I received the following email from a high school coach who is looking for some recruiting advice for a young woman he coaches.
We have a junior girl who is pretty good and is interested in going on and running at the collegiate level. We have started to gather info to help guide her in her decision, but at times are overwhelmed or don’t know what to do/suggest. There are some things we have done; talked about the clearinghouse, visitations to colleges, grades, tests scores, her academic focus. So I guess I am asking what are some important topics/ideas that need to be looked at in this involved process that you would do with an athlete in this position?
A little background info on her: she started with Junior Olympics 6th or 7th grade, but hasn’t done any really consistent off season training yet; say maybe 20 mpw in offseason and 25-35 mpw in season. I have tried to ease her into more training little by little and over the next year will have more structured training in winter/summer along with XC training that will focus on post-season meets. She has been number one on our team since her first day as a freshman. She is a solid racer who when it counts has raced well. She qualified for BorderClash for the 3rd time this past XC season and her PRs are: 800-2:21 1600-5:07, 3200-10:50, 5000-18:24.
I guess another question that has come up (from her and her parents) is with her background where can she go and develop further and be challenged? Is she a D-1 runner? Is she a Pac-12 runner? Is she a Villanova/G-Town/Oregon runner? We have little knowledge about this as well as how much aid she could receive, not to say that money is the number one thing, but it is a big piece of the puzzle.
Thanks for any thoughts and feedback.
Thanks for the question.
My first recommendation would be to read this post that Alan Versaw and I did a little over a year ago. I think he does a great job highlighting that a variety of female runners can be recruited and that if a young woman wants to run in college she will likely have many options.
However, if the young woman in question wants to run at Georgetown, then 2011 NCAA Division I National Champs, then she will need to run a bit faster than her current 5:07. And that’s the hard part – she likely will run faster, but question is how much faster will she run AND will she run enough faster in time to walk-on to programs that she’s interested in.
I’ve been out of the recruiting business for a few years, so I may be off with the times, but my guess is that if she goes from 5:07 to 4:55 that’s a nice jump – realistic, but by no means easy. But that jump will put her in a position where she will be asked to walk-on by the best programs in the country. I will go out on a limb and say every NCAA Division I program would let a 4:55 woman walk-on (note: at some schools, say Duke or Stanford, she’d have to get into school on her own – they typically wouldn’t “save a spot” for a 4:55 girl). The flip side is, she probably won’t get money from the schools that finished top ten at this years NCAA DI XC meet, or she might run the 4:55 so late in the season that there isn’t money left at one of those schools, even if they would have liked to give her some money.
Now, at this point we should realize that the family will need to work case by case, communicating well with each program she’s interested in. Also, her test scores and grades may impact her options: 4:55 with 25 on the ACT vs. 4:55 with 35 on the ACT are two different types of recruits. Bottom line is many DI schools would offer a 4:55 miler a full ride (fully funded women’s programs have 18.0 scholarships for woman’s track and field, under which cross country falls under), yet many of those schools won’t qualify for the NCAA Championships. So she might have to choose between a school that is offering a full ride but doesn’t have a history of developing talent and doesn’t have a culture of training hard vs. walking-on at a school that has a shot of making of the NCAA meet every year she’s in school.
If you have time, listen to the interview with Corey Ihmels where he talks about his number two and number three runners from this year’s team. I don’t think either had run 10:50 as juniors yet both were All-Americans at this year’s DI XC meet. BUT…Corey’s a great coach and knows how to develop talent. Not every girl who runs 10:50 is going to develop in college for the simple reason that the program they choose dosen’t historically develop talent.
And this is where research on the part of parents and athletes come in. Every school lists the HS PRs of the athletes and every school lists the athlete’s current PRs on their website; simply do the research and see what programs are developing athletes. Is my suggestion time consuming? Yes. Is it worth it considering this research will impact the next four-five years of the students life? I think so. Said another way, some programs develop talent and some don’t, yet too many parents and students think all Division I programs are the same and only pay attention to the money being offered.
There are so many other aspects we could talk about. The fact that she could run DII or DIII or NAIA and have a great experience, or the fact that she may be the type of student who decided upon on a major in junior high and is hell bent on becoming a doctor/vet/chemist/etc. and so the search is to find the best doctor/vet/chemist/etc. school that also gives her a chance to develop as an athlete. But as you can see, by just focusing on 5:07 as the primary variable this process is complicated enough.
So there are some thoughts on the subject – I look forward to seeing what others have to say.