WASHINGTON – Head men's cross country and track & field Coach of The Catholic University of America Ian Hankins sat down with the "Recruiting Code" to talk about the program, his experiences and how high school student-athletes make the jump to the college level.
Coach Hankins has extensive knowledge as a coach and recruiter. In addition to coaching, Hankins serves as a Marketing Associate and Minority Owner with the Track & Cross Country Journal (www.tccjournal.org). Hankins also serves as a Sport Performance Consultant for H2K Sports.
Q: What can or should high school athletes do from their end to get on your radar screen? What are the important steps for an athlete to get noticed by you?
IH: The first step to the recruiting process is reaching out to the college coach by either filling out a prospective athlete questionnaire or email. This should be done either at the end of your sophomore year or beginning of junior year.
At the NCAA D3 level you are allowed to make an official visit after January 1st of your junior year. It's crucial to build these relationships with college coaches. Look for schools that have your intended major and you will be able to contribute. If a coach reaches out to you, you should respond in a timely manner so that you stay on their list.
Q: Where do Division III track and field coaches most often find players for their teams?
IH: I look for a range of factors. The most important are GPA, SAT/ACT and times/marks. Being the Catholic University of America I look primarily for my athletes at Catholic schools in the Northeast, but at the same time have the ability to attract student-athletes from all over the USA.
Being a D3 institution without athletic scholarships I need student-athletes that #1 will be great students, #2 be able to contribute to the program and #3 be able to afford our institution.
Most of my athletes won't be the standout student-athletes, but the #2, #3, and #4 runner for their HS teams are often overshadowed and not recruited due to being behind a standout runner.
Q: You are now solely the men's cross country and track & field coach. Bigger programs will separate coaches for cross country and track. What should athletes look for as far as coaching staff, number of coaches involved? What is important regarding the coaching staff for a good collegiate experience?
IH: At the D3 level many programs are run by one head coach and a graduate assistant. I am truly blessed at CUA to have a fully staffed CUA Track program. I am the head coach with mostly a distance background. Our GA does jumps and sprints. We have a throws coach and strength and conditioning coach.
It is important to have a coach in your event so that you can continue to progress and develop at as an athlete. It is important to have a coaching staff that cares about the long term development of the athlete and as a student.
At D3 we focus primarily on academics and have a flexible practice schedule so you can focus on the high demands of the rigorous academics at CUA. I am always willing to work with my student-athletes whenever they can get the work in. At the end of the day, you will be running for the next four years, but you're here to get a degree so that you can have a successful career in the major of your choice.
Q: Is Cross Country and Track & Field recruiting all about recorded data? Or is there more to it?
IH: Truthfully when recruiting, I rarely go to meets as I'm mostly looking at times and marks on mile split. I have a range for each event that I'm looking for. I honestly rarely look at cross country times, as I believe track times to be more specific.
Being at the Catholic University of America we attract student-athletes from across America. I primarily focus on Catholic Schools in the Northeast.
The first thing I look at is GPA and SAT/ACT to see if they can be admitted to the university. If they pass these criteria I move on to see if they could contribute to the program athletically. However, at the same time, I rarely will turn away a prospective student-athlete at the D3 level. I always welcome walk-ons. If they meet my criteria I will invite them on campus for an official visit.
For my cross country/distance guys, I like to have this done in the fall of their senior year. For the track specific guys, I do this in late fall/early January. I like to have my classes complete for cross country in November and Track in January.
For me to offer a roster spot, you must be a good fit for the program. I find this out by asking my guys who hosted the recruits on an overnight or for the day visits that enjoy lunch with the team.
Q: What are a few of the most common mistakes that prospective-student athletes make in the college recruiting process?
IH: Not reaching out to a college coach and sitting back waiting to be recruited. Many athletes don't realize they could be able to contribute at the D3 level. At the same time, many student-athletes only want to go D1 whereas D3 could be a better experience as they could have the opportunity to be a conference champion and get to the National Meet.
Q: What are some things that would keep you from recruiting an athlete?
IH: Not communicating on a regular basis. I want my athletes to have good communication with the coaching staff.
GPA declining throughout their high school career.
High mileage already tapped out potential.
Not being a good fit for the program.
Q: What are the differences in competing in cross country and track in high school and college?
IH: College XC goes up to 8k from 5k. You get more individualize attention as typically college teams are smaller, but have more quality. You get that good competition on a daily basis in practice. You have more free time. CUA Track
Q: What do you wish your incoming freshmen knew before they trained with you for the first time?
IH: Take the recovery days seriously and recover. You don't want to go hard every day as it limits your recovery and increases your chances of getting injured. I believe in quality over quantity. More miles isn't always better.
Q: Before you were a coach, you were an athlete yourself. Can you tell us a bit about your own recruiting story? Why did you end up choosing Muskingum University?
IH: When I was being recruited there were only 3 schools I was interested in. I knew I wanted to go to a D3 school between 3 and 6 hours from home in DC. I thought I would have the most success at the D3 level and knew I would improve greatly in XC and at the 10k on the track as I lacked the speed for a 5k. At the end of the day, I fell in love with the campus and team at Muskingum. My host on my overnight ended up being one of my best friends and was a groomsman in my wedding.
Q: How did your coaches at Muskingum impact your life?
IH: I will be forever grateful to Coach Cooper for giving me the opportunity of running for Muskingum. My training really clicked and I really started to see improvement. However, after my sophomore year Coach Cooper took a new position and there was a time of transition.
My junior year was really rough from not only a performance standpoint but a personal standpoint. I can't thank Coach Gleason enough for standing by my side and always believing in me. It really showed my senior year as I had a phenomenal year. I PR'ed in every single meet and came within 2 seconds of setting the 30-year-old school record in the 10k.
Coach Gleason really molded me into the athlete that I became and is the reason I wanted to pursue coaching.
Q: If you could go back and live out your playing career, what would you do differently?
IH: I wish I was more coachable early in my college career. I believe that I should have been running the times I did my senior year my sophomore or freshman year. If I listened to the training and didn't overdo it thinking more miles was always better, I think I would have been a better athlete over my college career.
Remember your coach knows best and if you follow their training to a T, great things will come.
Q: What gives you the most joy or satisfaction as a coach?
IH: Seeing my athletes PR, break school records, win, become conference champions, qualify for nationals, become all-Americans and win the national title. I can truly say I love my job and it's kind of silly to call it a job when it really is fun and is more a hobby. I am truly blessed to be able to coach and have enjoyed a great deal of success thus far in my coaching career.
Q: Many coaches read The Recruiting Code interviews. You are involved with an incredible resource for Track and Cross Country coaches. Do you want to let them know about the Track and Cross Country Journal and how they can find it?
IH: Yes, the Track and Cross Country Journal is a great resource for cross country and track coaches across the globe. We have articles from top notch coaches across the world to contribute and inform you how to do various things within the sport the right way. Many don't realize a lot of science goes into coaching and technique. We are completely online at tccjournal.org.
Q: Is there anything important that you would like to share directly with high school athletes or cross country and track athletes in particular as they navigate the recruiting process?
IH: Make sure you do your due diligence in the recruiting process. You want to go somewhere that is a great fit both academically and athletically.
Academics should be the priority as this is a decision that will affect you for a lifetime. You need to find a school that has your major so you're able to thrive within your career post college.
Remember don't take a back seat and contact coaches now!
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