Archive for Track and Field

Track and Field Recruiting Standards in the Ivy League

“I run the 400 and the 800, how fast do I have to be to get recruited at Dartmouth? (or Brown or Harvard, etc.)” I hear variations of this question a lot. The typical answer is to check the roster and see the times of the current athletes on the team to get an idea.  The problem with that approach is that a team may be weak in a certain event, but that doesn’t mean the coach is looking for more runners in that range.  So you may look at a team roster and see that they have 3 women running the 400m in 1:00 this year and think that might be a good fit, but running the 400 in 1:00 will never score points at the conference championships (aka Heps). In fact, it’s very rare for anything over 56 seconds to score points, and that’s the name of the game for every coach.

But what about a good athlete developing into a great runner in college, will a coach take your potential into account even if your times aren’t the greatest? To some extent, yes, a natural athlete that is putting up good marks with little training can indicate good upside potential, but it’s just so difficult to judge. Even high school standouts that are hitting the time standards can have a frustrating way of never hitting their high school marks once they get in college, so the trajectory of a track career is impossible to predict. The safest bet is recruiting an athlete that is already very close to being competitive in the conference.

The following times and distances are good general guidelines as far as Ivy League Track and Field recruiting standards. They’re based on conference meet results as well as conversations and correspondence with coaches.

Bear in mind, hitting these standards doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily be recruited, several other factors come into play. First and foremost, your academics. Check how strong your academics are with the Academic Index calculator. If you’re hitting these track and field standards, and your Academic Index is strong, it’s still going to depend on the team’s needs in any given year as well as the quality of the other recruits. But you want Ivy League Track and Field recruiting standards, here they are:

Women

  • 100m – 12.2
  • 200m – 25.2
  • 400m – 57.4
  • 100h – 14.8
  • 300h – 46.0
  • 400h – 1:03
  • 800m – 2:15
  • 1600m – 5:05
  • 3200m – 11:00
  • High Jump – 5’5″
  • Long Jump – 18’0″
  • Triple Jump – 37’11″
  • Pole Vault – 12’0″
  • Shot Put – 40′
  • Discus – 135′
  • Javelin – 130′
  • Hammer – 138′
  • 5K – 17:45

 

Men

  • 100m – 10.94
  • 200m – 22.3
  • 400m – 49.5
  • 110h – 14.7
  • 300h – 38.9
  • 400h – 54.9
  • 800m – 1:54
  • 1600m – 4:17
  • 3200m – 9:20
  • High Jump – 6’6″
  • Long Jump – 22’6″
  • Triple Jump – 46′
  • Pole Vault  – 15’3″
  • Shot Put – 56′
  • Discus – 170′
  • Javelin – 180′
  • Hammer – 180′

These are general guidelines for recruited athletes, that is, athletes that are likely to have admissions support. Each team also has a fair number of walk-on athletes on the roster. Walks-on standards are not as high, obviously, but still at the level of a very strong HS varsity athlete.

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Demonstrating Character as a Recruit

In our interview with UVA rowing coach Kevin Sauer, he talked about the importance of character. He said, “My philosophy is that if character is there, a lot of good things can happen.” The Rower’s Edge asked a great follow-up question, “Since coaches are looking first for character in a recruit how do you demonstrate that to a coach?”

I think character is a lot like the wind, or gravity. You can’t see it, you can only see evidence of it. Character, at least as it pertains to athletics, means persevering through adversity, a willingness to keep grinding it out when you feel you can’t and putting the success of the team ahead of individual success.

Certainly pushing hard at an anaerobic threshold for an extended period takes some character. So, does that mean a great erg score is evidence of it? The great bike racer Greg Lemond once said, “It never gets any easier, you just get faster.” By that thinking, a great erg score doesn’t necessarily mean you suffer more than a slower athlete. She might be working through just as much pain but doesn’t have the same conditioning level. You can’t say who has more character.

How about the fact that somebody has achieved a high level of conditioning? Does that mean character? After all there is no shortcut to conditioning. Surely it takes character to put in the training hours day after day, right? Well, that depends. I had a conversation with Jeff Stiles, women’s D3 cross country Coach of the Year and he said, “You just don’t know if the athlete is coming from a very rigid program, where they have no choice but to put in the miles and do the work. I really want athletes who are intrinsically motivated – not just doing it because the coach is standing there with a stopwatch.”

So to further pin down this elusive trait of character, let’s define it as being intrinsically driven to succeed, despite adversity – and putting the success of the team ahead of self.

Great, so how is that trait demonstrated? After a hard loss, if an athlete gets up early to put in an extra workout by herself, I’d say that’s evidence of character. If an athlete sulks off, or snaps at a teammate or bad-mouths a coach or training program after a loss – not a great indicator of character (at least not the positive kind).

So to get back to the Rower’s Edge question, “how do you demonstrate character to a coach?” My answer is that it’s not something that can be put on a resume or really even in a coach’s recommendation letter. Character is demonstrated every time you practice, race and especially when you lose. So when you are at camps and showcases this summer, remember, character is like the wind, while you can’t see it, it’s pretty easy to see evidence of it when it’s strong.

The Coach’s View: Jeff Stiles, WashU Track and XC – Part 3

Tell me a little about the lifestyle of the athletes – how accommodating is the track practice schedule for kids who might have conflicts with their classes?
In XC, our main practice is in the morning, and we avoid class schedule conflict, so that works out really well. Now it is tough, and they have to be intrinsically motivated to make it happen because we’re going at 6:30 or 7:00 am. We give them 2 days off each week to train on their own to accommodate for academic stuff. And then in track we go in the afternoon and we tell them, our practice time is at 4:15, we want you there. But we know, we’re going to have to work around some kid’s schedules. I would say on a given day, we’ll probably have 70% there and 30% will have to go to an alternative time. But it depends on the semester and the major. Like junior year engineering, for example, tends to have a lot of labs. We had a kid who was an NCAA runner up who was a 5th year senior and he had some grad classes and his schedule was never going to allow him to be at practice all year. So he had to work out at alternative times the whole season. So we had to work around that, it’s just part of the reality of it.

We don’t want them to take classes during practice if they have a choice, but we know, as coaches, it’s going to happen and we’ll work with the student to make it the best we can. But again, that’s why they need to be intrinsically motivated. It’s not like high school where you just show up and all your teammates are there. Sometimes, there’s just not a great time so they’ll have to be there at 7:30 am because that’s the only time they have. So it’s definitely challenging, and that’s why the number 1 thing we’re looking for is people who really love what they do.

Since none of these kids are on scholarship, is it difficult to keep them on board? Do you find that by senior year you have a lot fewer kids than you brought on as freshmen?
It depends. We’ve had years that we’ve batted a thousand. We kept everyone, and to me that’s really rewarding – that’s pretty cool. But that’s definitely not the norm. There normally is an attrition rate. But I try to tell them what the reality is during the recruiting process. And I think you can kind of ID those kids in the recruiting process. We also try to promote a culture that it’s about the team and not themselves. Now senior year, definitely with med school interviews and trying to find a job, it’s hard. I feel like track is harder than xc for that because xc is in the fall, whereas in track, these kids are getting ready to start jobs in a week. It’s hard but it shows who’s really invested.

How many hours are the track kids working out during season?
I’d say 2 to 2 ½ hours per day would be the norm. If you include the training room, maybe 3 hours. But some days might be 75 minutes because we have a meet coming up. But I usually say 2 ½ hours is what you need to plan on.

What are your thoughts on the paid recruiting services? Do you use those at all or is it usually the student contacting you directly?
Personally, I’m not a big fan. Because again what we’re looking for are kids who are picking out WashU specifically. So right there it’s sort of a red-flag. We’ve maybe got one kid through that, but it wasn’t because of that. Usually those kids don’t fit the bill, they’re usually not the WashU profile, and when they are, it’s a turn-off, personally, because again these kids are just getting their name out rather picking out WashU.

Do the athletes ever incur any costs related to travel or equipment?
Athletes do incur the cost of their uniforms, but there are no costs for travel or equipment. I guess we have done some fundraising for trips, but that isn’t anything we’ve done recently.

One last question: you’ve developed a very successful program – what would you say is the most important factor in achieving that?
I’d say developing a team culture and finding the right people. Getting the students to buy into that and of course having a good coaching staff. We’ve also really been blessed with unbelievable leadership from within the team – kids who bought into the team culture.

The Coach’s View: Jeff Stiles, WashU Track and XC, Part 2 of 3

How many athletes do you typically recruit in a given year?
Honestly, I couldn’t even give you a number. Because it depends how you define it. We get information constantly throughout the year. Like right now, we’re at the time period where all these kids are emailing. You know, the subject line will be their name and ‘class of 2013’. I don’t keep track of the numbers, but it’s definitely in the hundreds. And the number of kids that you actually pursue is obviously smaller than the number of kids that you have in your database. I think in terms of kids you’re trying to actively recruit, you can only do so many, I would say you’re probably looking at, I’ll throw out a number, maybe a hundred kids at a time – that would be for all track men and women. But out of that, you’re going to have kids that fall off the list and new kids that fall in. By the end you’re really hoping to be able to narrow it down until you’re looking at maybe 50 total. But it changes, as kids learn more maybe they become more interested in WashU or they meet someone who had a good experience here. It’s the same way for us, maybe we’ll meet an alum who knows this kid, or a coach might call us and say, ‘here’s why you should be interested in this kid’. Or they visit and you really fall in love with them and you’re thinking, ‘wow, this is a great kid’, and the kid you thought was really high on your list, you meet him and maybe they’re a fine kid, but your gut tells you, this isn’t the right fit. So all that is constantly changing.

So once you’ve got it down to a hundred or so, and people are falling in and out, typically how many do you end up with? 12, 15, 20?
For XC and track, both men and women, I’d say it’s more than that. I’d say maybe 25-50, depending on the year. We’ve had years when we brought on 14 male xc runners alone. But it really can vary. Like this year, I think we have 10 men and 10 women for cross, and maybe an additional 15 for track, so this year we’ll have about 35 incoming freshmen.

Obviously, WashU is very academically competitive, are you able to support recruits through the admissions process and how does that all work?
We definitely can support students. Now, ours is different than my understanding of some schools where they can have guaranteed admission spots. At some schools, they’ll crunch numbers and if you hit minimum numbers, they can get you in. And that’s not how it is at WashU. Here, they’ll absolutely take the coach’s input, and there are times when that probably is the difference. But it’s not one of those things where upfront we’re going to know who that is. So there’s definitely the opportunity for support, it definitely makes a difference, but there are also no guarantees that if you hit this number and the coach supports you, you’re in.

Is there any benefit to recruiting a kid with real high academic marks, even if they’re not a great athlete?
I think so, because in terms of numbers, as a coach, you want to make sure your numbers are there. Now we’d want a kid we think we can develop, for example we wouldn’t recruit a 6 minute miler, but we would recruit someone who we think is more of a developmental athlete. So we want to have 8 or 10 xc runners per year. And if we feel their chance to be admitted is strong, we’ll definitely be more likely to recruit them than if they’re a developmental athlete and we think they’re borderline. Just from a roster standpoint, the more kids you feel good about, it helps you be more aggressive with the superstar who’s maybe on the edge of getting in.

Does admissions keep track of the team academics? In other words, if you’ve got a kid who is a great academic kid, who is maybe not a superstar runner, would he boost the overall academic profile of the team and enable you to bring someone on who is a great runner, but might be on the cusp academically?
Yeah, I don’t think they really do. Even the kids we get who are borderline are still strong. We’re never getting a real stretch. So even borderline kids are still really good students. So they really don’t follow it like that.

As a D3 coach, obviously you can’t give any athletic money. Are you able to help the athletes access merit or need-based aid?
We can just point them to the website and direct them to the people. That’s definitely one of the hard things about D3 – you’re going to lose kids and you can’t do anything about it. Money is a big factor, especially nowadays. There’s no doubt that at the Division 3 level, you’re at the mercy of their financial aid package, which we have no input on. But, it’s one of those things that, you’re going to get some kids that you don’t recruit because they got an (academic) scholarship. And they’re going to call you up in May and say, “Hey, I’m Joe Smith and I ran this time in the mile and I’m coming – I got this scholarship I’d like to run on your team.” So there are times when we’ve benefited from it. But as a coach, it definitely can be frustrating when you go through the whole process and the kid wants the school, but in the end, financially, they get a better deal someplace else. But that, unfortunately, is just part of the Division 3 experience.

Up next: Time commitment, class schedule clashes and attrition

The Coach’s View: Jeff Stiles, WashU Track – Part 1 of 3

The Coach’s View
Coach: Jeff Stiles, Washington University Track and Field and XC.
Coach Stiles was named the Division III Women’s Cross Country National Coach of the Year last November. He was kind enough to answer of few of our questions about athletics and recruiting at a top Division III program.

What do you look for in a recruit besides times?
I guess number one would be that they are authentically interested in our institution. When you recruit at a higher-end academic school, you tend to get a lot of people that just want to go to a good school and they’re looking at 20 schools. So we’re looking for kids that picked us out, honestly. There are students out there that play a game and they’re telling every coach the same thing, all the while they’re going to go to whatever school is ranked number 1 on their list – if they get in. So our first thing is to find kids that are really authentically interested in WashU – not just, ‘hey I want to go to a good school’ – but I’ve done my research .We don’t necessarily have to be the top choice going in, but they should have it narrowed down to a realistic number. We’re on their list, and they know why we’re on their list – they know what we have to offer. So that would be number one.

We all know athletes who were successful at the HS level and then they get to college and they crash and burn. What do you look for in a recruit that indicates that they’ll make a successful transition?
Honestly, you never know. There are kids who have gone to high schools that are notorious for not producing and have gone on to be really good. You’re looking for those kids who are really intrinsically motivated. Kids who really love the sport, and there’s not a 100% method of knowing who that is. But you’re looking for the kid who seems to do it because they love it, not because the coach is holding a stopwatch and telling them to go out and run 10 miles.
Some kids are just in a really rigid high school program where they don’t have a choice, so you don’t know their internal motivation level.
Now maybe you have a kid who is new to the sport or comes from a less-developed program, or there’s a coach who you have a relationship with that you can trust and he tells you, ‘hey, this kid really loves it.’ So for me, when I find out a kid maybe had the first cross country season of their life as a junior, that’s not a turn-off, that’s a turn on. To me it’s, ‘wow’ that gives me reason to believe that there’s a lot more in the tank. But what I’ve learned is maybe you might think a kid is fried-out, but then they go on to do really well. Or you have a newer kid and you think, hey, they have a lot of potential – and maybe they do, but you just don’t have enough data to know that they love it or they’ll stick with it. In all of it, you’re making an educated guess.
I suppose the longer that you coach, the more of an intuitive feel you get…
I think so. I mean every coach likes to think so, but we’re all wrong at times.

 

Next: Supporting recruits through admissions and Division 3 financial aid