Soccer is an enormously popular high school and collegiate sport among both men and women. Many students play for both their high school and a club team and want to continue playing at a high level once they enter college. However, only a handful of high school players continue in college, and an even smaller percentage are officially recruited: less than 2%!
There’s no way to ensure you will definitely be recruited to play soccer at your dream school; more often than not, being recruited is about being both lucky and good. We can’t help you with the luck, but there are ways to ensure you’ve got the “good” part locked up. Below, find our big-picture advice for maximizing your chances of recruitment in soccer.
The things that every college coach is looking for in a soccer recruit are: strong academics, long-term experience on your high school and/or club teams, excellent physical strength and endurance, good skills and technique, and teamwork. However, those are just the basics to begin the process. To really increase your chances, keep this advice in mind:
Play club soccer. Because the college soccer recruitment process is so competitive, high school players who only play for their school team rarely get recruited. Instead, to get the experience and exposure that are necessary to become a successful college soccer recruit, you’ll want to play for a competitive club team. Doing so means extra practices, long travel times, and highly competitive tournaments, but not doing so will likely hinder your chances.
Start early. The vast majority of collegiate soccer coaches want to start evaluating potential recruits by tenth grade, if not before. So, if you’re a serious soccer player, you should plan to start talking to your coach and parents about whether you want to pursue the recruitment path relatively early in high school. However, if you’re already in your junior year, it’s not too late! You can still begin reaching out to coaches and making your case.
Show commitment. Becoming a student athlete in as popular and competitive a sport as soccer requires an immense amount of time, dedication, and planning. As you start speaking to college coaches, they will really want to get to know what kind of player, teammate, and student you are. They will be expecting you to show them that you have the ability to succeed in both highly competitive soccer and rigorous academic courses.
Talk to your coach. Ultimately, because soccer is a team sport, precise quantitative rankings aren’t available, which makes it harder to know whether you have the potential to be recruited at any particular program. For that reason, it’s crucial that you have a frank conversation with your current coach about your abilities and chances for recruitment. He or she will have the most knowledge about what you can do to compete for a recruitment spot at your top choice schools.
Keep your grades up. Finally, it’s crucially important that throughout the recruitment process, you maintain a strong academic performance at school. Having the skills and attitude to impress coaches matters a lot, but if they can’t make a compelling case to the admissions office for you as an academic student, your chances of becoming a soccer recruit are slim to none.
If you decide to pursue soccer recruitment, here are some of the most important things you can do along the way to improve your chances of playing for your dream school.
Every summer, the NCAA hosts collegiate playing soccer camps at colleges across the United States. These are spaces for excellent high school soccer players to train, learn about college playing soccer, meet other soccer players from around the country, and talk to coaches from various schools. You don’t want to miss these important opportunities to improve your skills and show off your stuff to coaches.
At a collegiate playing soccer camp, you can expect to learn first-hand how college coaches run their practices and develop their soccer players’ skills and fitness. Expect strength conditioning, drills, and other skills training. You’ll come away with stronger skills, better tactics, and a clearer understanding of what collegiate soccer is like. What you’ll learn will be valuable later when you reach out to the coaches at the schools that interest you most.
While attending camps and clinics is a good idea, coaches—especially D1 coaches—also like to evaluate potential recruits at club tournaments, because then they can see how a player actually cooperates with his or her team. The top tournaments tend to attract a lot of college soccer coaches, so they’re an excellent way to jumpstart the recruitment process. So, even before you join a club team, find out whether that club attends the right events.
Then, once you’re actually scheduled to attend a few of these events, study up! Who attended last year? Anyone from the schools you’re excited about? If so, send them an email ahead of time to let them know you’d like to connect at the tournament. Making the most of these events will be essential in showing your stuff and connecting with the right coaches.
Putting together a college list is difficult for anyone applying to college, and for student athletes, the considerations multiply. Not only do you want to find a school that’s a good fit for you academically and personally, you also need to consider whether you will be a viable recruit, given the competitiveness of the team and your own abilities.
That means that once you have a good sense of your overall competitiveness and have talked to your coach about your potential as a recruit, it’s time to research colleges! In addition to deciding whether you’re aiming for D1 or D3, make sure you investigate how competitive the soccer team is and how well your experience situates you for joining it.
Once you have a few schools at which you’re seriously interested in becoming a recruit, reach out to those coaches to introduce yourself and express your interest in joining the team.
As the adage goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression, so make it a good one! If you call, be ready with your GPA, team record, and other crucial factors. If you email, be polite and brief; attach an athletic resume and transcript. Make sure you show genuine interest in the team and the school. You want them to be aware that they’re a top choice for you.
Finally, if there’s a recruitment form or questionnaire on the school’s website, which there almost always is, be sure to fill it out! There may be important questions about your results, goals, experiences, and other physical stats that coaches need to know.
Once you start communicating with coaches, you’ll need to keep up the relationship. Continue following up with coaches as the season continues. Send video of your skills, new team results, and academic updates. By establishing this foundation with coaches, you’re more likely to have them reach out directly to you once they’re allowed to do so.
As you talk to coaches, make sure you ask the right questions. Think of every conversation with a coach as a miniature interview. Not only do you need to present yourself well, but you should also take the opportunity to learn more about the school and show your sincere interest by asking questions that clearly show your knowledge of the school and the soccer team.
At the end of the day, there’s no single pathway to soccer recruitment. The experience differs between athletes, club teams, high schools, and colleges. Above all, the best thing you can do to maximize your chances of becoming a recruit are to stay proactive and involved. Don’t wait for coaches to reach out to you! Put in the time to get yourself out there, and take the initiative to express interest in and enthusiasm for your top-choice schools.
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