The Recruitment Story Part 2: A College Coach’s Perspective

One of the most adrenaline-producing, addicting feelings in the world for a coach is when an athlete has a breakthrough PR. It does not get old. Ever. Just about every college track program can tell stories of athletes who walked on the team or weren’t anything special coming out of high school and developed into a conference champion, all-American, national champion, etc. These stories are held up in each program because we want to inspire athletes to believe that they, too, can achieve greatness.

One of the tricks to recruiting is identifying athletes who are likely to have those breakthrough PRs in the near future. Often times, college coaches will ask the high school coach what they think an athlete’s potential is. Is this someone who is likely to blossom in the next four years or is he or she only committed half way with a mediocre work ethic? Unfortunately, this type of speculation is subjective and fallible. The more data we have as college coaches, the better. And what’s even better than numbers on paper is observation.

Enter Connext.

The Connext500 is an ideal format for college coaches to both get data on athletes that we don’t see in “normal” track meets as well as watch athletes perform and compete. Event PRs are obviously critical in the recruitment process, but getting data on standing vertical jump, horizontal jump, 10m or 40m fly times, overhead shot toss distance, weight room performances, etc. gives us additional insight that reveals a great deal about an athlete’s overall development and their potential for future growth. If I see a jumper who has a great vertical jump but a poor 40m fly time, I know that he or she could improve a lot with focused sprint development. If I see two male shot putters with similar PRs but one is noticeably better in the weight room, I am more likely to think that he will adjust better to the heavier college implements.

But perhaps more importantly, at events like the Connext500, we get to SEE athletes move through various tests which gives critical insight into character. Team culture is a direct result of the character of the individuals who make up a program – both athletes and coaches. One of our points of pride at North Central and one of the key reasons why we’ve won 31 team national championships is having strong team culture. As one might imagine, we, therefore, put a STRONG focus on recruiting people of good character. We actually prioritize character over PRs in most scenarios. Seeing results on paper is one thing, but watching someone compete is another. When I attend an event like this or a track meet, I want to see how athletes respond when they have a bad first attempt. Do they phone it in and give up, or do they display a competitive response and use that initial disappointment as motivation? How do they interact with their fellow competitors? Are they respectful? Do they take their warm-up seriously or do they do the bare minimum and walk out to their event at the last minute? (See Nate Vandervest’s article on proper warm-ups and cool downs for some great tips on this topic). Some things may seem small, but they can reveal a lot about core values and characteristics that college coaches want to see in their recruits.

I’m excited to help launch this event and eagerly await the sights and sounds of athletes hitting those exciting PRs!

Taylor Throckmorton

Recruiting Coordinator

North Central College Cross Country/Track & Field

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