About a year ago, I sent my resume in for a college coaching gig that caught my eye. Felician College (now Felician University) was looking to replace the longtime and departing coach, which also happened to be just after the first outdoor track season in school history had concluded. It would prove to be no easy task; however, after a year at the helm there are a few things I’ve learned and I’d like to share them with all of you!
First, TO ALL HIGH SCHOOL COACHES:
Help your student-athletes explore and take advantage of the opportunities out there. The biggest disappointment this year has been the athletes we have on-campus who want to join the team but can’t because of things that weren’t done right prior to starting college, and the biggest frustration I’ve had is with how many potential recruits and/or interested student-athletes (and/or their coaches, parents, etc) don’t take the steps to discover what their options are at the “next level” and end up hurting themselves or missing out on opportunities.
My suggestions? All coaches and parents should instruct their student-athletes to contact every school they might be interested prior to taking any further steps. Most, if not all, schools have interest forms, questionnaires or contact info on their athletics’ websites and that’s a great starting point; if a coach doesn’t respond to you, try again…every coach should at least do prospective recruits the courtesy of an email. Secondly, and I can’t stress this enough, keep your options open AND help college coaches find you (and other student-athletes) by keeping your online profile updated. If you use a recruiting service, change your profile when you’ve committed. If you do commit, submit your signing status to sites like Milesplit, your local paper, your school’s Twitter/Facebook accounts, etc. so that coaches know, your future college gets publicity and so you can be recognized for your accomplishment! Thirdly, COMMUNICATE. If a coach reaches out to you, reply. Even if you’re not interested, trust me we’d rather know than wonder. This job isn’t easy; it gets harder when we can’t maximize our time and when we don’t know and have to ask, that’s time that could be better spent if we know what we need to know!
Next, TO ALL HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETES:
YOU CAN DO THIS SPORT IN COLLEGE. Yes, ALL OF YOU can PARTICIPATE; MOST OF YOU can CONTRIBUTE and MANY OF YOU can SUCCEED/EXCEL AT IT. With SO MANY LEVELS and institutions that sponsor XC/T&F (NAIA, NJCAA, NCAA D1/D2/D3) there are nearly TOO MANY options for you, which means you SHOULD ASK FOR HELP making the decision! And here’s another “secret” for all of you potential college recruits: If we know about you, we can help you – and most of you would probably get some kind of help if you asked for it. I bet there’s a school out there for all of you, and based on the latest NCAA Participation Rates (see link below) there are a LOT of places that NEED YOUR HELP! We are all “fighting” for a VERY SMALL number of YOU. If more of you wanted to participate in college; if more of you knew you could participate in college and if more of you were encouraged to explore your options to do so, we would ALL BENEFIT from your involvement! Also, make sure you know what you need to do to be eligible to participate! NCAA requirements, SAT/ACT scores, GPA minimums, sliding scales…it all matters. Also, the “order of operations” for how the process goes is VERY IMPORTANT. As suggested above, contact the coach before you do ANYTHING and if a coach contacts you, ask them questions before you make any decisions. Some schools are VERY SPECIFIC in HOW the process must be completed and you can lose potential scholarships, grants, etc. by not following the process. COLLEGE IS EXPENSIVE. Why not make it less expensive? A few thousand dollars a year in athletic help may not seem like much with college costs where there are in the US, but even a little help could lead to a few months or even years sooner after you graduate to making a down payment on a house, buying an engagement ring, taking a nice vacation, or just breathing easier and not living from paycheck-to-paycheck, or in your parents’ basement for any longer than you have to!
Finally, TO MY COLLEGE COACHING PEERS:
We ALL need to work together to make this sport successful. We all have “responsibilities” to our admins, ADs, conferences, etc. but our biggest obligation is to provide student-athletes with the opportunity to succeed. Sure, many of us end up recruiting many of the same kids. Similar schools, similar locations, similar majors = difficult decisions. I can honestly say that the recruits we are getting are making good decisions for their situations and the ones who have chosen elsewhere are only a statistical loss for our program. I completely understand every “other choice” recruits have made so far. I’ve also directed some that I’ve spoken to “better fits” for them, even if it means “losing them” as a potential recruit. Is it a fault or a flaw? Perhaps. But not a moral or ethical one. I’d rather see a kid happy at a different school than unhappy at mine because I “had to get them.” If we ALL work TOGETHER we will all help each other succeed and we will help build the sport. If even 1% more HS athletes went on to participate in college XC/T&F, we’d all be better off. With proper guidance, they all will.
Coaching, for the most part, hasn’t changed. I try to give our student-athletes OPPORTUNITIES. To travel, to participate, to improve, to succeed, to excel. As a newer program, and with a new coaching staff, there are lots of opportunities here for athletes of all ability levels to get involved and I am 100% confident in saying that the more opportunities we all provide for these student-athletes (we meaning colleges, HS/Club coaches, guidance counselors, parents, advisors, etc.) the better the experience will be for all of us. If the WORST thing that happens is that some of these prep athletes TRY college sports and don’t like it, but get a good education and become contributing members of society, that’s a win. If they find a place they are happy, participate in the sport, contribute to a program, develop as young men/women and experience success socially, academically and in athletics so that they graduate ready to “take on the world” then there’s nothing better than that. I believe in the future of the sport; I believe in the future of this program and I plan on working at this until that future becomes the present. Let’s help each other make the future a bright one!