As the head men's track and field coach for the University of Texas, Bubba Thornton led the Longhorns to the 2006 Big 12 conference title and a third place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. For 11 years, Thornton has been at the helm of one of the finest nationally ranked programs, producing 30 All-Americans along the way. Here, Thornton shares his recruiting tips for T&F athletes.
Always look to improve
At the beginning of the recruiting process, Thornton evaluates all aspects of a recruit's athletic performance, including racing tactics and finishing place, to determine his potential for development and ability to transition into the Longhorns' running program. No matter how fast someone is, he asks: "How far can we take this person?"
Dedicate yourself in the classroom
For Thornton, a recruit's academic background carries as much weight as his athletic performance. He wants athletes who are dedicated on and off the track. "Not only are you competing when you enter the track and field arena, but you're also going to be competing in the classroom every day," he explains.
The right attitude
"A lot of people think it's just about the talent, but it's much more than that," Thornton says. When three-time All-American Leonel Manzano was recruited, Thornton looked beyond his ability to run a sub-two minute 800m. He took into account Manzano's optimistic attitude and strong work ethic, which he applied to all aspects of his life. "It wasn't just about running to him. He was really appreciative of the opportunity," Thornton says.
Don't think that because you attend a small high school, you'll never run for a D-I college. "I look for different types of menall across the board," Thornton says.
Brian Robison is a perfect example. The shot putter came to Thornton from a small school in Splendora, Texas, and worked his way to All-American status and three Big 12 champion titles. Andra Manson, two-time national champion in the high jump, and All-American sprinter Trey Griffin are also among Thornton's top athletes from small schools. "The cream of the crop always rises to the top," he says.
Take the initiative
If you want to run in college, don't just wait around for a scholarship opportunity to come knocking. Take the initiative, because colleges and universities need to know you are interested in them as well. "Be aggressive and sell yourself a bit," Thornton says.
The impression you make during the initial meeting is absolutely crucial. "You never get a chance to change that," Thornton explains. "It isn't just about how you look. It's how you handle yourself."
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