How to Get Recruited by College Coaches

How to Get Recruited by College Coaches

Posted by Latif Thomas

I get a lot of questions from athletes and parents about how to get recruited and get in front of college coaches. And I talk to a lot of college coaches who are amazed at how clueless HS coaches, athletes and parents are about the entire process. (I would tell some stories, but I don’t want to give up my sources!)

ncaaNow, I have a specific process I tell my athletes to follow. But, I know that most HS coaches don’t really do anything relevant in terms of helping athletes in this process. And school guidance counselors? Something about boobs on a bull.

So I figured I’d go straight to the source. I asked a bunch of college coaches the following question:

Q: In your opinion, what is the #1 thing HS athletes need to do to put themselves in the best position to be noticed by and therefore ‘recruited’ by college coaches/programs?

Here are some of their responses:


From Vince Anderson, Texas A&M:

“We want data. And the accuracy of that data is important. Don’t say you have a PR of 10.4 and then we come watch you at the meet and you run 10.89. We like kids who are savvy enough to know the difference between a sketchy hand time and a true FAT time. But, focus on data. Telling us which Conference Championship you won isn’t helpful because not all conferences or areas are equal. A Title in one conference may not make the final in others. Many athletes contact us and tell us accolades, but don’t provide data. This is not helpful.

If you’re a coach recommending a kid, make it clean and crisp. Keep it short and don’t make it a personal recommendation. Instead, quantify your opinion as to why you think a kid will project well at the college level. Be brief, strong and clear. Less opinion and more straightforward.”


From Marc Mangiacotti and Kebba Tolbert, Harvard University:


“The number one thing to do to get recruited and get noticed by a college coach is run fast!

If you do not get noticed by the colleges that you are interested in then you should email the coach at that institution.  That email should include all of your academic and athletic credentials including:



Telephone Number

Cell Phone Number

Email Address

Attach – Transcript

Attach – SAT and/or ACT Scores (if you haven’t taken them then the dates you will take them)

Coach’s Contact Info

***Events with personal bests (times)


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I can’t tell you how many emails I receive when athletes indicate their events, but not their times. Recruits will list accolades such as district or league champion.  However, college coaches usually do not know the strength of various high school districts and leagues are across the country.  It is paramount that the recruit list their best performances in the email.

If the recruit does not meet our recruiting standards I typically reply to them with the recruiting standards so they can set goals for the upcoming season(s).”


From Ron Grigg, Jacksonville University:


“As much as we try, we do not know the name, phone number, email address and personal best of every athlete that could help our program.  Don’t be afraid to directly contact the coaches of every single school that interests you.  Email and call.  If you don’t get a response, try again.  If you still don’t get a response, then that becomes part of your evaluation criteria for that university and that coach.  There are many, many factors that contribute to evaluating a prospect.  Personal bests are only one criteria.  I look for academic performance, statistical consistency of performance, personality, healthy history, training background and my gut when evaluating prospects.  The smarter and faster you are, the better chances you have of making any school affordable.

Some other tidbits:

·         If you know you are not interested in a school, TELL THEM, even if it is an uncomfortable conversation.  First it is part of becoming an adult; learning to communicate properly.  Second, it will save you and your family the hassle of unwanted phone calls and emails, and third, it allows the coach to spend their time recruiting interested prospects.

·         If a family complains about their high school coach, then they will likely complain about their college coach.  It is a red flag for me.

·         Ask yourself what you want to “be” in college, and then have a realistic idea of who you can “be” at the college you choose.  Do you want to be the star when you first arrive as a freshman, do you want to be nearly anonymous throughout you career and perhaps never travel, do you want to find a place where you can definitely contribute right away, do you want to “work your way up the ladder?”

·         There is likely a place for almost any level of talent SOMEWHERE in the NCAA, NAIA or Junior College level, the prospect and family just need to be realistic, and they might have to do a little searching to find it.

·         Make a list of criteria that are important to the prospect/family.  Is it MONEY, is it size of school, is it location, is it a particular major, is it academic reputation, is it the “name of the school,” is it how fun the Saturday football game will be?  Honestly communicate this with the coaches, and use these criteria for consistent evaluation purposes.  If you try to tell the coaches what you think they want to hear, but you are not being honest, then it will make for an unpleasant experience when they get to know the “real” you.  BE HONEST IN YOUR COMMUNICATION.”


From Tony Veney, Ventura College (CA)

“First of all, do your homework:

If you run 10.85/12.15 as a boy or girl, respectively, then running on scholi at Texas A&M is unlikely.


Measure how you stand with the team you’re interested in and if you can contribute.

Contact the staff as a junior so they will be able to put you on their radar.

As far as to get recruited and get noticed: If you run a mark representative of D-I & II they already know about you.
Get registered with the NCAA Eligibility Center now and take the SAT/ACT as a junior so when they do take notice you are a good fit athletically and academically.”


From an SEC coach:

“1) Perform.  If the mark is good enough, it will be seen and you will be recruited.

2) Email and/or mail to the programs of interest or fill out the online questionnaire.

What we want:

A. Event and marks achieved (relay splits do not help)

B. GPA and test scores

C. Height and weight

D. Contact information for student athlete and coach.

E. Link to video or copy of quality video (video off someone’s phone standing at the finish line does not help)

Short and simple is much better than anything long and extravagant.

It is a challenge to respond to every piece of mail/email we get including on line questionnaires. We try to be as honest with people if they are at the level we need or not so they can move on also.  If the athlete is at the level we would recruit AND fills a needs we have, we will contact them.  Phone calls will probably not get returned either.


From Michelle Eisenreich, Stanford University:

“Throw far.  If your mark is ranked in the top 25 in the US, you will be noticed.”


From Steve Fitzgerald, Stonehill College (MA):

“At Stonehill College the #1 thing our staff looks for is someone who has strong academics and has the athletic ability to compete at a high level in New England and Division II.

I don’t necessarily look for them to be a polished track and field athlete yet but they need to have the athleticism, commitment, and potential to be able to improve and compete.  I also want to make sure they are good kids who are interested in a small community environment with an emphasis on academics.”


From Dave Cusano, Wheaton College (MA):

“Athletes need to be proactive in the process. Don’t wait for coaches to find you. Don’t assume that filling out the questionnaire is the end of the process for you.

Email the coach. Fill out prospective recruit forms. Make a phone call and follow up.”


So there you have it! Whether the program is DI, DII or DIII, you can easily spot the patterns in what they’re looking for!

Bookmark this page. Save it. Send it to the people who need it.

Whether you are a coach, parent or athlete, now you know what’s required on your end. By following this advice you will give yourself a distinct advantage over the masses of athletes who will never see this and won’t get noticed.

P. S. Want to get coached by top college coaches? Come to the 5th Annual Complete Track and Field Summer Clinic at Harvard University. Click on the banner below.





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Latif Thomas owns and operates Complete Track and Field and serves as the Co-Director of the Complete Track and Field Clinic, the largest track and field clinic in the United States. A popular speaker and presenter at some of the largest coaching clinics in the country. Over the past 15 years, he has coached more combined League, Division, All State and New England Champions in the sprints, hurdles, and jumps than he had the emotional strength to go back and try to count. Follow @latif_thomas on Twitter

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  • Ian

    Is it too late for a high school senior to contact coaches?

    • Latif Thomas


      The short answer is: The answer is always no if you don’t ask.

      But it comes down to if your performance/s meet their standards and they have space for you.

  • Alison Vincent

    Great article! I spend each day working with thousands of track & XC athletes who want to make the leap to college competition & the comments above are what I tell my athletes day in & day out. I am glad you are getting this information out to the track community at large. We hear a lot in the media about freshman football players committing to a school or an 8th grade point guard who makes a verbal, but it really creates unrealistic expectations for track & XC kids who have to put a lot more work into their recruiting process.

  • Geoff Hennessy

    With sites like Dyestat and Milesplit a good athlete’s info is out there. So HS coaches and athletes – don’t try to snow anyone with sketchiness. Contact the schools you want to run for (or jump/throw/etc). I use US News & World Report’s guide to Colleges and Universities and look up the schools that excel at what you’re interested in majoring in (if you even know). Then we look at those schools and how they do in track or XC. Then we look at the roster. A balanced roster shows that kids don’t get beat up (most of the time). A roster with lots of freshmen and no seniors means athletes quit the program. That’s a major red flag. With the print media doing such a crap-house job of listing agate scores and the like from major college meets, HS coaches and athletes need to do their homework. A mediocre team with a great academic program might be for you. A small fish in the big pond might be what you want – or not. The underlying message – do your homework, and communicate.

  • Mark Hoffman

    I’ve had several athletes who decided to try out collegiate track AFTER they were already in school. Initially, they thought they would just concentrating on their studies, but decided they missed it. They took it upon themselves to go right to the head coach and discuss the possibility, then I followed up with an email or phone call. Some started out as walk-ons at D1 and ended up with scholarships in their final years. Another one competed in D3 and ended up setting a D3 national record in the discus and competed in the trials this summer. My point being is that it is never too late. As long as the love of track and field burns inside of an athlete, they will make it work at some level.

  • C. Rockwell

    Does a softball athlete have to play High School ball to get recruited by a college? My daughter feels she gets more out of playing Comp ball, and would like to just take off during High School ball to train. So, in saying can a ball player be just as easily recruited by just playing comp ball as easily as High School ball.

    • Latif Thomas

      @C. Rockwell:

      Not necessarily. I don’t know what ‘Comp’ ball is, to be honest. I think it depends on the coach and the program. Some coaches might just want to see results. I know some coaches look at athletes who bail on their high school programs as selfish. But, I don’t know what specific attributes and results softball coaches at the collegiate level look for. Best thing you can do is contact coaches of schools your daughter might be interested in and find out what their specific parameters are.

  • Michelle Annino

    My daughter is a Sophomore. Is it too soon for her to start emailing coaches? Do most kids wait until Junior year?

    • David E.

      @Michelle Annino: I have same question as my son is a Sophomore. Would a good time to contact some schools be after Sophomore track season? How important are USA Track and Field, or AAU Track meets in summer when training focus is on Cross Country?

      • Latif Thomas

        @David E.:

        See my response to Michelle.

        Your son needs time off. He can’t do cross country, then indoor, then outdoor, then compete in summer meets and then go right into cross country. I mean, he can. But, he’ll get injured or start to despise training and competing.
        If I have hardcore athletes who want to compete all the time, during the summer I tell them to drop down in events and focus on things they don’t do all season. Rest is a critical part of training.

        • David E.

          @Latif Thomas: Thanks Latif. I hope we’re doing it right then. My son actually doesn’t compete in USA T&F, or AAU during the summer but we know of his competitors that do. He takes 2-weeks off after track and then begins training for XC, but runs only 1 5K a month for fun and to get some idea of time.

        • Clarise Simmons

          Thank you so much for providing this information. I’ve been search for the scoop on what division 1 colleges are looking for so I can know what I have to work on. This was very helpful THANK YOU!

    • Latif Thomas

      @Michelle Annino:

      It’s not too early *only* if her sophomore times already meet the criteria to be competitive at that particular school. For example, if your daughter runs 12.75 in the 100 as a sophomore, but that time makes her 8th on the depth chart at a particular school, that coach isn’t going to keep track of your daughter. And they don’t want to hear about what her parents project she will do in the upcoming year/s. So, it can’t hurt if she’s already running collegiate level times. But, if she is performing and improving, I would focus my efforts on getting in front of coaches after she has a stellar indoor season her junior year. Girls can go through a lot of physical changes between sophomore and junior year and college coaches know that. So junior year spring is a critical season to perform well. And after that, senior year indoor will back up what happened spring of junior year.

    • Alison Vincent

      @Michelle Annino: Michelle – she can begin to email coaches at this point, but unless they are D3 or NAIA programs, they cannot reply to her. A better approach is for her to spend time researching schools & finding out what she is looking for so she can better communicate with programs that are the right fit for her when the time comes.

  • M. Bliven

    I have a different sort of question but related to the topic somewhat. We have an epidemic issue here at our high school with our “athletes” choosing to bypass participating in the track season to either work out on their own for another sport, join a club team for another sport or do absolutely nothing during the track season.
    It’s bad enough we compete to get our athletes to participate in the track and field program during the spring with golf, soccer and tennis (and softball/baseball as it overlaps with the track season) but how much credit do college coaches of sports like football, basketball and volleyball place on athletes participating in a track and field program in high school?
    Our football, basketball, softball/baseball and volleyball coaches all promote and encourage our athletes to get out for track but for the most part it falls on “deaf” ears. Maybe if these kids/parents know that college coaches do place credit on track participation for athletes their recruiting it might help our numbers.

    • Latif Thomas

      @M. Bliven:

      I have that same problem at the school I’m at. Especially on the boys side because they choose to ‘lift’ all spring to get ready for football. My school record holder in the 400h plays soccer in the spring and my fastest overall female sprinter from indoor is playing lacrosse. As is my best freshman HJ and best freshman 400 runner. So, I get it.
      In terms of what college coaches give ‘credit’ to, it depends on the coach and the program. I don’t think ‘track and field’ in and of itself is something non-track coaches *need* to see. It’s more that coaches of those sports want to see that kids are doing something as opposed to nothing. If a college coach has to pick between two kids who are essentially the same, they’ll for sure choose the kid with good track and field stats and participation over the kid who took the season off.
      If the kid chooses to play club soccer to keep their year round soccer activity going, it really depends on the coach. Some progressive coaches will want to see well rounded athletes. Others just might like specialists. It also depends on the program. Most high school T&F programs are run by people who don’t know what they’re doing. So if the kid is just doing track, but they’re a sprinter or jumper who is being coached by a distance runner sending them on the roads and not teaching technique than 1) it’s not going to mean anything to the coach and 2) the kid is going to know they’re doing nonsense and not be motivated to come out.
      That said, I travel all over the country to teach coaches how to coach and my track and field athletes have broken 24 school records in the 2.5 seasons I’ve been at the school and that doesn’t get kids out either. Poor marketing on my part. But, the truth is this:
      People don’t consider track a *real* sport and that’s the biggest problem you/we have. Kids don’t want to ‘run for fun’. Kids aren’t inspired to come out for track when track teams wear shirts that say ‘My sport is your sport’s punishment’.

  • http://JacobMonluxandKidsFailedFitnessFacebook Jake Monlux Pres Kids Failed FitnessCharitable Trust-

    My Grandson asked me to help develop his javelin and discus throw. He is 10th grader. 6ft 4inches,220 and still growing. I am a retired coach and physical therapist. His father wants him to spend every spare time in the weight training for strength. I would rather he develop more coordination in addition given by a very well organized track and field program-running, hopping, skipping ,jumping, general conditioning ex. I would rather he be a big strong and well coordinated athlete rather than just those included in foot ball. His Uncle Earl Monlux was a all Am guard and Caption of the U of W Wash State in 1953 and I was a gymnast at WSC in l953. His dad’s goal is to have Andrew (grandson) get recruited for College football -Tailback.

    Question-Does having statistics of body size and type, weight lifted, track and field time and disace, Academic achievement, Characteristic reference, course of study,and coaches comments and recommendations int h the 11th grade sound like a good place to start

    • Latif Thomas

      @Jake Monlux Pres Kids Failed FitnessCharitable Trust-:

      In short: His father is taking the wrong approach and you are suggesting the correct approach. All the things you suggest are a good place to start. The only thing is to back way off the ‘character reference’ portion. That means very little to coaches because what else are you going to say?

  • Devin

    How do you know if you’re “good enough” to get recruited? As a girl long jumper, I get in the high 16s, so I thought I would never have a chance, but recently I was told by my coach that he was contacted by a Div.1 school about me. Are the recruiting standards put up online (they say 19ft is the girl’s recruiting standard for D1!) strictly followed or would someone like me be able get scholarships? I don’t want to embarrass myself by contacting a coach with such a low distance! Thanks!

    • Latif Thomas


      It depends on the program. In the vast majority of D1 programs, 16s are not going to be recruitable marks. That said, I have a girl on my HS team who has run 59.9 in the 400, which is not a “D1 time”, but got money from the school she is going to. They have a need for that event group, she gets really good grades and comes from a good HS sprints program. So that was worth it to the coach.
      So, what you need to do is make a list of the schools you are interested in. Then go on the websites for those programs and look at all the jumpers they have and see where you would fall on their depth chart. If your 16 high is going to put you on the bottom of the depth chart then you’re probably not going to get a response from the coach. But, if all of their Long Jumpers are seniors and they have a need to replace that event group then maybe you will be someone they would look at. If the coach from a D1 school contacted your HS coach and you’re interested in that school, do whatever the college coach told your HS coach you should do. If your HS coach doesn’t really know what’s going on, follow the suggestions made by the coaches in the above article. One thing I do know for sure: You won’t embarrass yourself by contacting a coach. If your performances don’t meet their standard/s you just won’t get a return call/email/text. But, in this situation as well as every aspect of life, the answer is *always* no if you don’t ask. And college coaches do like to see athletes who show initiative!

      • B Turnage

        My daughter is 13 and running in a Cathlic Youth Organization (CYO) program. We don’t want to push her too hard by competing year round, but want her to get the best of the program. She’s considered “fast” but compared to whom? Is there a seasonal bench mark for young athletes? AAU? Junior Olympics? Also, when should she/we begin investing more time in the sport? She’s a well rounded child (Orchestra, Honor Student). We don’t want her to burn out early. Also, of course she’s still growing so there’s the little pains that go with that (5′ 9″ already). Look forward to your comments.

        • Alison Vincent

          @B Turnage: Follow her lead. If she is asking for more competition & it is reasonable both in terms of finances & time investment, do what you can to make it work. If she is happy with the level & type of competition she has now, let it be- there will be many more opportunities for her to continue to develop at the high school level.

  • Garrett Gabriel Graham

    Sound like our high school with the coaches, because we have plenty of athletes that have D1 capabilities but never seem to go anywhere after college. Like myself, I do Track and Field and I didn’t start to get coaches looking at me until the start of my senior year and those were mostly div. II schools. Now I had the times of going also to a lower Div. I school but the small town I live in hardly anyone goes DI. So these articles really help because I emailed the school I wanted to attend which was The Citadel. Reason being I know they make great men out of the very few ones that want to attend and also I wanted a scholarship to run track. It was my dream to go to college to do so, and by filling out the questionare on the internet the coach contacted me and yes I will be attending The Citadel this August on a Track Scholarship!

  • Michael Hall

    Hey Latif thanks for the info. But…..I was a high school guidance counselor AND track coach for over 30 years and always tried to give kids good college advice. I don’t think all GC are boobs.

    • Latif Thomas

      I also don’t think *all* GC are boobs! But, I still say too many fail to provide relevant information geared to the process as it exists here in 2013.

  • Michael Hall

    Hey Latif thanks for the info. But…..I was a high school guidance counselor AND track coach for over 30 years and always tried to give kids good college advice. I don’t think all GC are boobs.

  • coach RJ

    It takes awhile build a program to a level where regular kids have a respect for the program and students consider it an honor. I was one of those distance coaches you spoke of. I had a basic knowledge of the field events but had a passion for the sport that was contagious. A huge part of making people want to be part of your program has nothing to do with the details and evrything to do with the expectations and team culture that the coach instills. I spent the last ten years going to clinics and learning the jumps and hurdles so that I could give these kids quality coaching. This season I had 4 boys over 21 feet in the long jump and two boys that went 6-6 or higher in the high jump. I was able to provide these boys with the coaching they needed but they would have never joined the team if their wasn’t a common respect for the program throughout ou district which also has state level baseball and lax programs. I believe that a coach that doesn’t know how to effectively make the athletes, parents and community member to buy into what you are trying to accomplish is just as much of a crime as a coach that doesn’t take the time to learn their trade. Track is the sport that nobody cares about only if we let it be. Put the success of the program in evryones faces. Call the papers and maoe sure they give the sport its due respect. Make sure evryone knows how much hard work goes into the sport!

  • Clarence Gaines

    B Turnage – This link will give you an idea how your daughter compares to kids in the nation – National Youth Ranking System

  • Alfred

    Hello my names is alfred hunter I run track for jones county high school Gray,GA and USATF with roadrunner track club my times are on GA mile split and I wanted to know am I getting recuited and look at far as runing track at the next level I have great grades and good times that are getting faster every time I step foot on the track to pratice and compete I just started my junior year yesterday and planing my sat date and act so what the next step sending schools emails and personal info and letting them know how interested I am in there school and track program and doing questinaire for track and field

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  • Ashley

    My name is Ashley Leyva. Im a freahman in high school, but have great track scores check them out.

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  • KIM

    I think there needs to be a basic reality check here re: recruiting. Even though we have dyestat, flotrack, & milesplit, collegiate coaches at D-I are essentially looking for national champion material or Olympic potential. It’s all about making the coach look good & getting as many team trophies. Most track & field athletes do not qualify for this standard but there is a percentage of athletes who have very reasonably personal marks that are competent or there are athletes who have harvested their share of medals in state meets. They will be overlooked. This is unlike sports such as fencing, field hockey, crew, softball. Few scholarships are given or even available. As an example I was a walk-on to my team. I brought with me All-State XC honors of 4 years, several conference titles, & a state title. For my era my times were excellent but pale in light of today’s evolution. 5:22 was considered a very competent mile time when I raced. Now that doesn’t buy you a cup of coffee. But consider that I ran a 9:38 3k XC & several 2 mile cross country races in the 11 minute range. For the most part genetics plays a huge factor in the ultimate times for athletes.