 47' 38'
  • HJ: 6' 7" 5' 6"
  • PV: 15' 11'9"
  • SP: 56' 44'
  • Dis: 170' 140'
  • Jav: 190' 130'
  • Hammer: 185' 155'4.

RESEARCH SCHOOLS -- HOW THEY USE THEIR SPOTS 

The Ivy League office determines the overall number of admissions spots that may be used by an athletic department. Each individual athletics program may determine how to distribute those spots. As a result, there is a great disparity amongst individual programs. If you are set on applying to an Ivy, do your research to determine how each program uses their slots. For example, when I was at Columbia our men used primarily all of our admissions spots on the middle distance and distance events while our women distributed our slots between the sprints, jumps, hurdles and distance events fairly evenly.


In addition, each program is allotted a different number of recruits and how they are able to support each year. I would suggest looking at past recruit class announcements to get a general idea of how many spots they may have.

APPLY EARLY

Typically, the early decision deadline is November 1. To significantly enhance your chances of getting a spot from the coach and ultimately gain admittance, you should apply early. To be ready to apply early, you should take your official visit in September and October. After your official visits are concluded and you have identified your top choice, you should verbally commit to one of the schools and ask for a 'Likely Letter.'

WHAT IS A 'LIKELY LETTER'

The Ivy League does not use the NCAA National Letter of Intent program. Instead, they have what is called a 'Likely Letter.' The Likely Letter is the Ivy League's answer to the NLI and brings some certainty to the recruiting process. Likely Letters are provided to recruited student-athletes before official notification from the admissions office arrives. Typically, to receive a Likely Letter you will have to verbally commit to the coach, submit your application for approval from the admissions office and have completed an early financial aid estimate to ensure affordability. The Likely Letter gives you the assurance that the school will grant you acceptance when the letters are sent out.

WHAT IF I DECIDE THE IVY'S ARE NOT FOR ME OR I AM NOT OFFERED

If you find yourself just outside of the Ivy League recruiting standards or did not find a good fit for you and still want to attend a top tier academic institution, you still have options. I would suggest looking at schools such as The University of Chicago, MIT, John's Hopkins, Washington University, Emory, Tufts, Williams, Swarthmore, Amherst, Middlebury, RPI and NYU.

Each of these schools are among the top ranked academic schools in the country and have had very successful track and field and cross country programs. Typically, their recruiting process mirrors that of the Ivy League.

A COUPLE COMMON SENSE DO'S & DON'TS

DON'T oversell yourself as a student. It is imperative that you express to the coaches or with whom you are speaking how important the athletic piece is to you. Coaches are going to want to have confidence in your drive and motivation to succeed athletically. Furthermore, never express to a coach how stressed you are because of your high school class load. My initial thought was always, "how will they ever survive the rigors of our academic and athletic demands if high school is overwhelming them."


DO stay the course if an Ivy League school is what you want. A coach's priority list will change significantly throughout the course of the fall as recruits start saying no, decide they cannot afford the school or are deemed inadmissible by the admissions office.


DON'T get a "C"! Remember, your admission's process will differ slightly from that of a non-supported applicant. As an athlete, they will look for reasons to take you as opposed to reasons not to. Getting a "C" on your transcript makes it significantly more difficult for a coach to help you.


DO make every attempt to visit each school that you are interested in and to meet with one of the coaches. Meeting with a coach allows you the opportunity to sell yourself. If you are a borderline recruit, it is imperative that you become more than your PR and SAT score. 

In summary, recruiting within the Ivy League is an intense business. The Ivies are top academic institutions that take their athletics very seriously. Because there are so few admissions spots to go around, Ivy coaches will compete very hard for the same athletes. If you are a top-tier athlete coaches will push you for an early decision commitment. If you are a borderline recruit you will need a plan of attack to obtain one of the precious 250 available spots.

COLLEGE TRACK AND FIELD RECRUITING - How to Effectively Utilize Your Official Visit: Questions To Ask As Student-Athletes

Bryn-Mawr-College-GettyImages-459223689.jpg

Your official visits will determine where you attend school and which team you compete for. According to NCAA regulations, you are allowed only five official visit opportunities, so you will want to make the most of your time spent on each campus.

Official visits are the single most effective way to learn as much as you can about the schools and programs you are considering.  For a complete list of NCAA rules and regulations governing Official Visits see here:

http://www.ncaa.org/student-athletes/future/eligibility-center/what-official-visit

Each school you visit will have their own specific methods of introducing you to their programs. Some schools fully utilize the 48-hour allowable timeframe while others feel it is more effective to end the visit after 24 hours. Some schools will have you attend an official admissions campus tour while others will have their student-athletes show you around. Regardless of the specific agenda for your visit, you can expect the same basic itinerary- tour the campus and athletic facilities, meet the team, speak with the coaches, and explore the community.

Make no mistake, coaches view your official visit as one of the most important elements of your recruitment. You will be shown the most impressive buildings, eat at the best spots, stay in one of the nicer dorm rooms or hotels, and be told repeatedly how wonderful the campus and program are. This is the coach's job and you can be assured they will put their best foot forward. It is your job to see beyond the tree-lined quad and smiling faces and determine if this school and program is the best fit for you.

The areas where I encourage you to take a closer look will impact your quality of life as a student-athlete. Beyond speaking to the coaches about training methodologies, program philosophy, and goals of the program learn as much as you are able from the current-student athletes.

To do so, I suggest preparing a series of questions that you can ask off the cuff. Ask current team members questions in an informal manner when eating dinner, on your way to a movie, or while on a run. Create a specific list of questions based on what is most important to you. Remember: you are not visiting you are there to decide where you will spend your next four years. Here are some questions to ask:

 

FACILITIES

How much time is required to commute back and forth to and from training sites?

When does the track team actually have access to the facility they are showing you - particularly shared indoor turf fields that the football team also uses?

How often do you run from campus and how often to you travel to trails?

 

SPORT'S MEDICINE SUPPORT

Is there an athletic trainer assigned specifically to the team?

Do you have access to the training room on the weekends, even after early Sunday morning long runs?

What type of preventive measures are used - ice baths, NormaTec, etc?

Does the school have easy access to an Altra G and/or an underwater treadmill?

Do they offer adequate support with physical therapists, chiropractors, and massage therapists?

 

ACADEMIC SUPPORT

Are study hall hours required of all student-athletes?

What type of access is there to tutors?

What type of walk-in support is provided?

Do athletes get preferential treatment when enrolling for classes?

 

PRACTICE

What time of the day do you practice?

Is there an athletic trainer on-site during practice?

Are nutritional needs adequately addressed on site - water and post workout recovery foods/drinks?

 

EQUIPMENT

How many training shoes will you receive throughout the course of the year?

How often are spikes replaced?

What will your training kit consist of?

Will you receive adequate warm/cold weather and rain gear?

 

TEAM TRAVEL

Who goes?

What criteria are used to determine travel squads?

Are there alternative meets if you don't make the travel team?

 

PRE-PROFESSIONAL SUPPORT

Is there a full-time staff member in the area of professional development specifically within the athletic department?

How supportive are the alumni in helping athletes find internships?

Will someone assist you in creating a resume and letter of application?

What are they doing to assist you with finding a job upon graduation?

 

STUDENT LIFE

What does a typical Saturday night consist of?

Does the team party and drink?

Do team members live together?

Where does the majority of the team live - residence halls or off-campus?

What is the food like - are there adequate healthy food options?

 

Remember, you are using your official visits to determine where you will study and run for the next four years. Use this limited time wisely. It is important to understand that the coaching staff and team members are evaluating you as well. Enjoy yourself and get to know as many people as you can, knowing that when you leave campus the coach will ask the team about their perceptions of you.

Leave a positive impression, and remember do not be afraid to ask questions!

Three Months and counting!

IMG_0264.JPG

Our three-month anniversary has just passed and it is with great excitement and pleasure that I report on our current successes and progress. Our efforts are proving extremely fruitful for our clients.

The next eight weeks is going to be a very exciting time for the young men and women we are currently consulting through both our recruiting service and personal coaching.  We have been instrumental in helping numerous set-up official visits over the next two months and look forward to providing an insider's perspective that will allow our student-athletes to make the best decisions for themselves. Here is an abbreviated list of where our students will be taking official visits this fall: US Naval Academy, Harvard, Yale, Brown, University of Chicago, Washington University (St L), John’s Hopkins. Concurrently, our junior student-athletes are getting interest from schools such as Northern Arizona University, Wake Forest, Penn and Cornell, and their recruiting process has already begun.

We have also had great success in the area of personal coaching. Five of the six high school runners we are currently coaching PR’d in cross country this Fall at their very first meet of the season!   

We are literally making a difference – see how below:

Current Athlete – “broke the school record and am the number 1 junior in the state – huge pr for me. Hard work and consistency has paid off. Thank you coach” 

Current NCAA I Head Coach - “Willy, Thanks for reaching out to me.  I certainly like hearing about prospects from you more than competing with you to sign them up!!!  I hope all is well.  I know you will be great in this new venture.”

Current Recruit – “ I just received my Letter of Assurance from the Naval Academy so I will be going there next year! Thank you so much!!

Former Recruit – “Signed NLI today!!! Thanks man, you have been a blessing to our family”

Current Recruit’s Parent - “Big thanks for all the time you spent on the phone with me tonight.  It's really great advice and insight! We have drafted an email and I tweaked it a tad...but, would love for you to weigh in… “Thanks for that great feedback on the email we received” 

Current NCAA I Head Ivy League Coach – “At this point, your times are outside of our recruiting standards but based on Willy Wood’s recommendation, we would like to move forward and invite you to our Junior Day”

Current Recruit – “ Coach Wood I have have heard from six coaches already and it hasn’t even been three hours since signing up. Thanks!”

COLLEGE TRACK AND FIELD RECRUITING - Three Things Parents Must Understand Going into the Recruiting Process

During my 30-year college coaching career, I have had direct contact with approximately 10,000 cross country / track and field recruits of varying degrees of ability; from the No. 1 ranked athlete in the USA, to a high school cross country team's seventh runner.

One of the most common remarks made to me by their parents was how challenging it is to navigate the recruiting process, particularly if it is your first time. There is a place for everyone, whether it be at a power five school, an Ivy League institution, a NCAA I mid-major driven by revenue income generation for the university, through increased enrollment or NCAA Division II / III and NAIA schools. Identifying that right school and program for your child is the greatest challenge. 


The copious amounts of information you will receive from college coaches, other parents, former and current college athletes, and the staff members at your high school will undoubtedly prove daunting. You have your work cut out for you, but if you start to logically piece together a plan of action you will be just fine.

Here are the most critically important underlying themes that as parents you need to understand going into this process:

1) THIS IS A BUSINESS

You and your child are looking for the best deal possible. In turn, the coach who is recruiting you is looking for the very best athletes they can sign. Even in the sport of track and field there is great pressure upon coaches to win. While I was a college coach, I had bonuses written into my contract that would pay me an additional 15-50% of my annual income based solely upon performance. It is important to not lose sight of the fact that this endeavor is an oddly two-sided equation.

You have the business aspect on one side, but you also have the personal relationship between the coach and athlete on the other side. The relationship in many ways will determine the success of this business endeavor. The relationship your child possesses with his coach will impact your child's overall college experience and quality of their running career. If at all possible, don't simply settle for the money -- there is too much at stake. Fight for the best deal that you are able to obtain, but don't give away quality of life for the deal.

2) EMPOWER YOUR CHILD

As a coach, one of the biggest red flags our staff identified during the early stages of the recruiting process was overly involved parents. I cannot enumerate the number of times our staff uttered a comment such as "Can we truly trust this person in the heat of battle if their parents do everything for them?" It is imperative that you have your child initiate all communication throughout the recruiting process. I would suggest strict adherence to the following areas:

Do not send e-mails on their behalf. It lessens their viability. As a coach, I received far too many, "I know they are my son/daughter, but they are truly amazing" letters and e-mails.

Make them speak even when they do not want to. They should answer the phone and ask the questions. You are not a screening service. If the coach is not important enough for you to speak with, eliminate that school from your shortlist.

Let them shine. On official, or unofficial, visits take a backseat to your child. Let them read from the list of questions you created together. Avoid speaking on their behalf or interjecting to clarify for them. Walk a couple of steps behind when touring the campus so they may converse directly to the coach or student host.

3) KNOW YOUR ROLE

Although it is important to give your child independence and let them lead the way-- guide them! Help them eliminate programs and schools to move forward in a logical direction that narrows down their options. Review their correspondences to coaches to ensure that their intent matches their wording.

Help them weed through all the hype of the recruiting pitches they will hear. In track and field, every program will sell themselves as up and coming -- most aren't! Do your research and try to determine if team members are quitting, if they have an alarming number of injuries, if there is truly a positive trajectory toward improvement.

The entire recruiting process can be daunting if you do not do your research. However, if you create a sound plan of attack it will be an amazing experience. You are helping your child with a monumental step in their lives. Do it wisely!

***

Willy Wood boasts 26 highly successful years of NCAA Division I head coaching experience, two decades of which were spent at Columbia University. He recently developed a recruiting service designed specifically for high school track and field/ cross country athletes -- www.fasttrackrecruiting.com

COLLEGE TRACK RECRUITING - How To Use Unofficial Visits To Your Advantage

Unofficial Visits

The NCAA defines an unofficial visit as any visit to a college campus paid for by you or your parents. The NCAA permits an unlimited number of unofficial visits throughout the recruiting process. The only restriction placed on unofficial visits is during a NCAA "Dead Period."

During a Dead Period, a college coach may not have any in-person contact with you or your parents, on or off campus. Be sure to double-check the NCAA Recruiting Calendar before making travel arrangements to ensure that you are able to meet with the coaching staff.  

Do not assume the coach will automatically know dead period dates off the top of their head -- do your research. (NAIA institutions place no restrictions on unofficial visits.) A copy of the NCAA 2017-2018 Recruiting Calendar may be found here.

Because prospective student-athletes are starting the recruiting process much earlier, the NCAA has passed new legislation that will make the coordination of your unofficial visit significantly easier.

SEE - NCAA BYLAW: 13.1.3.3.2 UNOFFICIAL-VISIT EXCEPTION

Institutional staff members may make unlimited telephone calls to a prospective student-athlete (or those individuals accompanying him or her) beginning the day immediately preceding the prospective student-athlete's unofficial visit (per Bylaw 13.7) until the conclusion of the visit. If more than the otherwise permissible number of calls or otherwise impermissible calls occur under this exception and a scheduled unofficial visit is canceled due to circumstances beyond the control of the prospective student-athlete or the institution (e.g., trip is canceled by the prospective student-athlete, inclement weather conditions), such calls shall not be considered institutional violations. However, the institution shall submit a report to the conference office noting the cancellation of the unofficial visit and the reasons for such cancellation.

As of August 1, 2017, it is now permissible for NCAA coaches to call, text, or email a recruit the day prior to their visit, even if that is not normally allowed. This legislative change will benefit freshmen, sophomores, and rising juniors who would not have previously been permitted to communicate with coaches unless they initiated the contact themselves.

For example, coaches are now able to send you an itinerary the day before your scheduled unofficial visit, text you directions if you are having trouble finding their office, or give you a call to let you know that they will meet you after the tour in a specific locale. Such communication was not permissible before.

During an unofficial visit, it is typical for a coach to give you a tour of their athletic facilities, talk to you and your parents about their institution, and highlight their program. In addition to this athlete-specific portion of the visit, I advise scheduling a formal campus tour through the admissions office to view the school from a non-athletic perspective.

Email the coach well ahead of time to let them know the specific date that you will be visiting their campus and your desire to meet with them. Provide the coach with a couple of times you are able to meet -- usually before or after the campus tour. I suggest starting unofficial visits at the completion of your sophomore year.

Unofficial visits can help in two primary ways. For a recruited athlete, unofficial visits are critical in gathering information as you begin to narrow down your choices. For a non-recruited athlete, unofficial visits allow you the opportunity to have a face-to-face meeting with the coach to tell your story.

If you are a recruited athlete, use this time to learn as much as you can about the program and coaching staff. Identify the factors that will be most important to you in determining if you will return for an official visit. Have a short list of specific questions ready that address your most critical factors. You should view unofficial visits as a means to narrow your choices -- not as a mechanism to determine where you want to go. Keep in mind that during an unofficial visit you are typically only hearing the voice of the coach. Coaches are well versed in knowing what to say and how best to sell their programs. The official visit will prove much more informative.

If you are a non-recruited athlete, the unofficial visit serves an entirely different purpose. Use this time to sell yourself. You have a limited amount of time to convince the coach that you are more than your current PR's. Give them a reason to want to recruit you. Instead of asking a detailed list of questions, use this time to express your keen interest in their program and desire to run competitively in college.  Be as low-maintenance as possible.

There is no imposed limit on the number of unofficial visits you may take, so take as many as possible. There is no better tool to help you hone in on the best school/program for you. 

 

COLLEGE TRACK RECRUITING - The Do's and Don't of Recruiting

487270_4204239198981_1252653721_n.jpg

The Do's and Don't of Recruiting

http://www.milesplit.com/articles/216485-recruiting-dos-and-donts

Here are a few useful tips that will help you navigate the recruiting process successfully.

DO keep detailed notes throughout the entire recruiting process as you will forget certain aspects of schools/programs. It was not uncommon for recruits of mine to videotape and take photos of our facilities and campus to help them remember their visit.

DO NOT close your initial email to a coach with, "I am confident that I can contribute greatly to your program" if you are not yet performing at a level close to the team's current athletes. I recall reading that type of closing comment and thinking to myself, "how?" It led me to believe that the prospect did not really understand much about our program. Instead say "With hard work and your coaching, I am confident that I can develop into a runner capable of helping your program over the span of my college career." The later statement shows them that you understand how much work will be required to succeed at the collegiate level, and will convey your confidence in the coach's ability to help you.

DO carefully proofread every email before hitting send. I cannot tell you how many emails I received from recruits specifically addressed to a rival coach expressing their interest in a rival school. A great deal of communication in the early phases of the recruiting process is going to be cut and paste on both sides, however, making a simple mistake can dehumanize the process and render the remainder of your communication less credible. It may also be helpful to send a couple of test emails to yourself first to ensure that the font or text sizes have not changed where you have cut and pasted new names.

DO NOT tell coaches "you are among my top choices". Everyone knows that both athletes and coaches have many options -- there is no need to state it. Simply say, "I am extremely interested in your program." It is far more personal and establishes a more positive relationship. Make every effort possible to prevent this process from becoming generic - subtle word changes can make the entire process seem more personal to the coach. This is important as they will be deciding how much money to offer you or if they will give you an admission's spot.  

DO your homework! Never be surprised on your visit. Have a keen understanding of the unique strengths of each school. It will go along way with the coaching staff if it appears you know a great deal about their specific school and program. Have a solid understanding of where they rank athletically and academically, what their unique strengths are and how they compare to the other schools you are considering. On occasion, I would literally have prospects in my office tell me that they were really interested in State U or Academic U but they knew they could not get into that school or run for their team. It would dumbfound me as we had a lower acceptance rate and were significantly better athletically. Know who and where you are visiting.

DO NOT ask a coach if they plan on staying. It is a question that is so often asked and has no real purpose. Every coach will say yes, they have to. Coaching is a profession and coaches will make decisions based on what is best for their families and themselves. It is imperative to choose a school where you will be happy outside of track and field/cross country.

DO track program trajectory - not every program is up and coming though many claim to be. Determine if athletes in a particular program are improving over the course of four years. Specifically, look for when individual's PR's were set. Peruse program websites to determine how many juniors and seniors are still on the roster to discern if team members are quitting. If there are a disproportionate number of FR and SO on the roster, find out why to determine if there is high-level program dissatisfaction or an alarming injury rate.

DO NOT embarrass yourself on social media. This topic has been beaten to death and hopefully does not require elaboration. Plain and simple, do not give coaches a reason to question your character or lifestyle.

DO be easily found on social media. Many coaches use your personal pages as a means of reaching out initially. Remember, most coaches are a step or two behind you and your friends in terms of being social media savvy, so leave a trail for them. Beyond Instagram and Twitter consider keeping your Facebook account -- coaches tend to look there first.

DO NOT approach this process passively. Be aggressive in your outreach and email every program that you are interested in, regardless of the perceived reach. It is up to you to not only create a compelling story, but also be able to tell it. Be your own greatest advocate and take charge of your future. Consider this one of the most important competitions of your high school career and prepare accordingly! The recruiting process can be daunting. There are so many unknowns, however, if you get started early, put in the work, and take an active role you will find the right fit.

COLLEGE TRACK RECRUITING - How I Made My College Decision - Nico Composto

Find A Family

NICO COMPOSTO - DISTANCE RUNNER - COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY / LOYOLA HIGH SCHOOL (CHICAGO)

Picking which college you are going to attend is one of the coolest choices you will make in your life. You get to pick where you are going to spend four years and, more importantly, with whom you are going to spend those years. My name is Nico Composto. I ran under Coach Wood at Columbia University, where I enjoyed nearly every day of the four years I spent in New York with the Columbia team. I really believe that the reason I had such an awesome college experience is because when I was being recruited, I considered one factor more than any other in picking a college: I chose the school with a team that acted most like a family. I will be honest with you, when I was in high school, I didn’t fit in. I was a skinny kid with a bowl cut, who wore cargo shorts a little too frequently. My legs were like tooth-picks coming out of the gaping leg-holes of my shorts. I never stood a chance.

From the beginning of high school, anytime I tried to approach a girl my tongue got all dry and the best I could do was squeeze out a “Hi,” avoid eye-contact and retreat to the nearest corner to process my embarrassment. Running, though, always made me feel at home. I could go out and pound miles anytime I wanted. I just loved watching myself get faster. That is the coolest thing about running, you can tangibly see your times drop as you improve. Sadly, this didn’t lead to me being nominated Prom King. So, as I began looking at college, I insisted on finding the team that I loved most. Sure, I wanted to go to a good school, but that didn’t matter as much to me as finding the people I wanted to be around. I wanted to be on a team that threw out one-liners like it was a Rodney Dangerfield movie. I wanted friends that would force me to talk to the girls who made my mouth fill up with cotton, and who would only make fun of me a little when I was eventually rejected. I wanted a team that trained like animals every day, clawing from the bottom and trying to beat teams that are etched in the history of cross-country greatness. I didn’t want to go to Oregon or Wisconsin or Villanova… I wanted to be on the team that beat them even when no one knew who we were.

Well I found that team. Just before my senior year in high school I talked to a friend who was running in college and he told me to look at Columbia if I wanted to be a good runner. My response, “Who is Columbia?” One of the best schools in the world and no one west of Philadelphia has ever heard of it. But that was what I wanted. I wanted to be on a team that no one had heard of and to grow that team with a group of friends. That’s what we did. The recruiting coach at Columbia was my first contact. He made sure to constantly tell me that if I went to Columbia, we would do great things. That is the first thing I would look for in finding your college running family: Find a coach who genuinely wants you on the team, who believes in you and believes in the program. Find the coach you trust the most. If they sound like they are selling snake oil, they probably are. Find the coach with integrity.

My next step in picking Columbia was to find the team with whom I best fit. For me, it took about five minutes on my official visit to know that Columbia was the place for me. All the guys seemed so tight. They made fun of each other more than any group of people I had ever met. By the end of the visit, they were making fun of me. I knew I was at home. I knew I was going to go there because I felt like I couldn’t let these guys down and I also knew that they would never let me down.

To anyone looking to run in college I would recommend making your top priority finding a group of people with whom you feel most at home. At the end of the day, those people, your coaches and team, are who you are going to spend most of your time with in your four years as an athlete. You should love those people. I can’t guarantee that every day will be perfect and that things won’t tough. But if you find a family instead of just an athletic team, you will love college and love running and love life.

Looking Back- Waverly Neer

imgres-2.jpg

What I Wish I Had Known

WAVERLY NEER - DISTANCE - UNIVERSITY OF OREGON, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY / CULVER ACADEMY (IN)

Waverly was a High School and NCAA Division I All-American. She was the former High School Indoor 5000m National Record Holder and the 2011 3000m Champion at the USA Junior National Championships. She has Personal Bests of 9:08 - 3000m, 15:37 - 5000m, and 33:26 - 10000m and is currently a professional runner for the NJNYTC. 

Here's the small things you should know: pack lots of socks, you're going to do laundry a lot less than you anticipate. Don't wear your lanyard around your neck, that is unless you want everyone to know you're a freshman. And, save your per diem from travel, that money will add up over four years!

Alright, now that we have those things out of the way, let's real talk. You're nervous; you don't know what to expect. That's OK! Here’s advice that will help you find your way: Know what has made you a successful athlete. You don't need a new tool set now that you're in college. Recognize your strengths, and hold true to them. Self-confidence goes far in your training, your racing, and your relationships. Don't strive to be any of the athletes you see around you. Recognize what works for them, may not work for you. Accept that difference, and don't get sidetracked by the noise and extras.

Ask questions, you're not on your own. Remember your coaches and teammates were once in your shoes. They are eager to help and trust me, they want to see you succeed. See yourself as an investment. Sure, there are some things you'll need to figure out on your own. Welcome to the next level. But if you are struggling, don't let too much water rise under the bridge. You only get four years to become great. Talk to your teammates, find your way to your coach’s office, and listen! It's amazing how much you'll learn when you accept that you don't know it all.

Strive to be a teammate and competitor you would cheer for. No matter if your own workout was great, or not so great, give your teammates a high-five at the end. Tell them, “nice job”. Maintain a positive attitude, and be a team player. Positive or negative, the people around you will recognize your actions, so make sure you're building a reputation you are proud of. No matter what shape you’re in, injured, or healthy, work to always positively contribute to your environment.

Lastly, do something once a week, outside of running and school, that makes you happy. Something small, it doesn't have to be crazy but pick up a new hobby, an outside interest, something to keep challenging yourself. There will be times when school isn't going well, or when running has been put on the back burner due to an injury. In these times, you'll learn to lean more heavily on your other interests to maintain your happiness and identity. In this first year of college, strive to be a well-rounded person. It will pay off in the end! Besides, this is the time to explore. To invent yourself. Don't waste the opportunity.

Dear Freshmen Self, it's going to be a fun, crazy, sometimes smooth, other times bumpy road. Don't let the highs become too high, nor the lows too low. Things will happen that you may never have predicted. But the most fantastic part of it all, is that it's entirely your own story and journey. You'll share the road with a collection of interesting and inspiring people. But remember, you always get to choose your route. And it starts now... ready, set, go!

COLLEGE TRACK RECRUITING - How I Made My College Decision - Mike Murphy

Finding your "X" Factor 

MIKE MURPHY - DISTANCE RUNNER - COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY / BROTHER RICE (MI) - NCAA I ALL-AMERICAN

Deciding where to go for college is one of the first big life decisions most high school students ever have to make.  Having the luxury of being recruited to continue an athletic pursuit at the collegiate level makes the decision more fun, but not necessarily easier.  While your friends are agonizing over their standardized test scores, you’re landing in a new city for a college visit.  As a 17-year-old from the suburbs of Detroit, receiving letters from top tier schools trying to sell me on their program was humbling.  Connecting with the coaches and learning about the schools was exciting.  Hopping on an airplane to visit the school and live like a college student for a weekend was simply unbelievable. 

Throughout the recruiting process, it is tempting to try to narrow down your choices with black and white questions: “what is the best academic school I can get into?” or “what is the fastest team I can get a spot on?”  While I do not intend to write these off as trivial, I would urge any high school athlete being recruited to dig a little deeper and ask themselves “where do I think I will be happiest?”  That is what will ultimately lead to the optimal college experience.

When I was being recruited, I spoke with a number of coaches but ultimately narrowed my list of schools down to four: Michigan, Harvard, Yale and Columbia.  With those four, I really couldn’t go wrong as each school had their fair share of objective selling points.  Michigan has strong academics, a solid track program, in-state tuition, scholarship potential, and I would have had a number of friends from High School there.  Harvard…has a reputation that speaks for itself.  Yale is (almost) as prestigious as Harvard and Columbia is a top five academic school in the middle of “The Big Apple.”  If I were trying to be purely objective about the decision I probably could have skipped all of my visits and simply committed to Harvard based on prestige (would have made my parents happy) but it is imperative to take the visits to get a feel for the intangibles.

By definition, these “intangibles” can be hard to pinpoint but as I was going through my visits, I really tried to picture what my day-to-day would look like.  Would I be spending all my time in the library?  Do the guys on the team spend time together or would I need to find other social outlets?  On my Columbia visit, there was an evident camaraderie among the guys on the team.  I had a chance to go on a run with the guys and the conversation was an incredible balance of races, training, and complete nonsense – exactly what I was looking for.  The guys meant business when they were working hard, and had a lot of fun when they weren’t.  That atmosphere is not for everyone, but it was unlike anything else I had seen and I was confident it would suit me well.

After all, your college experience will absolutely not be made or broken in the classroom.  In the same vein, your personal successes or failures on the track will not define you.  The relationships you form with your teammates and coaches are the greatest thing you will learn from and take with you.  On the plane home from my Columbia visit I knew that it was the right place for me.  In just 48 hours I felt a strong connection with the guys on the team, I was impressed by the coaching staff and I was inspired by the energy of New York City.  I could see myself being successful there both academically and athletically and in the end, with the help of my teammates, coaches and friends, that turned out to be the case.  It would have been easy to get blinded by the prestige of Harvard and Yale, or the comfort of Michigan, but ultimately it was the “x-factor” at Columbia that helped me make the right decision.

COLLEGE TRACK RECRUITING - How I Made My College Decision - Thomas Razo

Create A Formula

Thomas Razo - Middle Distance - Bradley University / LOCKPORT HS, IL

My personal experience with the recruiting process was that it can be very overwhelming in its early stages.  I remember receiving letters from coaches from smaller schools early in my high school career. At that point, I still had no idea what I wanted to specialize in for an academic major and I was unsure how fast I could run to determine which route I wanted to go (i.e. NCAA, NAIA, Junior College, etc.). 

I was a very mediocre runner my first three years of high school and did not start to become an elite runner in the state until my senior season.  Going into my last year I had no resources available to me to get in touch with college coaches at the schools where I wanted to run.  Luckily, my dad is a high school coach (and was my high school coach) and was very instrumental in getting me connected with college coaches around the nation.  Without his help, I do not know how I would have connected with the coaches I had a chance to talk with throughout the recruiting process.  I began to narrow my choices down based on several factors. 

My parents emphasized from the beginning that the three most important factors to look at when choosing a school are: cost, academic reputation for the program you want to go into, and the ability to run for the team.  Running was very important to me, but I realized it should not be the lone deciding factor in a school.  I went on several official visits and evaluated each scholarship package that was offered to me.  Once the visit portion of the process concluded, I sat down with my family and evaluated each option that was available to me.  Using a simple formula comprised of the three factors I mentioned above (cost, reputation, and running) my choice quickly became apparent.  Bradley University offered me far more opportunities than the other schools I considered could and became my obvious choice. 

After graduating with my Master’s Degree, I sometimes reflect on my 4.5 years at Bradley.  It was filled with many good athletic memories and accomplishments and provided me with a top-notch education.  If I had to do the recruiting process all over again I would not change my decision.  I can honestly say I had the best experience in terms of student-athlete life and academics.  One thing I wish I had available to me in high school, is a recruiting tool I could have used to get on coaches’ radars more quickly than I was able to five years ago.  I think you will find Fast Track Recruiting to be a very useful resource at your disposal.  They have actual connections to large and small programs across the country.  My father has sent many athletes to the next level and spent 30 years developing relationships with some coaches.  However, there are few high school coaches with these connections, therefore having Fast Track Recruiting at your disposal will improve your chances of landing at the right destination and having no regrets.  Everyone should be able to look back at their experience after graduating college and be 100 percent certain they made the right decision for them.

COLLEGE TRACK RECRUITING - Admission Spot vs. Scholarship Money

imgres-1.jpg

A Coach's Perspective

WILL BOYLAN-PETT: Former Head Coach - NYU; Former Assistant Coach - Columbia University

One of the biggest misnomers in Cross Country /Track and Field recruiting (and non-revenue sports in general) is the fact that so very few athletes are on full ride scholarships.  When you break down the numbers it makes sense; a fully funded men’s team has 12 scholarships and a fully funded women’s team has 18.  Add that to the fact that very few colleges actually fully fund their track and field teams and you can see why few athletes are getting that much scholarship money.  Now while this reality may seem harsh, it does not mean that there is not plenty of opportunities to use your abilities to better your college opportunities. 

One of the most underutilized use of college recruitment is when an athlete gets into a school that they normally would not because they can run fast.  Specifically, coaches in the IVY League and all Division 3 schools, neither of which give merit-based scholarships, can help you gain admission to their schools.  The average SAT score in Harvard’s incoming class is 2260, yet IVY League rules would allow for a coach to take an athlete with a score as low as 1500.  While the guidelines are not as clear in Division 3, the application is still the same, a coach can help you get into a school that you may otherwise not be admitted. 

Now let’s get to the best part: IVY League schools all offer great financial aid packages and Division 3 schools offer financial aid and are allowed to offer non-athletic scholarships.  Not only can you use your athletic prowess to get into a great school, it could also end up being the best financial option.  Unless you are in the rare group that is getting offered full ride scholarships the IVY League or Division 3 schools will many times be the best financial option; beating out partial scholarship offers and in-state tuition options.  Further, most schools offer financial aid calculators so you can get an idea of what the cost would be, there is no waiting game on a coach saying they may be able to give you 25-50% scholarship but are not sure.

The most important part of all of this is making sure you put your name out there!  Let Fast Track Recruiting help you identify which schools would be viable options for you and tell your story to ensure maximum attention from those coaches.  Knowledge of the process and putting yourself out there are the two biggest keys to a successful college recruitment process; let Fast Track lead the way for you and get you results you desire.