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College Soccer and the Ugly Truth
Buyer beware: College soccer is not what you think it is.
Many athletes go into Division 1 College Soccer expecting the time of their lives, while they enjoy the game they love with the best coaches in the country. Unfortunately, these expectations could not be further from reality.
Here are some of the hidden truths of college soccer.
In reality, College soccer is full of double standards, favoritism, and a general lack of high level coaching.
One of the primary problems with college soccer is the lack of actual coaching that takes place. Don't get me wrong, coaches attempt to coach but they often mistake a competitive environment for actual coaching. What does this mean? This means that coaches confuse the natural progression that occurs when athletes practice and compete with other high level athletes, with their ability to coach.
If you're a coach reading this, the question is: Are your players improving because of your coaching, or are they improving simply because they're playing with better players?
If the answer is the latter rather than the former then you may be contributing to the problem of college soccer.
There is nothing wrong with that type of improvement, but that's the kind of improvement that plateaus after a year or two. That's the kind of improvement you see when a freshman enters a college environment with better athletes and older players. Naturally, the player will improve but after a year or so, with the adjustment period accounted for, the player plateaus because the coach is no longer developing the player, and never was to begin with.
There's no problem with improving simply from playing with better players but that's the kind of improvement that stops after a while, leaving both players and coaches frustrated.
If you're a player reading this, ask yourself: Are you improving because of the coaching or are you improving because you're playing with higher level players? Think about it, have you learned anything from your coaches that made you a better player or have you improved simply because for the first time, you're no longer the big fish in a small pond, meaning you're playing with players at your level or better and have to adjust to compete.
That's a huge problem in college soccer, too many coaches have no idea how to develop players, they mistake a competitive environment with player development.
Finding a great fit is a lot more important than playing for a big program.
This is easier said than done, but beware of coaches with empty promises. A lot of coaches will reserve scholarships for international players and academy prospects while loading up the rest of the roster with local kids who have no real chance of ever playing. These are the kind of kids that were the best in their city or region, then they get to a college soccer program where that means nothing and coaches have no real reason to develop them as players due to the scholarship situation.
Part of the reason is that for a college soccer team, a lot of the times the best players will not necessarily be on the field. It sounds fake or counter intuitive but coaches are responsible for the scholarships they give out, and it's hard to explain why a player that came in with a high scholarship is not receiving a lot of playing time. A lot of coaches will then twist and bend to find a way to play their high scholarship players even if it means over-looking more deserving players.
It sounds unfair, it is unfair, but that's just how things go for a lot of programs.
So, you as a player need to be sure you're going to an environment where there is equal opportunity to get on the field, and one of the best ways to do that is by checking a team's turnover rate.
If you want to know what kind of program you're getting into, go look at the turnover rate.
Meaning, how many freshmen stay at the program for four years, this is usually a pretty good sign of the coaching staff and the culture within the team. I've seen programs start with 13 freshmen just to have 6 left by senior season and then I've seen another start with 11 freshmen and end with 10 seniors.
It goes without saying that you should strive to be at a program that retains talent over time, that kind of environment makes college soccer more enjoyable.
Fortunately, it is not all doom and gloom, I have seen coaches who genuinely care about the development of individuals both as players and people.
Because at the end of the day, a coach can make or break your college soccer experience.
You can work as hard as you want, stay as professional as you want, but if a coach makes going to practice and being a part of the team a thoroughly unenjoyable experience then chances are you'll grow to hate soccer. I've seen this happen first hand with a long list of teammates and it comes down to how a lot of coaches choose to treat players.
In theory, college soccer is supposed to be an opportunity to compete at a high level while developing into an adult both physically and mentally, and the truth is a lot of coaches are awful at what they do regardless of how many years they have had the job.
We won't even talk about how awful and ugly the soccer played and coached at the college level is, we'll save that article for another day.
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