Athletic college recruiting can seem overwhelming, but with some research, planning, and courage – you can navigate the process.
When planning, think about where you would like to go to college. Are you interested in a certain field of study? Does a large or small college suit your needs? Near home or far away? Consider the social opportunities at schools. Think about the environment that suits you. You may not have all the answers at first, but focus on what you would like WITHOUT soccer in the picture. Do not set your heart on just one place if you can help it. Keep an open mind and discover more about the many choices that may be available to you.
So how do you prepare for your future in college? Priority number one should be maintaining a good grade point average. Being in good academic standing not only means that you are preparing for a successful future, but it also means that you can play a sport. Poor grades = no playing time. Colleges look for good students. Simply put, maintain your grades, get involved in clubs/activities, volunteer, have fun, and work hard. Establishing yourself in this way means you can now move on and consider playing college soccer.
You are going for gold and want a full ride to college. Absolutely, dream big, but be realistic. Division I teams have 9.9 scholarships to share amongst its players for men’s soccer. For women’s teams, the number is 14. Div II: 9/men’s team, 9.9/women’s team. Div III: 0 for each. NAIA: 12 for each. NJCAA I: 24 and 24. That amounts to about 2% of high school soccer athletes getting a scholarship of about $15,000. So, remember, merit based scholarships are out there as are a number of scholarships for writing essays, volunteerism, etc.
Characteristics of a College Soccer Player
Character, Coach-ability, Soccer Qualities, Good Grades. To elaborate on these sought after qualities:
Are you positive, supportive? Are you respectful to athletes, coaches, refs? How do you react when things are not going well? Are you receptive to constructive criticism? Are you able to perform your role on the field? Can you adjust your role? Are you able to make quick decisions? Can you maintain your focus on the game (for an entire season)? Are you a proactive player?
A terrific first stop in learning about college athletics and recruitment is online: ncaa.org. At this site, you will learn more about becoming a collegiate student athlete and much, much more. At their site, click on “Student-Athletes” and scroll down. Do not become overwhelmed. This is a process, take it step-by -step. Register for a Certification Account or Profile Page with the NCAA Eligibility Center. Think about doing this during your sophomore year of high school. Take the time to learn about the different college divisions. While Divisions I, II & III all “fall under the same umbrella”, you will find there are some differences. Have you heard of NAIA and NJCAA? Take the time to discover what these are. NCAA has clear, easy to read information about those differences.
As a sophomore (or earlier), keep a list of your achievements, athletic AND academic. Consider it your high school resume. During your sophomore year, you will have the opportunity to take the PSAT and you should consider doing so. Grab opportunities when you can. If you want to raise your PSAT/SAT score, take advantage of what your high school may offer in assisting you with that. Visit your counselor, talk to your favorite teacher – find mentors and enlist their help. It is also important for you to inform your high school/travel soccer coach about your hope to play college soccer. Allow them to coach you and guide you. Put together that resume and send it to college coaches along with a personalized letter. They will not be able to contact you at this time (see NCAA guidelines), but it may be worth dropping your name onto the list of hopefuls.
DIV I: No communication with a coach until June 15 after sophomore year. No official/unofficial visits until August 1 before junior year.
DIV II: Athletes can receive recruiting material from colleges/universities and after June 15 of sophomore year, coaches can contact students. Official visits may be made.
DIV III: Athletes can receive recruiting material. College coaches may contact students. After the student’s sophomore year, colleges may conduct off campus visits and official visits to the colleges can take place after January 1 of the student’s junior year.
As a junior, things can really get rolling. Coaches may contact you. Be ready, but also do not expect your phone to ring nonstop. A lot of this process involves your hard work. It is at this point that you want to connect with coaches. Remember that resume? Hopefully, you have been updating it along the way. Make it look nice – type it up along with a personal letter (again) to specific coaches. This means, do not write one letter and send it to every college coach. Take the time to let a coach know why you are specifically interested in their college and soccer program. Coaches can “sniff out” a form letter. Let them know that you have done your homework and know about the college and soccer program. Along with this information, send your soccer schedule and invite them to come watch.
Of note, remember that college coaches can communicate with your coaches (club, high school) at any time. Make sure your coaches are engaged and aware of which colleges are of interest to you. This benefits not only you, but also your club/high school.
Encourage your team, manager, and coaches to explore entering college showcase tournaments. It is a great way for college coaches to watch you play. Having a coach watch you play, however, may also mean attending ID camps. A good way to make sure coaches see you is to attend ID camps at the specific college in which you are interested. Large ID camps may have hundreds of players and, while they can prove beneficial, you may not have a good opportunity to have a good evaluation of your play. Before attending camp, contact the coach. Call them and let them know you will be there and that you are interested in their program. Another aspect of this is cost. Each of these camps cost money. Think ahead to what you may be able to afford and where you want your money to spend your money.
You senior year is the time to keep your grades as high as you can. Narrow down your college choices and keep in touch with coaches – college and club/high school coaches. Update your resume, schedule, videos and send them. This is the last big push. Advertise yourself – let coaches see that you are worth it. This may be a good time to take part in official and unofficial visits to colleges. Do not wait until the last minute to complete your college applications. Do a little at a time if you have to – just get them done.
If you have internet access, start researching there. If you do not have access, ask your coach or teachers for assistance. Learn about colleges: the programs offered, size, specific areas in which the schools excel. Then, look at the soccer team’s page. Remember to think of which college you would like to attend even if you were not playing soccer. On the team sites, you should see: the team roster, coaches’ biographies, and articles about the teams, statistics.
Now that you have information, make notes in a notebook. Consider saving one page front and back per college. This way, you will have a place to make notes about the college, stats, valuable information, dates of contact made, whom you spoke with, and what was discussed. Stay organized from the start. List your colleges and some information about each: the size, programs of study that interest you, team information, stats. A good thing to do is to read some of the team updates so you become more familiar with the team. Come up with questions you may want to ask the coach. For example:
- What positions are you looking for in the class of (your grad year)?
- How often do you see a player prior to making an offer?
- What is a typical weekly training schedule?
- How would you best describe your coaching style?
- What is a day like in the life of a student athlete?
- What is the team’s GPA?
- Do athletes stay in town over the summer?
Almost time to start calling. Cold calling may be the most challenging part of this whole process. Practice a call with someone at home, if you have the chance. Additionally, practice leaving a message. You may even want to write down what you want to say. College coaches are busy, so definitely leave a message. Do not have your parents call. College coaches do not want to hear from parents. This takes leadership and resilience on your part and THAT is part of what coaches are seeking.
Letters or emails to coaches matter. Things to include in your letter:
Name, high school, grade level, graduation year, GPA, standardized test scores, academic achievements, extracurricular activities, soccer experience, position, personal and team accomplishments, upcoming games/showcases. Include a video if you have one and that resume that you completed. Include your home address, email, and phone number. Consider adding a date and time that you would like to call the coach as a follow up to your letter.
Now and then, follow up with a coach via email or calls. Updates would include schedule updates, notable achievements, and any significant changes. You can also contact coach’s just to remind them that you are still seeking their interest. Remember to document contact made in your notebook. This is A LOT to keep track of – stay organized.
A highlight video could be beneficial when attempting to be recruited to a college team. No need to hire a professional service to create a video. “Home” videos will work. Ask parents/friends to record your play. A video from approximately 5 to 8 minutes in length is preferable. Choose clips that highlight a range of your skills (passing, dribbling, shooting, switching, offense and/or defensive skills, control… Make sure the coach knows who you are in the video. There are some video editing apps you can use to highlight yourself or just make sure the coach knows your number and that the number is visible at some point in each clip. Before and after a specific point in the video that you would like a coach to see should be no more than 5 seconds UNLESS there is something interesting to watch beyond that. Remember that coaches are watching a lot of video, so give them your best in the least amount of time. Include, at the beginning of the video, your personal information: name, team name, jersey number, position, club/highs school, address, phone number, email, graduation year, SAT/ACT, GPA. Finally, music is not necessary for a good video. Share your video with your coach to receive feedback and afterwards, post your video (youtube, for example). Make sure to share your link in emails or letters to coaches.