At the recent NSCAA convention in Los Angeles, top college coaches discussed the recruiting process and college soccer.
This is part 4 in our series. You can see Part 1, with the coaches’ introductions and bios here. Part 2, where the coaches discussed finding the right fit, can be seen here. In part 3, found here, coaches explained a players’ need for individual development and fitness.
At the end of the coaches’ panel, Becky Burleigh, head women’s soccer coach at the University of Florida, opened up the room for Q&A. Audience members were given the opportunity to ask questions of the highly accomplished panel of college soccer coaches. The first question came from a director of coaching at a large and accomplished competitive soccer club. The DOC explained that his club had sent hundreds of players to college programs out of high school, but that they are realizing that the club needs to open a division of “post graduation” placement.
He further explained, as the college coaches listened, that many of their players were coming back to the club during or soon after their first season of college soccer wanting to transfer to a different school. These players are not happy at their college program, and the club works hard to find them new college programs. The club coaches begin the process by reaching out to college coaches who had previously recruited the players during their high school years as well as using their relationships with college coaches across the country. The audience member describing his club’s new challenge asked the panel their opinions on this topic.
Coach Sasho Cirovski, head men’s coach at the University of Maryland, was the first to jump in with a stern explanation of his opinion that college players and their parents are often too quick to decide that a player needs to transfer to a different college soccer program. He explained, “Most players are faced with a huge challenge right at the beginning of their college careers, and each player can choose how to respond. Do they go down ‘Misery Road?’ Or do they use the challenge as a way to improve? It is completely up to the athlete.
Most freshmen won’t start or even play at the beginning of their college careers. Parents will text their children, ‘Why didn’t you play?’ Parents will text their children immediately after training, ‘How did it go?’ Players see social media posts from other athletes boasting about performance and results, and along with the pressure from parents, this presents a huge challenge to young athletes.
Each player is completely in charge of his/her own response to this challenge. Do you go down Misery Road? Or do you trust the process? Remember that the coach has a process and a plan for each athlete and for the team. Players and families need to trust that process and not allow themselves to get so hung up on immediate rewards.”
Coach Jeremy Gunn of Stanford agreed and went on to describe how “every incoming Stanford player and parent is told to read Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck.” Coach Gunn emphasized that players and parents are too focused on rewards instead of improvement. “Not starting a game does not mean a player has failed. Players and parents see a starting spot and playing time as rewards, and if that reward doesn’t appear quickly, the player gets discouraged. Instead, the player needs to focus on improvement instead of rewards. The coach has set up a process for the player to develop and improve over years. The player needs to trust the coach and that process, focusing on improvement instead of perceived rewards.”
Coach Aliceann Wilber of William Smith College added, “We are in a culture of instant everything. Remember that what stands the test of time. Things that take time are the most worthwhile. This is true in life and in soccer. Focus on the process and growth instead of immediate rewards and social media posts.” She also gave some advice that is hard to hear, pointing out, “Today’s society also puts too much value on ‘hard work,’ making athletes believe that if they put in hard work, rewards will come. This breeds a false sense of entitlement. Hard work will keep you in the door, but it does not guarantee results. Everyone on the team will be working hard. Just because you are putting in the hours of hard work does not guarantee that you will get what you want.”
Coach Gunn summarized the panel’s opinion on excessive transfers, encouraging club coaches and directors to pass along the message to their athletes’ families, explaining that athletes need to understand that college soccer is a four year process and the desire for instant gratification is hurting many athletes’ development.