Welcome to SoccerNation’s “Ask The College Coach” column. In this series we take questions from soccer parents from around the country and have real, currently employed college coaches answer. If you’re interested in having a coach answer your question, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Ask the College Coach”.
Dear Ask The College Coach-
I have a question about Divisions. There is a lot of talk, marketing and a push to play for Division 1 soccer programs. From everything I have read on your site, this is not the best way to approach getting a roster spot to play college soccer.
What are the advantages, if any, of not playing Division 1 soccer for our daughter. Is the soccer better at Division 1? Lastly, do other Divisions of soccer hinder the student from getting an education and college experience like Division 1?
In theory, if obtaining a college women’s soccer roster spot is your ultimate goal, there are more NCAA Division III programs (438) across the country than any other division. There are 332 NCAA Division I programs and 263 NCAA Division II programs that offer women’s soccer. Division I does tend to be the most competitive in terms of earning a roster spot because the competition as a whole is higher than the other divisions. There are advantages of playing and not playing Division I soccer. Selecting the right university and soccer program really depends on what your daughter wants to get out of her college experience.
No matter what division she plays, her academics will be a major focus of her experience, although NCAA Division III has the highest graduation rates among athletes. Programs are motivated to graduate their student-athletes by graduation rates and the reality that most soccer players are not going to support themselves financially with a professional soccer contract. One big difference you will find between the three divisions is the time commitment.
All three divisions have to abide by time limitations, set by the NCAA, that allows athletes to participate in Countable Athletic Related Activity. This generally includes practice time, competition time, film, conditioning and weight training. Division I and II have similar time commitments throughout the academic year, with Division I having a slightly longer season in the fall. Division III has a similar time commitment to Division II in the fall with a significantly lower time commitment in the winter and spring.
Ultimately, to find the right fit, your daughter will need to prioritize what is most important to her. If the opportunity to make a Division I roster is most important (and she has the ability to do so), than she may want to look at a school that is a good academic fit that is a Division I school. If that isn’t her top priority, than she should consider a school from a NCAA Division II, III or NAIA that allows her to participate in intercollegiate athletics and meets her academic needs.
The opportunity to play intercollegiate soccer is a privilege and I hope the process of selecting a college or university is an exciting time. Have fun during this process and good luck!
Head Womens Soccer Coach at Division 2 Cal State East Bay