The goal of this guide is to provide a realistic view of the process required to play soccer in college. We have made the guide available for anyone to use; regardless of what club you play for or which high school you attend.
While every family circumstance and experience will be different, this guide provides valuable insight to make the process easier for everyone. For FCE players, we will help you through the process and will be on hand to guide you through each step on the road to your senior year.
Below is a detailed guide to the recruitment process covered in seven sections.
1. BEING RECRUITED
2. JOB SEARCHING
3. PARENT INTERFERENCE
4. REASONS TO PLAY COLLEGE SOCCER
5. FINDING THE RIGHT SCHOOL
7. HIGHLIGHT VIDEO
A common misconception regarding college recruitment is perfectly shown in the movie “The Blind Side”. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll recall the scenes where a steady stream of top college football coaches are showing up at Michael’s house in an effort to persuade him to their school. If you are in the U.S. Soccer National Pool, some college coaches might eventually show up at your door; but for the majority, it doesn’t quite work like that!
For the large majority of players, it makes sense to drop the expectation of coaches relentlessly chasing you for their college team. The best analogy for getting a college soccer position is to think of it as a job search. And like a job search, it takes lots of work to get the right match. You must define your target companies (in this case, colleges and universities), research them, get the attention of the hiring person (coach), impress that person with a limited initial audition (video and camps), be persistent in following up and not get discouraged with the failures.
For parents, you have a fantastic opportunity to teach your son/daughter a valuable skill; that is, how to search for a job.
The pursuit of a college position to a job search raises a question. When your son/daughter graduates from college, are you going to take the lead in his/her job search? Will you contact potential employers and meet with them?
Parents should operate in the background during the college search and take a more active role only near the end of the process. Too much parental involvement can be an obstacle to a successful search. Parents, the coach is interested in your son/daughter, not you. And remember, most soccer coaches aren’t under the same pressure to win as their Division 1 college football and basketball counterparts. If you appear to be a micromanaging parent who is going to give the coach a headache, they’ll simply walk away from your son/daughter without a second thought.
Every soccer player will have different reasons for wanting to play soccer in college. Typically, there are four reasons; Scholarship, Gain Admission, To play at their highest level, Love of Soccer. Start writing down the reasons why you want to play soccer in college as it will help narrow down your search.
This is the story of FCE College Recruitment Expert, Nic Heffernan:
Growing up in England, I was introduced to soccer at a very early age. It was the only sport I wanted to play and I wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps and play at a professional level. I went through the youth academies in England and played professionally in Finland at 18 years old. During this time, I surprisingly found that playing soccer full time wasn’t what I truly wanted to do. After the season finished, I moved back to England and started a typical office job and played part time semi pro soccer. In honesty, I lost sight of what I wanted to do and I had no idea what path I was going to follow.
On July 20th 2009, I received a phone call from a coach in Montana who saw some game footage of me playing. He was actually recruiting an 18 year old who I was playing against on a Saturday afternoon. He asked me to make a highlight video and send it to him. I managed to track down some game footage and spent the day making the video.
Coach Duffy offered me a full ride and asked if I could fly out for pre-season which started only two weeks later. During this time, a few other colleges contacted me offering scholarships. I now had a dilemma on my hands with New York, Colorado and Florida being my other options. At 21 years old, New York was going to be an exciting place to live and I was sure I was going to accept that offer. However, I sat back and wanted to truly understand the reason I was leaving England. It wasn’t for a vacation and it wasn’t to be involved in the best soccer program. I wanted to gain an education and work part time to earn money. I didn’t want to spend money!
I made the decision to pack up my things and start a new life in Montana. Financially, it made complete sense and I could work as a club soccer coach during the evenings.
We share Nic's story because EVERY player has different reasons to play soccer in college; by understanding what your reasons are early on, it will help make the recruitment process a lot easier and clearer.
There are four things to consider when seeking the right match for you:
(1) College Characteristics
(3) Academic Level
(4) Soccer/Athletic Ability.
If you put together your list of schools and it includes an array of large public D1 universities and small D3 liberal arts colleges (perhaps some in major cities and others in remote rural locations), you probably need to spend more time focusing on what kind of college you want.
For many students and parents, the number of potential schools can sometimes be overwhelming at the start. However, determining what kind of college you are really interested in can quickly get you to a manageable target list. Answering just a few of these questions can help:
• Do you want to be in a certain area of the country and are there some places you definitely wouldn't want to be? How far from home would you ideally like to be? Would you want your parents and family to be able to attend your home games?
• Do you want to attend a small school (perhaps less than 2,500 students), something a little bigger (maybe up to 5,000 students) or would you like to attend a large school (possibly 10,000+ students)?
• Do you have a preference of being in or near an urban location?
• Do you have a specific major that you want to pursue (for example, engineering)?
You should keep a folder or file on your computer so that you can organize your college search; this will make a world of difference as you begin contacting coaches and getting interest. Below is an example of the kind of information you might put in a document that you can update as you go along.
Assuming that the coach doesn’t leave, you’re going to spend lots of time with this person over four years. Obviously, coaches are going to be at their best during the recruiting process, therefore, you need to research the coach and their style of play to ensure that you fit. Watch some of their games in person or online to get a good feel for the philosophy and approach of the program.
Soccer can help you attend a college that you would not perhaps not otherwise get into. However, there are limits. Having a strong SAT score and GPA will give you access to more schools.
It will also help with the amount of scholarship money potentially given to you. For example;
A player in her senior year at a high school in Oregon. Sophia had a GPA of 3.3 going into her last semester. The cost to attend the college was $32,000 and she was offered an academic scholarship of $9,000 and an athletic scholarship of $7,500. The coach and admission department worked together and told Sophia that if her GPA rose to 3.5, she would qualify for another $9000 in academic money. She was now able to afford to go to the college she had her heart set on because of the work she put in off the soccer field!
Athletic Ability & Expectations
This is the trickiest one, with the hardest part of the search being a truly realistic assessment of your soccer level.
Pursuing the right level is actually a difficult issue, since it includes your ability to make a team, your expectations of playing time and overriding goals (e.g., do you want to play at the highest soccer level possible or use soccer to get to the highest possible academic level?) It also introduces the questions of D1, D2, D3, NAIA. The general perception is that the level of play is highest at D1 schools followed by D2 and then the lowest level of play is at D3 schools. In reality, each of these divisions has a wide range of play and overlap. The best college soccer is at the top D1 programs; however, the best of the D3/NAIA schools would be competitive against an average D1 program.
It is sometimes a good idea to let the division fall out of your search; in other words, get the right school (academic and athletic fit), determine your desired balance of academics and athletics (D1 generally requires a bigger time commitment than D3/NAIA), and then play at whatever division in which that college happens to fall.
This also leads to a very important question: What playing expectations do you have and what role do you expect to fill? Generally speaking, players fall into three categories:
(1) Impact Players
(2) Core Players
(3) Depth Players
Where you fall in these categories is dependent on your (a) natural athletic ability, work ethic, and acquired skill, and (b) the competiveness of the program.
The diagram below illustrates the typical make-up of a college roster, with 20% of the players being impact, 60% core, and the remaining 20% depth.
Where you fall on this chart is a combination of your ability and the level of the program, as illustrated by the following diagram:
In addition to the details below, there is a lot of excellent info and advice on the scholarshipstats.com college recruiting page. Once you have finished reading this guide, Click Here to view the additional info.
• Define your priorities (for example, play D1 on a top 10 team, get a scholarship, get in an Ivy League school, start as a freshman, be in a major city).
• Start your list of schools to 5-10 colleges (this will continue to evolve over time).
• Create a soccer resume (this will evolve over time).
• Go to the Admissions website and register as a prospect for the college (this is a different registration from the athletic recruiting site).
• Contact coaches and encourage them to watch you play in tournaments.
IMPORTANT: Coaches do not come to tournament games to identify prospects from random games. Coaches are there to watch players who have contacted them prior to the tournament. Before the tournament, find the list of college coaches attending and send them your team’s schedule. Remember to update the coach should your schedule change. After the tournament, follow-up with an email or phone call.
• Keep your grades up!
• D1 coaches can email after July 1 of junior year. D3 coaches can communicate with you at any point.
• If possible, watch your target schools play during the fall. Make sure the coaches know you watched their teams.
• Continue contacting coaches and encourage them to watch you play.
• Determine which schools are truly interested. If you are being actively recruited, you will know it; if you’re unsure if a coach is interested, they probably aren’t. But there is no reason to guess; ask direct questions.
• Based on coach feedback, further narrow your list. Decide if you are aiming too high academically or athletically; if you are (i.e., none of the coaches on your list are actively recruiting you) adjust your list and get noticed by different coaches.
• Take the SAT or ACT.
• Register with the NCAA Clearinghouse and download the guide for College-Bound Student-Athletes.
• D1 and D2 coaches can call you after September 1.
• Most D1 and D2 programs will have made their decisions by the start of your senior year. Some D1 and D2 programs will have openings if one of their candidates changes their mind. The more competitive D3 programs will also very likely have finished their recruiting by September 1.
• Lower level D1 and D2 programs could still be trying to fill their roster, especially if they found that most of their top prospects took other offers. Many D3/NAIA programs will be trying to complete their recruiting.
Ensuring you have a highlight video is one of the key elements of starting a successful recruiting process. This will act as your audition tape. While it's possible that a handful of coaches may see you play in person at the start of the process, a highlight video will be the primary tool that will get you noticed by the coach.
Your highlight video should be a collection of different game situations. For example, it should include all the positives during a game that show off your skill set; completed passes, shots on goal, goals, crosses, tackles, headers etc. Your initial highlight video should only include the different plays that were successful. Misplaced passes, shots off target etc should not be included. Once you have the coaches' attention from your video, they will then want to see full game footage and this is where they will see a balanced view of your game (including the good and bad).
A typical highlight video will be structured like this:
1. Between 3 to 5 minutes in length.
2. No images or explicit background music.
3. You can clearly be seen in the video (add your jersey number to the video title and highlight yourself if possible before each play).
You should create several highlight videos over the span of your club/high school seasons so that college coaches can see your progression as you mature and grow as a soccer player.
Below are some highlight video examples for a goalkeeper, defender and forward.