Recruiting: The Neapolitan option does not exist

Yesterday I spoke with a NCAA division I coach who shared the story of a recruit who was struggling to make a decision.  The recruit wanted the academics of one school, the warm weather of another school and the coaching expertise found at a third school.

Wouldn’t that be nice.  Combine the best aspects of three different schools that are recruiting you and combine them into a Neapolitan ice cream type school.

Problem is you can’t do that.  And this is where it gets tough.  Do you go with the prestigious education, knowing that you probably won’t run as fast?  Do you go to the warm weather school, knowing that not only won’t you run fast but you also won’t have the prestigious diploma after four or five years?  Do you go to the school where you will run the fastest and have the best chance of becoming an All-American, something you’ve dreamed of, yet get an education that is not prestigious?

To make matters more complicated, for most families these choices are made more complex with differing scholarship offers from the various school, adding a fourth dimension to the decision.  But in the case above the athlete is blessed to have full-ride offers from all three schools, so it’s a three dimensional choice.

No doubt the following will be debated in the comments below, but my take is pretty simple.

First, figure out what you can afford.  That will likely take one school off your list.  This means that parents and athletes have to have a candid conversation about money and the families college savings, a conversation that likely hasn’t happened up to this point.

Second.  If the prestigious school is on the east coast and you live on the east coast, then that is a big factor.  People on the east cost know that Bates is a good school, not a choice an angler makes when she’s sitting in a boat.  But if you live in a city like Denver, people don’t really care where you went to school, unless it’s Stanford or an Ivy.

Third.  How bad to you really want to be good?  Some fast high school athletes aren’t dying to be faster in college.  And that’s okay (though you wouldn’t want to share that on your recruiting visit).  But if you’re dying to get faster than you need to use the media guide that each school provides and see if athletes with your high school PRs are running faster at each school.  You’ll likely find that only one or two schools are constantly producing faster college runners.  While it’s a normal assumption to think the all schools get athletes to run faster at the college level, the reality is that many do not.  Many college programs fail to help athletes run faster than they did in high school.  So if you want to run faster in college and running is what consumes you, then take the time to use the media guides as a window in this simple question: “Does this school develop talent?”  Or said another way, “Do athletes with my high school PRs go on to run faster at this school?”

Please know that I’m not trying to simplify the recruiting process.  It’s complicated and it truly is different for every family.  But the flip side is the Neapolitan option does not exist and every day you spend wanting that option is a day wasted in the recruiting process.

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  • Matthew

    >But if you live in a city like Denver, people don’t really care where you went to school, unless it’s Stanford or an Ivy.

    Actually, admissions officers at good grad schools and big firms know Bates, even in Denver. Your friends might not, but they aren’t going to be making decisions that determine your future.

    In 10 years (let alone 20 or 30), how much will it matter if you ran a 25 second PR vs a 10 second PR, compared to what the school’s diploma (and contacts) will get you? (Unless you’re a near-professional level runner.)

  • CoachJay

    Great point Matt.

    Worth sharing the following story. My wife went to Georgetown, but undergrad and for grad school. She then want to Law School at Colorado.

    In almost every interview she has had they interviewer first wants to talk about her being the captain of the track team and her being All-American. Obviously not every runner will be captain of their team, but I find it interesting that they don’t ask about graduating with honors, they don’t ask about her master’s thesis (which is really interesting) and they don’t ask about how well she did in Law School.

    So going to the best school you can get into is probably solid, simple advice. But isn’t it interesting how athletics could play a roll when it comes time to interview for a job.

  • moneyisnoteverything

    Jay, Your insights, and those of the commentators, into the recruiting process for track is really helpful.

    Some people say that before the spring season starts a high school junior with potential should fill out the online forms and email the coaching staffs at schools in which she has an interest (for academic and athletic reasons). Consider the kid who does not run cross country. Junior year is the last shot at impressing college coaches. Should a kid wait until the season is underway, or get the contacts made now (in the winter) and then follow up when she (hopefully) establishes new PRs or does well in some important invitationals.

    The recruitment process is like running a 3200. Got to have the speed and strength, but given those, strategy matters too. I guess the real question is: what is the best way to attract the attention of collage coaches so that they can help with the college admissions process, either with $ or with some encouragement at the admissions office?

  • Bwiss

    My sophmore ran 12:08 in 320o and 18.47 3 miles in XC..1600 time of 5:26. Shes 5ft 10 and on a good day 106 lbs. we have been working with her to gain weight and strength. She has mentioned attending a D1 school like Vanderbilt or ND. Shes also an honor student. If coaches are looking at times Jr year and her weight gain and times don’t come down, any hope for consideration. Shes a black female with Act of 30. Any suggestions you could offer would be great