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The WRCC
December 6, 2018

Running in College
 
Our job responsibilities as a coach of young athletes is many.
We are responsible for the right training, for their health and well being, for monitoring their success as a student first and an athlete second, and for  helping to usher them into adulthood as a good world citizen. As we invest in their fitness, we must also invest in their future. Our hopes for them go far beyond our goals as successful coaches. We must also hope for them a successful life. Veteran coaches, Laura Caldwell and Melissa Hill, will help you guide your athletes into the next phase of their lives as an athlete at a D1, D2, or D3 school or as a club competitor. This information can help your athletes make the right choice as individuals for the next step. Included below are three insightful interviews with two collegiate athletes and one high school athlete on the process and experience of running in college. 

Recruiting of HS Track and Field/Cross Country Athletes
by Laura Caldwell
 
If you are a high school track and field/cross country coach, chances are you have had the opportunity to help promising athletes with their recruitment to college track programs, big and small. And since you have this opportunity, it is important that you familiarize yourself with the rules the NCAA has in place for the recruiting process--a task you should do every year, as changes occur almost on a yearly basis. The bare minimum would be pointing your athletes to the NCAA.org  website to read up on the rules. However, there are certain things you can do to help your athlete have a successful recruiting process other than knowing the rules of the game.

The first thing should be getting your athlete to the school counselor to discuss what classes are needed to attend accredited colleges. The longer they wait, the tougher it will be to catch up academically later if need be. Granted many schools address their student body on college requirements for attending college. But it is important to make sure that the discussion has happened along with what schools the athlete may be interested in attending. Encourage them to start a notebook to keep brochures on each college and any correspondence they receive. For eligibility information:  http://www.ncaapublications.com/productdownloads/CBSA19.pdf

Next, by understanding the NCAA recruiting rules, you can help your athlete navigate what they can do to help the process along as well as what a college coach is allowed to do. (As a side note, if you or your athlete thinks a college coach has overstepped, i.e. broken a rule, every D1 institution has a compliance officer that you can contact listed on their website.) If the athlete has a certain school or schools of interest, help them contact that institution to introduce themselves. This lets the college coach know your athlete is interested in their program. Since recruitment is not allowed until an athlete’s junior year, know that no coach can contact your sophomore, but the athlete can call or contact the college coach at their own expense.

Once college coaches are allowed to contact your athlete by letter, email or text (beginning September 1 of their junior year), impress upon your athlete the importance of being prompt and courteous with a reply. College coaches are extremely busy, not only recruiting multiple athletes, but with all the other myriad duties associated with running a college track program. A prompt response saves them from having to work harder to get your attention. On the converse side, if your athlete is not interested in that college’s program, a simple “thank you but I’m not interested” saves everyone’s time. 

Starting July 1 after an athlete’s junior year, a college coach is allowed to call and speak to the athlete. These calls help the coach get to know your athlete and your athlete get to determine if the program is a good fit. As their coach now, help them develop questions to ask each college coach that will fill out what each program entails. Having questions to ask helps the athlete participate in a conversation, and will hopefully help their personality shine through.

All athletes are allowed five official visits, one per college, to D1 programs beginning September 1 of their junior year (D2, D3 and NAIA are unlimited, as are unofficial visits to D1 programs). Talk with your athlete before they visit any college about etiquette, behavior, and what is expected from them. Help them to determine if the school is a good fit, not just athletically, but academically as well. They will need to like being at the college they end up attending. Impress upon them that the college has invited them at its expense. This will hopefully reinforce the importance of first impressions and good behavior.

Lastly, when all the visits are completed and your athlete has decided where they want to matriculate and spend the next four+ years of their running career, make sure they promptly contact all the other coaches to let them know what that decision is. Impress upon them that this will not be the first “no” the coach has gotten and it helps the coach to move on to other athletes still interested in their programs.

Getting recruited can be an exciting time for your athlete, but it is also very stressful because they are trying to determine where the next chapter of their lives will be written. As their high school coach, you can help ease this transition and send them on their way to a happy, fulfilling college experience.

For more information on the rules of college recruiting visit: ncaa.org/recruiting

 
Our job responsibilities as a coach of young athletes is many.
We are responsible for the right training, for their health and well being, for monitoring their success as a student first and an athlete second, and for helping to usher them into adulthood as a good world citizen.
Three Interviews of recruited athletes and their collegiate experiences
by Melissa Hill

As we encourage our athletes to consider running in college, I wanted to learn about the recruiting and collegiate experience of three of my former athletes. I believe there is a lot to learn from their answers, and I thank them for their honest assessments.
 
L.B. - HS  Senior
Were you recruited to run for a specific college or university? How many?
I was recruited by several universities in and around Missouri. Many of them sent letters to my school expressing interest, however for the most part I was looking to attend a school outside of the Midwest.

Did you reach out to colleges/universities through their website or through your high school coach?
I reached out to a handful of schools through their websites, filling out their recruiting questionnaire and also sending the head coach an email with some more information about myself.

Were you already interested in the school (or schools) for academic reasons?
Yes, many of the schools that I reached out to I had found out about through their academics, and from there I looked at their cross country and track programs to make a more detailed judgement about the university.

How involved were your parents in your decision making?
Honestly, my parents were pretty hands-off during the process. They knew that I had an idea of what was best for me and they trusted me to make the best decision for myself. They offered guidance when I needed it, but they were mostly there for support.

How involved were your high school coaches in assisting the recruiting process and decision making?

They were somewhat involved, but again, mostly from a supportive stance. They encouraged me to put myself out there to some programs that I was unsure about, and they assured me when I was having doubts about my future.
 
What were determining factors in your choice of school?
The most important factor for me was that I would like the school with or without running. I had to remind myself that an injury or some unfortunate circumstance could come and take the running aspect away from me at any time, so I made sure that the academics, professors, student life, and overall feel of the school were as appealing to me as the running program.
 
Tell us a little about your high school running experience; your relationship with your team and coach.
I am truly grateful for my high school running career. I was faced with several challenges, and also had many accomplishments, and I think overall all four years were just a big learning experience for me. My teammates and coaches were nothing but supportive, and I would not trade any of them for the world. I am also grateful for the fact that my coaches never overtrained me, in fact I was pretty undertrained, so I am looking forward to training hard in college and being able to reach my full potential.
 
What, if anything, would you change about your process of choosing your university?
I would definitely start earlier, and do more research on several different schools prior to sending out any emails. I waited too long, honestly out of fear of rejection, and it limited my options when it came down to the final decision. That being said, the school that I chose is perfect for me and I am so grateful that I found it and was able to get in contact with the coach. I just feel that I would've saved myself a lot of stress had I started a bit earlier!
 
K.W. - DI athlete
 
Were you recruited to run for a specific college or university? How many?
I actually wasn't recruited to run for any specific college or university, as I was closer to the walk-on standards for some of the smaller division one schools. I started visiting colleges in the winter of my senior year and hadn't yet run fast enough track times to meet scholarship standards. I wasn't set on running in college until about June before my freshman year, so I had a little bit of an unconventional "recruiting process".

Did you reach out to colleges/universities through their website or through your high school coach?
I reached out to the coaches of a few of the school I was visiting to meet with them casually and see what it would take to be apart of the team. When I visited Colorado State I spoke briefly with Coach Siemers and he told me what standards it would take to be a walk-on. I also went for a run with the girls while I was there which honestly scared me a bit because they were so fast, haha.
 
I applied to a wide range of out of state schools, including Depauw, Drake, Murray State, Ball State, and Colorado State. I initially chose CSU for the school, and luckily my senior track season and participation in the Festival of Miles allowed me to hit a scholarship time. So, in June 2014 I emailed Coach Siemers again updating him on my improvement and luckily he sent over scholarship documents for me to sign.

How involved were your parents in your decision making?
My parents were heavily involved in the process and came along with me on all of my visits, but ultimately the decision was entirely up to me. I was and am still very grateful for the ability to go out of state for college and have parents that allow me to make big decisions on my own.

How involved were your high school coaches in assisting the recruiting process and decision making?
As I said before I wasn't set on running in college so I didn't reach out to my coaches that much, but they definitely encouraged me to at least try collegiate running.

What were determining factors in your choice of school?
The determining factors of why I chose CSU was the campus itself and location. I didn't take an official visit or anything at CSU but got extremely lucky the program was a perfect fit for me.

Tell us a little about your collegiate running experience; your relationship with your team and coach.
My college running experience overall was extremely positive. With CSU being a smaller school in the Mountain West Conference I was able to run at the division one level but still have some success along the way and be apart of two Conference Championship Teams. The coaches were very insistent that increasing mileage would lead to success so freshman year was a bit of an adjustment for me. I went from running maybe 15-20 miles a week in high school to hitting 70 miles a week my junior and senior year of college and this is what I attribute my success to. The program, coaches, and team were like a family and I've made life-long friends through college running. I would say the only negative aspect was I got hurt a lot in the later stages of my career and was unable to complete my final track and cross country seasons due to injury. The pressures of college running and the pressure I put on myself made me run through a lot of pain my last year which I think tainted my experience in the end. Although, again my coaches and athletic trainers were very supportive along the way.

What, if anything, would you change about your process of choosing your university?
Looking back maybe I would've considered college running a little sooner but honestly, I wouldn't really change anything because I personally needed more time to develop to hit fast enough times. Maybe I would have considered D2 & D3 schools more but I like that I got the D1 experience on a smaller scale.

Hopefully, this helps someone struggling to decide on college running or not. I would recommend just trying it and sticking it out a year at least because it has been one of the best decisions and greatest blessings in my life so far.
 

V.S. -  DII athlete

Were you recruited to run for a specific college or university? How many?
I believe some schools sent me a few emails about running, but it was not as active of a process as I remember some of my teammates having nor were they schools that I was particularly interested in attending. I was not specifically recruited to the university where I ran.
 
Did you reach out to colleges/universities through their website or through your high school coach?
I personally reached out to the coach via email to set up a meeting when I was going to be on campus in January for academic scholarship interviews. I also visited a second time with my friend and teammate, who was also planning on attending the same university and was interested in continuing to run. During my initial visit, the coach seemed fairly indifferent to me joining the team or not. Then, at the second visit, which was near the end of my senior year, he seemed to be more active in trying to recruit me (and my teammate): he offered us both scholarships (although I had at $500 limit due to my academic scholarships) and he set up a meeting with current members of the team.
 
If so, were you already interested in the school (or schools) for academic reasons?
Yes, academics and price were my primary reasons for selecting the school. Running was considered an extra.

How involved were your parents in your decision making?
My parents encouraged me to talk to the coaches at the schools I was looking at, but ultimately left the decision of whether or not I was going to run and which school I chose to me. They were supportive of whatever decision that I made, and facilitated getting information to make that decision without actively swaying me one way or another.

How involved were your high school coaches in assisting the recruiting process and decision making?
My high school coaches were similar to my parents in that they encouraged me to continue my running career if it was what I wanted.

What were determining factors in your choice of school?
Mainly the academic quality versus the price. The opportunity to run was considered an added bonus. I was initially excited to be running Division II because I thought it would provide me the opportunity to focus primarily on academics, while still having the opportunity to continue trying to improve. I loved running at the end of high school, and I felt like I had untapped potential by the end of my senior year that I wanted to try to meet by running at the collegiate level.

Tell us a little about your collegiate running experience; your relationship with your team and coach.
Ultimately, I had a negative experience with collegiate running, but it didn’t start out that way. I enjoyed my freshman year cross country season and was actively breaking PRs from high school. I was so excited to be in the best shape I had ever been in and was eager to improve, no matter what it took. An older teammate advised me that if I wanted to get better then I should push myself harder on my easy run days and increase mileage: advice that worked for her, but was not the right training plan for me. That winter, I overtrained and ran through shin splints until I couldn’t. I ended up redshirting indoor track, and the improvements that I had seen like in my cross country season occurred less often, until I reached a plateau.

During my sophomore year, I faced more injuries—I reinjured a knee that I had hurt over the Summer during weight training and subsequently my hips got out of alignment due to compensating for that pain. As the time lengthened where I kept posting disappointing times, my frustration mounted, my enjoyment for running waned, and I became increasingly depressed. At the same time, my coach became more disengaged toward me. At the beginning of the season, he would say that he wanted to talk to each individual after his/her race, but would actively seek out those who did well and ignore those that were not up to his standards. Personally, when I was already auto-critical, his apathy towards me made me even more disinclined to talk to him. After one meet, I remember walking toward him, and he turned and walked away. Maybe he didn’t really see me, but that day I ended up sitting outside the arena by myself and just cried.

I ended up taking a hiatus from track after that day. I still went to practice, but did not go to any meets and took a break from competing. Toward the end of the season, I tried to confront him in his office about how I felt like he was ignoring me because I wasn’t doing well, but he was unreceptive and berated me for not doing enough to improve. He cited my actions and lack of motivation as the problem; everything was my fault. At this time, I realized that I was not valued as a person by this coach, that he wrote me off as worthless instead of working with me on what was going on and getting through this hurdle of burnout in my running career.

It amazes me that I didn’t quit after that moment. The only reasons I stayed for the following cross country and indoor track seasons were because my friends were on the team and I was raised to finish what I started. Faced with extreme negativity to the sport that I used to love, I tried to make running fun again for myself and not take competing quite so seriously. While this approach slightly helped, I gradually felt more and more isolated from my teammates, who didn’t really understand my perspective on running and thought that I wasn’t taking it seriously enough. It was a small team, and there wasn’t really room for someone to take it easy for a while and get back on track with running. Once I felt alienated from my friends, my resolve to stick it out until I graduated crumbled. And in the end, the only person from cross country that kept in consistent contact with me after I wasn’t on the team anymore was my teammate from high school.
 
What, if anything, would you change about your process of choosing your university?
If I am reflecting on my choice in university solely based on running, then I wish I had found a program where the coach and team supported each other through highs and lows, and the athletes were valued as students and people first. Instead, I feel like I was lied to during the recruitment process, and believed he had athletes' interest in mind when he did not. For example, the coach assured me that they run on gravel and dirt trails frequently, only to find out come the season that he does not believe that running surface makes a difference in injury rate (as long as female runners eat enough red meat). In this sense, I would have liked to have had a little more guidance of how to tease out a coach’s true nature and the questions to ask him and the team in order to evaluate the program. For example, if I asked about the retention rate of the program, I might have found out how many students end up quitting cross country and track from my school. I didn’t find out until later about the politics behind the recruiting process, which might have helped me choose a cross country/track program better suited for me.
 
But, ultimately, I did not choose my university based on the running program. In my main reasons for choosing my college, I got what I went there for, and that is still what is most important to me. Part of the reason why I finally quit running was to realign my focus and energy to academics. Yes, I am disappointed with how my relationship with running turned out, and I honestly can’t say that I would choose to run in college if I were given the option to go through this process again with the school I chose. Sometimes I wish I had more variety in options for running in college because at least then it might have been a larger factor in choosing my school. But, then again, it’s hard to say in hindsight if it would have changed my choice. Overall, I am grateful for what I learned about myself even through the ordeal that collegiate running was for me, and for what my university did provide me in terms of an education.
We are pleased to announce the addition of Amy Yoder Begley to the WRCC's Committee. As a woman who has run at the high school, college, international and Olympic level, and is now the coach of the 21,000 plus Atlantic Track Club, Amy will bring to the WRCC a wealth of knowledge and experience to share. We are so excited to have her join our efforts to get more women involved in the coaching profession.
We are excited to announce the the WRCC will hold a session at the Nike NW Track and Field Clinic on January 11th and 12th at the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton Oregon. Our session will be on Saturday, January 12th. A panel of women coaches will talk about their coaching philosophies, share their experiences as women coaches, discuss topics ranging from "how to build a team" to "planning out your season through periodization". An exciting group of women coaches will be announced in the next few newsletters. More information can be found at www.trackclinic.net 
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