OT: Coaching & ContactIng Colleges
Best thing you can do is make a highlight video of your athletes with a rap/heavy metal soundtrack and upload it to youtube.
You are welcome.
Some coaches won't view YouTube
Make the video, copy yo a DVD and send it to the coaches. If you have HUDL, that's even better.
I agree that Youtube isn't the best resource, and ReadYourGuard has some good advice (mail a DVD, use HUDL, etc.).
However, we currently have a kid who's getting attention from big schools a long way off simply based on a Youtube highlight reel. Programs have people who monitor the recruiting sites, watch Youtube videos, etc. and then pass along info to the coaches. So it can work, but it's not the most reliable source. But that's football and not track, so I'm guessing track has fewer people monitoring the internet.
The best thing you can do is attach a picture of a pretty coed to the highlights : ).
Most college track teams have camps. Generally it will cost $ for them to go but its well worth the exposure. Beyond that I hate to promote AAU anything but it is a good way to get your really great athletes on a national stage.
If you hurdle it, they will come.
I was a miler in high school (and for about a month at michigan until i realized i liked college much more than running) and the most attention I received was following good times/wins at regional and state meets. If results are also posted online these days for district meets, I'm sure those are browsed through by recruiting assistants as well. My hs coach didn't do much to reach out to coaches but he did contact the freepress if I had a great week and got me named "prep star of the week" a few times. I would say its a lot of little things in addition to personally contacting coach's offices and attending camps. If your studs are also great students I would provide grades with times. Many schools (Michigan included) don't give out full rides until a runner performs well on campus, so it's a good idea to let these coaches know that they won't have to wrestle with admissions if they are only going to give your kids a preferred walk on spot.
I managed to finish in the top ten in my (admittedly small) state in cross country for only a year, and was getting letters from D-III and D-II schools just based on times posted. I imagine any youtube or anything like that will be awesome, but if they have the times/results and express interest in the schools they want, the schools will pay attention.
Track & Field should be pretty easy, actually, since you don't need to worry about highlight videos or anything like that--either the times/distances are worthy of consideration from the school, or they aren't.
Almost every college, on its track & field team's web page, will have a recruit questionnaire for you and/or the student-athlete to complete. For example, here is Michigan's track page:
Go to "More Links" along the top, and click "Recruit Questionnaire." It has a huge amount of information for the athlete to complete, including a place to put the athlete's best times/distances. I linked Michigan's, but just about any school's web page will have a similar feature.
Put Forrest Gump down as your favorite movie on the questionnaire.
For what it's worth, our experience with our daughter's recruitment was based first on her own initiative. Club coaches facilitated contacts in some cases but their roles were more advisory in terms of how to contact the coaches (directly by email or telephone) and what information to provide to them. The rules governing when and how college coaches can contact athletes dictated that our daughter initiate most of the contact, up until July before her senior year of high school. The club team our daughter played on ended up with every player on a college team and something like 80% of them at DI schools. Watching the process unfold for all but a couple of these girls (very elite players pursued by the college coaches) really drove home the point that coaches were looking for the girls themselves to drive their own recruitment. Many coaches claimed to be able to tell by the wording of emails and even IP addresses whether a prospective recruit or a parent/coach was contacting them. Telephone calls to coahces were the best but very difficult for 16 and 17 year old kids to do. As a coach, the biggest help you could be, in my opinion, would be as a provider of support and encouragement in helping to overcome the anxiety of talking to or corresponding with a college coach.
As a a parent, I would recommend that you simply provide encouragement and support to your athletes in contacting schools that they are interested in. If the interest is reciprocated, you can be a useful point of contact for the college coaches. In our case, our daughter ended up visiting about a dozen programs and ended up choosing her destination largely on her own (I wanted her to go somewhere else for selfish reasons ... 4 years of visiting Chicago on weekends sounded good to me). Her club coaches answered questions from college coaches (I believe our high school coaches had no contact at all, or if they did it was without our knowledge) but contact between them was usually in person at showcase tournaments. In the end she is right where she belongs and we couldn't be happier for her.
First, I ran with a current miler/5k'er on Oregon Track Club, who was recruited by everyone, and I can't remember him having to do anything. He would get five or ten letters a week, mostly from schools that had no shot, and Wisconsin and Stanford (his top two) came out to visit him, I believe. This doesn't sound a lot like your case, but I do know his biggest exposure was the Nike Cross National final, since it congregates a ton of college coaches in a small area. Competing in a high profile event is probably the easiest way to garner attention.
Second, I spend an awful lot of time with some mid-major softball players, and they all emailed schools they had interest in (and this goes from national powerhouses like Arizona down to directional Iowa schools). I just asked the girlfriend how it specifically worked for her, and her response was camps first and foremost, which isn't nearly as big of a deal since I don't think coaches "scout" runners as much as they compare times, and second she said to make sure schools know you're interested. If your miler wants to run at WMU, make sure WMU is aware of his interest; they could be completely misguided, thinking they couldn't get him, have heard false information about grades, they might have certain athletic/school requirements, anything.
I'm a high school athlete right now and I signed up for this service my junior year (it's $60 one time or something) and it put me in contact with some football coaches that I never thought I'd hear from (Princeton, Brown, Johns Hopkins, Cal Poly to name a few) and some track and field coaches (University of Kentucky, Eastern Michigan, and MIT) fantastic website and easy to use, be sure to have film of all athletes, because that's what most coaches ask for.