Choosing the Right School for YOU: Part 1

The UCSC women’s cross country team gathers just before the start.

Choosing a college is a big decision. For a high school student it’s almost surely the biggest decision you will have been faced with yet. It’s a challenging process for anyone, and now you’ve gone and made it more complicated by throwing athletics into the mix. Don’t worry. You’ll figure it out.

Keep in mind the primary reason why you’re going to college. Start with a list of schools that best meet your academic needs. Other factors will then narrow your list. If you’re going to compete in college, athletics needs to be a high priority for you, but any number of variables could also figure significantly in your decision. Of course financial realities always need to be taken into account.

You’ll need to decide which other factors are important to you. Here are a few key athletic considerations. These might not be what you think is most important, but this list is based on input from those who have the benefit of hindsight. Former college runners at all levels, looking back on their college careers, point to these factors as being key contributors to the quality of their student-athlete experiences.

1. How you fit into the team

What’s the team culture? Are you a good fit socially? Academically? Athletically? Will you make the team? Will you be able to contribute right away? Will you be challenged?

2. Coach’s approach or philosophy

Is it a high-mileage program? High-intensity? Does the coach individualize the training for each student-athlete? Which type of training program is best for you? Does the coach form close relationships with student-athletes?

3. Experience of athletes that came in at your level

Are they satisfied with their experience? Do they feel valued? Did they improve?

4. Experience of athletes who have had significant injuries or other setbacks

Are they satisfied with their experience? Do they feel valued? How are they treated? Do they still feel connected to the team and the program?

5. Training facilities

Where does the team run most of their mileage? Do they run on pavement or natural surfaces? Which do you prefer? Is the weather agreeable to you? Are the track and weight room facilities adequate?

6. How good the team is, and how good they’ll be

Have they been contenders in their conference? Region? Nationally? Is the program on the rise? Do you want to be part of a winning program? Do you want to be part of a developing program?

Perspective: Scholarships, Awards, Championships, and more!

Why are you going to college?

The answer to that question should be both simple and complex.

The simple answer should be “to get an education” or “to get a degree” or some very similar permutation of that concept. If it isn’t, you might want to rethink your whole college plan or at least discuss it with your parents, and you’re definitely reading the wrong blog.

The complex answer might include other job or career-related factors like internships, research, and networking; social factors like dating, Greek life, and parties; personal factors like satisfying your parents, escaping your parents, and finding yourself; and many other factors.  But if you’re reading this, you probably have athletics pretty high on your list of priorities.

As much as I applaud and support your passion for athletics and everything else that can make your college experience diverse and complete and just plain awesome, you have to keep the simple answer — an education and a degree — at the top of your list of priorities, both when you’re choosing a school and when you’re in school, deciding how to spend your time and energy.

If your goal is to get a scholarship, receive awards, or win championships, you’re probably going to be disappointed. The vast majority of college athletes don’t get any of those things.

Why are you going to college?

Look at these pictures. Look at the smiles, the pride, the tears of joy on the faces of these UCSC Track & Field athletes as they graduate. The simple answer is what it’s about, both for them as student-athletes and for me as their coach. We all have to remember that this is why they’re here.

Student and athlete: One UCSC Track athlete gets her long run in before attending her teammate’s graduation ceremony. Her ceremony will be tomorrow.
Tears of Joy: She got her run in yesterday. Today, this UCSC Track athlete can’t contain her emotions during graduation.
Class of 2017: UCSC Track athletes Bella, Tyler, and Sophia enjoy graduation ceremonies.

Keep moving in the direction of that robe and the funny hat and the piece of paper that says you earned it, and all the great things that says about you. You can include a bunch of the other things on your list from the more complex answer, just don’t forget the simple answer.

What is athletic recruiting without athletic scholarships?

There are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings about recruiting and scholarships. That’s one of the main reasons why I’m starting this blog. I hear questions and assumptions from recruits, parents, coaches, and friends. I’ve answered so many similar questions, and corrected so many incorrect assumptions, that I decided to try to provide some understanding and clarification here.

One common line of questions and assumptions is about Division III recruiting. NCAA Division III institutions, like UC Santa Cruz, where I am the Head Track & Field Coach, are prohibited from offering athletic scholarships. It’s part of what’s beautiful about Division III, but I can get into that at another time. The lack of scholarships often confuses people. They think that means we can’t or don’t recruit, as if we have nothing to offer without scholarships. There is such a blinding focus on athletic scholarships that people lose sight of why students choose a college, or why they should choose a college.

In recruiting, I’m not really trying to convince prospective student-athletes that they should choose UCSC. I primarily try to help them find all the information that will help them make the best choice for themselves, in consideration of all the factors that are important to them in their decision making process.

The vast majority of college Track & Field and Cross Country athletes are not on an athletic scholarship. Scholarships are just one of many tools available for recruiting. Athletic recruiting is anything a program does to attract new students. That can include emails, phone calls, texts, social media posts, letters, face-to-face conversations, official or unofficial recruiting visits, and scholarships. A prospective student-athlete might communicate with coaches, administrators, faculty, alumni, and students in researching a university and ensuring that they make an informed decision.

The NCAA has many rules that limit how and when coaches and others can contact recruits. These rules vary somewhat between different divisions. Depending on the rules of their division, the program’s budget, and the preferences of the coaching staff, different programs utilize different recruiting tools at different times. Division III schools are prohibited from offering athletic scholarships. However, everything else Division III coaches do to try to attract new student-athletes is still recruiting. Just as it is still recruiting when Division I and II coaches attract new student-athletes without offering them athletic scholarships.

I touched very briefly on a lot of topics surrounding recruiting. I hope to expand on many of these in coming days, weeks, and months. Let me know



if there’s a topic you would like to know more about or a specific question you would like answered.


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A Brief History of UCSC Track & Field

For many years there has been a Track & Field Club at UC Santa Cruz. Jeff Arnett, Don Roberts, and Geoff Foley were among the coaches who guided those teams. In 2012, under Head Coach Aaron Jacobsen and Assistant Coach Jamey Harris, UCSC sponsored its first varsity Women’s Track & Field team, joining the varsity Cross Country team in competing in the NCAA at Division III. At that time, the team consisted exclusively of distance runners who had run on the Cross Country team. The Track & Field Club continued under Foley.

Four years later, in 2016, UCSC added Men’s Track & Field. By then, Jamey Harris had become Head Coach. That first year, the teams continued to be almost exclusively distance runners. Paul Friedenbach provided coaching for a pair of pole vaulters who competed that spring.

Fall of 2016 brought the first recruiting class that included all event groups. Foley took over coaching throws for the varsity team, while David Klech was brought on board to coach sprints, hurdles, and jumps.

During 2017, the first full varsity Men’s and Women’s Track & Field teams competed in every event group. Most of the Club members joined the varsity team, leaving the Club depleted, but not dead.

An impressive recruiting class will join the varsity program this fall. There will surely be more athletes than the program can accommodate. The Track & Field Club roster will obviously benefit from the overflow as the varsity Track & Field program becomes increasingly more competitive, both within the NCAA’s West Region and on a national scale.

Moving into the future, the varsity Track & Field program at UC Santa Cruz is expected to become one of the top programs in the Region and compete for national recognition.

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