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Securing a Track & Field Scholarship in U.S. Universities

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

So, you’re a track & field athlete with dreams of competing for a prestigious U.S. university? Securing an athletic scholarship can be a game-changer in your academic and sports journey. However, knowing what college coaches look for and understanding the requirements for each NCAA division can give you a competitive edge. Let’s delve deeper.

What Do Coaches Look for in a Track & Field Athlete?

Performance Metrics:

Simply put, how fast you run, how high you jump, or how far you throw matters most. Coaches often have specific performance standards they want their athletes to meet or exceed.


While a single great performance might catch a coach’s eye, demonstrating consistent results over time can be even more compelling. This indicates reliability and suggests potential for further improvement.


Athletes who can compete in multiple events or disciplines bring added value to a team.

Work Ethic:

Coaches pay attention to athletes who show dedication, commitment, and a willingness to put in the effort to improve.

Team Attitude:

Track & field, though often viewed as an individual sport, has a significant team component, especially in college. Coaches value athletes who can work well with teammates, support their peers, and contribute to a positive team culture.


Your grades matter. To be eligible for NCAA sports, athletes must meet certain academic criteria. Plus, a strong academic record can only bolster your appeal to college coaches.

Here’s a broad overview of the disciplines within track & field:

Sprints: Short-distance races like the 100m, 200m, and 400m. Middle Distance: Events such as the 800m and 1500m. Long Distance: Events like the 5000m and 10000m. Hurdles: Races that require athletes to jump over barriers, such as the 110m hurdles for men and 100m hurdles for women. Jumps: This includes long jump, triple jump, high jump, and pole vault. Throws: Events like shot put, discus, javelin, and hammer throw. Relays: Team events like the 4x100m and 4x400m. Combined Events: The decathlon for men and heptathlon for women, which comprise a combination of the above disciplines.

NCAA Division Requirements:

Division I:

Athletic Requirement: Has the highest athletic standards. Coaches seek athletes with top national or even international rankings. Academic Requirement: Athletes must complete 16 core courses in high school and maintain a minimum GPA. They also need to achieve a certain score on the SAT or ACT.

Division II:

While still competitive, D2 schools might be more flexible than D1 in terms of athletic performance. Academic Requirement: Athletes must complete 16 core courses and meet GPA and standardized test score thresholds, albeit slightly more lenient than D1.

Division III:

D3 schools emphasize the overall college experience. While athletics are competitive, there’s more flexibility in performance standards. Academic Requirement: Academic requirements vary by institution. D3 schools do not offer athletic scholarships but might offer academic scholarships or financial aid.

Pursuing a track & field scholarship in the U.S. requires dedication both on the track and in the classroom. Start early, research schools that align with your academic and athletic goals, and communicate proactively with college coaches. Remember, it’s not just about showcasing your athletic prowess but also about demonstrating character, commitment, and the potential to be a valuable addition to a college team. Best of luck!

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