I've seen enough. As of February 3rd, the Lakers stand in 12th place, but I see hope on the horizon. LeBron James is about to break the all-time scoring record, Anthony Davis is back and looking healthy again, Rui Hachumurai has been a great addition, and Kyrie Irving may be on the way. The Los Angeles Lakers are going to...
College Soccer Recruitment Tips and Guides
The recruiting landscape for college soccer is more competitive than it has ever been. The creation of soccer-specific academies around the country has increased the level of domestic talent, and on top of that, the rate of international athletes in college soccer has grown exponentially over the last decade. In Division 1 Men's soccer, the rate of international athletes increased by 62% between 2013 and 2018, and 45% in women's soccer. The same can be said for international players in Division 2 college soccer, with the men's game increasing by 42% and the women's game by 11% in that same period.
Simply put, it is now more competitive than ever to become an NCAA athlete, but it does not have to be. As someone who went through the recruitment process as recently as 2015 and is now on the other side of it as a college coach, here are some essential guides and tips to make the recruitment process a little easier. Not just with getting recruited, but also landing in a place where you'll be happy.
First and foremost is the importance of academic performance at the high school level. There are over 400 thousand boys high school soccer players and over 400 thousand girls high school players. It means there is no shortage of talent in the U.S. alone, and when it comes down to it, it is much easier for schools to recruit students who can cover a good chunk of tuition with an academic scholarship. For a coach who has to decide which out of thousands of students they will recruit, having low academic performance is ideal for them because it makes ruling out a recruit much easier. And on top of that, for many coaches, high academic standards equate to having high character. Make recruiting you over the hundreds of thousands of other recruits more attractive by doing your part in the classroom.
Second, have a highlight tape ready to go. The most important aspect of a highlight tape is to have your very best plays at the start of the video. The reality is, very rarely do coaches watch the entire length of a highlight video; they run into hundreds every week. So make sure the best you have to offer is there within the first few minutes.
Third, be prepared to reach out to schools yourself. Most of college recruiting is self-recruiting; give yourself an edge by contacting coaches at schools you could be interested in. Have an eloquent email written with your accomplishments and highlight tape attached and ready to go. Don't take it personally if schools haven't noticed you, or take that to mean you are not a college-worthy player. The landscape is massive, and you have to do your part.
Bonus. Address the entire coaching staff, and make sure you are not sending what can seem like a generic email. Say something specific about the school or team to reassure the coach you're not just mass sending emails because even if you are, they don't need to know that. (For example, I wouldn't mind living away from home on a smaller campus; I watched a recent game against this school, and I liked when this happened; It's great to see you guys have a high retention rate.) Otherwise, there's nothing to get a coach to ignore an email quicker than reading an email that is clearly copied and pasted and mass sent to a bunch of schools.
Fourth, check a school and a coach's turnover rate. Go back a good amount of years, and look at a freshmen class. Then check how many of those freshmen lasted four years at the program. This tool is something we covered in our College Soccer Ugly Truths article and is something as vital as ever. For example, if you find out that over the last decade, less than half of the freshmen last four years at the program, then that is a big indication that you might be looking at a team culture you do not want to be a part of. On the other end, if at least 70% of the freshmen tend to last four years at the program, you're looking at a culture you might enjoy.
Fifth, and this may be the toughest one to execute, but be realistic about what collegiate division you can compete at. This self-reflection and honesty will save you a lot of time and frustration in the recruitment process if you look for schools that fit your level as a player. The kind of schools that give you attention is usually a pretty good way to gauge where you belong. If you hold out on getting recruited to a higher level, offers disappear quickly, and next thing you know, you end up in a situation worse than you deserve. Or even worse, you end up forcing your way into too high of a level, and you fall out of love with the game. No one wants to land in a spot where they get no playing time for four years.
Sixth, make sure you're ready to dedicate most of 4 years to soccer. If you're not sure whether you love soccer or not, you'll find out pretty quickly once you get to college. You'll be practicing every day for months on end, long road trips, mandatory lifts and morning workouts, injuries, frustrations, and so on. Before deciding to go on with college soccer, make sure it's something you want to do, which leads to the next point.
Seventh, choose a school you'll enjoy even if soccer doesn't go your way. Whether you're on the bench, the star of the team, injured, healthy, favored, not favored, choose the kind of school you'll enjoy attending if soccer were not part of the equation. If you let that be your guide, you'll find yourself in a situation where your performance on the field doesn't make or break your happiness and satisfaction with your college experience. If you anchor yourself to a school solely because of soccer, that's a recipe for disaster.
There's a lot more that goes into it, which we'll cover at a later date but if you take nothing else out of the article, take this. College soccer is a challenging experience that can be fun and rewarding if you handle the recruitment process correctly; or miserable and heartbreaking if you don't.
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