It might seem overwhelming to navigate the process of recruiting in college soccer. With the current Covid restrictions it may seem even more challenging. Getting seen, communicating with coaches, what level to play, academic goals and the financial package are all important considerations. This article will provide some guidance about the process. The insights will come partly from my experience as a college student-athlete and now as college coach managing the effects of Covid on the recruiting landscape. Let’s take a look at some of the key areas that will help the student-athlete along the path to playing soccer in college.
First off, this is a great opportunity for the soon to be college student to take ownership of their own recruitment and use the process to further develop important life skills. Navigating the journey with good communication, research and scheduling will help the student-athlete prepare for college and life after. It will take time and energy to do it properly but the result is well worth it. College coaches are looking for bright and talented student-athletes that will contribute positively to their program.
We are starting here because right from the beginning of High School academics are in play. Many kids are having to adjust to online schooling. Keeping the grades while managing the new format is more challenging for some than others. Regardless, the educational piece is so important. A career in soccer is very short compared to the career after the playing days are done. Starting the freshman year of High School (and even before) the focus on study habits, good grades and test scores are important and will help provide better opportunities in college. Many universities are quite competitive when it comes to academics. Taking a risk on a player that may not cut it in the classroom can hurt a program. Test scores for ACT and SAT are not required at most colleges this particular year due to Covid. But, in the normal process they also are taken into consideration and preparing well for those tests can really be beneficial. Bottom line is the better the study habits, grade point average and test scores the more options stay open for college.
Some teenagers know exactly what career path they want to pursuit before college. Others narrow it down during college. For those with a career already in mind, begin your college search by looking at the schools that offer an academic program that will help you achieve your goals. You can start big early and narrow your scope as you get closer to graduating.
When Recruiting Takes Place
Collegiate women’s soccer traditionally recruits earlier than men. By the sophomore year of High School the recruitment process is underway on the girls side. The men’s programs tend to begin later in the junior year. During the first years of high School it is a good idea to get on a college campus and start the process of getting to know what college life looks like. When your family is on vacation or during a travel soccer tournament it is a good opportunity to visit a college away from home. The “official visit” can reveal more insight to the team and athletic program as relationships are made and the program shows a real interest in the player. Official visits have been restricted by NCAA in the current “dead period” until April 15th but normally consist of a visit funded by the institution. Keep in mind there may be a limit to how many visits a recruit can have. There is no better way to get a sense of the school than by an in person visit.
The use of video is in play more than before due to Covid restricting many showcases and events for College coaches to attend live. As a coach, I will tell you the eye test is still preferred. There is a lot that can be seen live that may not make it in a video. How vocal a player may be, body language, the intensity of the match, movement off the ball and the overall system of play for their team or the attitude in difficult situations may not convey on a highlight video. Nevertheless, it has become more of a necessity recently. The highlight video should showcase the players strengths in attack, defense and in transition moments. The video should seek to showcase the players technical, tactical and physical qualities. After a highlight video of 3-4 minutes in length, a college coach may then ask the player for a complete match video. Ability to keep possession in pressure situations, movement to show in good areas with good timing and speed of play with and without the ball are all things coaches will be looking for. Get help from your club or high school coach or someone who can help you put a good video together. A lot is lost in a video from ground level, so get video from an aerial view where the action is better shown.
Youtube can be a good place to post the highlight video. A link can then be sent to coaches via email. Also, there are many websites that can be used for college recruiting as well. NCSA, Scouting zone and Jungo-sports are just a few. These offer an overall profile of a player that can be quite detailed academically, personally and athletically. When emailing a program, include all of the coaching staff as some programs may designate an assistant coach as the point person. This way you know it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. Make it personal and know something about the school. Coaches email inboxes can be inundated with emails from domestic and international college placement programs. There are weeks where it is challenging to give them all the attention they need. So, make it personal and speak about what interests you in the school and the soccer program.
Perhaps this first part of this college recruiting article is bringing up more questions than answers. That’s ok, like I said, the process takes time and energy. Search the internet for answers to questions you have on video, preparing for SAT and ACT testing or what schools offer specific academic programs of interest. In part two we will look at playing in front of coaches, scholarships and the different levels and demands of college soccer.