What it’s like recruiting players: An off-season of a coach

Sitting down with cross country and track coach, Brit Townsend

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Photo of a soccer coach explaining something with his coaching board
The recruiting process can take anywhere from months to years. PHOTO: Nyugen Thu Hoai / Unsplash

By: Simran Sarai, Sports Writer

The Peak often asks athletes about how they made their way to SFU and what their recruitment journey was like. This time, we decided to sit down with Brit Townsend, head coach of the SFU men’s and women’s cross country and track and field program, to find out what the recruitment process is like from the coach’s side.

How long do you spend looking at potential recruits?

It really depends on their performance. Some take a lot longer to convince and to recruit. They reach out to us or we reach out to them. Some of them have a lot of opportunities from other schools, a lot of offers we have to compete with. Others come on as a walk-on. Some come on as we’ve recruited them and they’re scholarship athletes. It can be long or it can be short.

What’s the longest time period you’ve spent looking at recruits?

It can take a couple of years of watching people’s progress [ . . . ] We have some limitations on when we can contact people with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). But that doesn’t mean we can’t watch them, and that doesn’t mean we can’t follow their performances and see how they’re progressing, which is what we do.

What are some of the considerations of being the only Canadian NCAA school when recruiting athletes? Are there any barriers you might find or any special considerations?

I actually think it’s a huge benefit. We can offer a student-athlete the benefit of a Canadian education, way of life, culture, and the opportunities and experience of competing in the NCAA against the top schools. In our sport, we compete a lot against Division I schools, so they get that opportunity as well, which is pretty special. They can be closer to home and in an environment that they’re familiar with. A lot of people have said that they want to combine the NCAA experience with a Canadian education.

When you’re reaching out to potential recruits, what does that process look like? What are some of the steps you might have to take as a coach?

It differs. They contact us, we follow up, [and] we give them a lot of information about the NCAA and about SFU. We stay in contact with them. If they’re a top recruit, we invite them out for a visit at the university, we tour them, and we have them meet with an academic advisor. Sometimes they come out for a competition. 

We had several people come out and we took them for lunch and a tour of the university during the Canadian National Championships, which were in Langley [ . . . ] Our sport is very different because we have a lot of different event areas that we look at [ . . . ] sprints, hurdles, distance runners, people that can double in cross country, [and] jumpers and throwers. It is really broad, and my assistant coaches help me identify potential athletes in those different event areas.

How does scholarship allocation work?

Scholarships are based on performance and I make the decision. If they’re in other event areas, I look to my assistants to give me some guidance as to how much they would fit into their event area and how productive they would be. It’s all based on performance. In track and field, it’s a little easier than in some of the other sports. You’re basically going, okay, you run that fast or jump that high, where does that fit in with the Greater Northwest Athletic Conference or with the NCAA? It’s pretty easy for us to make those decisions.