Do you want to play soccer at the next level?
Section I: Soccer
When to get started?
Coaches build their annual recruiting process around the official signing date, February 1st. By February, many coaches have identified and talked with the players they want to be a part of their program. Because college soccer is a fall sport, most, but not all, recruiting takes place over the spring and summer months. November and December showcase tournaments are another recruiting time for those coaches who have finished their season.
It is recommended that your child begin the process during the summer between his sophomore and junior years of high school. He/she should develop a list of schools that interest them both academically and athletically.
Note: NCAA regulations permit coaches to respond to prospective student-athlete inquiries, but the coaches cannot initiate contact until [September 1 of your child’s Junior year.]
The following is a sample timeline:
Summer before the start of junior year:
- Develop list of schools – Approximately 6-10
- Meet with coach to discuss viability of playing college soccer, appropriate level, list of schools
- Thoroughly research schools and soccer programs
- Draft letter of introduction
- Draft resume
- Finalize letter and resume
- send letters and resume
How to get started
Meet with Club Coach:
Once you and your child have developed a list of schools, your child needs to set-up a time to meet with your coach. The coach’s role at this point is to help guide your child to realistically achieve his goal to play soccer in college. The college coaches count on the club coaches to be realistic about the division where a player can have the biggest impact for a team be it DI, DII or DIII.
Honesty is very important in the process from the coach. Do not be upset if a coach says that your child is a Division III or NAIA level player. College coaches rely on honest feedback from the player’s coach. If a coach feels he has not been given an accurate evaluation on the player, there is a risk the college coach will never recruit at that club again.
Developing your target list (research)
Coaches expect players to have done their research on both the school and the soccer program. Coaches do not want to be in discussions with a player only to find out, for example, that the school doesn’t offer what the player wants to study.
“I will include a very important learning experience I had when I was searching schools. I had the mindset that I wanted to play division I soccer no matter what. I had one divisions 1 school recruiting me, and several division II schools. When the division I program made me a scholarship offer, I accepted right away. After my freshman year, I transferred and finished my career one of those division II programs. The experience at the division II level was much more enjoyable. It just shows that whatever division you want to play, you have to do your research and find a program that best fits you, don’t just focus on the highest division.”
Once the target list is complete and the player has met with his club, he is ready to develop his letter of introduction. The letter should be sent before the fall college soccer season begins. I find it best to e-mail the coach instead of sending a hard copy. Keep the introduction brief, and attach your player profile In the e-mail.
I encourage that players personalize each letter with the coach’s name, e.g., “Dear Coach Jones” versus “Dear Coach” and incorporate the name of the school into the body of the letter, e.g., “I am interested in attending XYZ to study accounting.”
Coaches are looking for letters to include the following:
- Player’s name
- Name of club team and jersey #
- Name of high school
- Graduation date
- Projected major
- Upcoming schedule (tournaments, club games, etc.)
- Coach references with contact information
- Resume (separate document)
The resume should include:
- Personal information – height, weight, birth date
- Contact information – address, email, phone (home and mobile), IM
- Academic – GPA, class rank, PSAT or SAT/ACT scores, clubs, community service, awards/honors
- Athletics – soccer info for club/academy (include uniform colors, jersey number, position), high school, ODP (if applicable), awards
- Other sports experience
- References – include name, phone (home and mobile), email, mailing address
Team schedule (league play and tournaments)
The player will want to develop a separate team schedule document which can be constantly updated and easily emailed. An updated schedule is a good way to stay in contact with coaches. If your team is attending a showcase, almost every tournament has a list of college coaches who are attending. If you see a school you are interested in that is attending, send them your schedule with your jersey number and color you will be wearing. Coaches can watch 10-15 games in one day. Being able to fit that many games in one day, coaches will only watch 10-20 minutes before moving on to the next one.
Every college coach receives many e-mail/letters each day. Do not be discouraged if a coach does not respond right away. If you don’t hear back from a coach after a month or so, I’d say a follow up letter is ok to send.
To Video or Not?
On the question of videos, when I was coaching college soccer, I always wanted to watch just a highlight video lasting 5-7 minutes. There is no need to add music, or put the play in slow motion – I hated that. Just make sure it is a clear video and it’s easy to distinguish who the player is on the video. Providing jersey number, color, and position always is helpful.
If you don’t feel you are able to film and edit, there are company’s out there that offer that service. But if you know what you are doing, that is not worth the money
The majority of schools host summer/ID camps. The camps serve a couple of purposes for the schools and their soccer programs: source of income for the program, recruiting and awareness building for the school.
Attending the camps of the schools your child might be interested in is not mandatory, but it can be very helpful. For your child, it gives him an opportunity to experience the school and to interact with the coaching staff. For the coaches, it is an opportunity to better assess a player’s skills, attitude and team fit.
Something else to keep in mind about attending a camp is that coaches from other schools often work at the camp for their own recruiting purposes. So, your child is exposed to multiple opportunities.
And if your child attends a camp(s), he needs to make sure that at some point during camp, he introduces himself to the coaches. During registration/arrival and departure, coaches are inundated by parents trying to make an impression on behalf of their child. But, it is the player that the coaches will remember.
Unofficial and official visits
An unofficial visit is any visit to a school that is paid for by the player or parents. There are no limitations on when you can visit or how many visits can be made. The only expense a school may offer to pay is for three complimentary tickets to a school’s sporting event.
There are more regulations pertaining to an official visit. Briefly, an official visit occurs at the invitation of a coach and is paid for by the school. Please go to the NCAA Web site for the specifics on unofficial and official visits.
A helpful tip for official visits to DI schools:
- keep multiple copies of the player’s high school transcript
- have SAT and/or ACT scores handy
- register with NCAA Eligibility Center (formerly known as NCAA Clearinghouse)
The player will be asked to provide the coaches with transcripts and test scores as well as confirm registration with the Eligibility Center.
During a visit, how can the player best represent himself?
- “When the recruit speaks more than the parents do”
- “Eye contact”
- “When they come prepared with questions and have clearly put some thought into this very important decision”
- “If the player is educated on your school or not”
- “Can talk to you and not parents, how easy is he to talk to and how he treats his parents”
- “The players character, manners and maturity.”
- “Ability to communicate and ask questions, mainly.”
- “I am impressed by kids rather than their parents asking the questions”
- “When they can represent themselves in a well-spoken and confident manner, rather than have their parents do all the talking for them and when they have a good idea of what they are looking for in a college, academically, socially and geographically.”
It is the player’s responsibility to understand and abide by the NCAA regulations. It is strongly suggested that you and your child spend time reviewing NCAA regulations. The NCAA Web site is a wealth of information and easy to navigate.
Go to www.ncaa.org. On the left side of the home page, go to Academics & Athletes. Next to access the Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete, click on Eligibility & Recruiting. The guide will answer all your questions.
NCAA Eligibility Center (formerly known as NCCA Clearinghouse)
The NCAA Eligibility Center establishes the player’s amateur status and eligibility. There is an online form that needs to be filled out by the player. He/she should complete this online information by the end of their junior year, preferably before summer starts as he/she might need information from his guidance counselor.
Go to eligibilitycenter.org/ECWR2/NCAA_EMS/NCAA.html to complete the form.
Section II: Academics
Choosing a school
Getting an education should be the first priority. A player should not choose a school based solely on its soccer program. As a prospective college student athlete, you must choose a school based on both its academics and its soccer program.
When considering schools, players need to ask themselves several questions:
- Do I want to go to a big school or a smaller school?
- What part of the country would I like to be in?
- What do I think I might want to study?
- Does the school offer what I want to study?
- Does the school fit our family’s budget?
- What are the athletic facilities like?
- What are the soccer facilities like?
Your guidance counselor
If your child hasn’t met with his guidance counselor, now is the time. The guidance counselor can be a tremendous asset during the college process. The earlier your child meets with the counselor the better because the counselor can educate him about the college application process, the high school’s process for supplying transcripts, recommendations, meeting deadlines. Also, check out your school’s Web site and the guidance department’s section. Most guidance departments will have a guideline and tips pertaining to the college application process.
Transcripts, GPA and Class Rank
In preparation for the letters of introduction, at the end of the player’s sophomore year, he should request a copy of his transcript which will include his GPA. This transcript is considered an “unofficial” transcript. Coaches understand that official transcripts are not available until a player’s junior year as well as class rank. When the player receives his official transcript, he can forward it to coaches as necessary.
SATs & ACTs
As it relates to recruiting, the important thing is to make sure the player has registered with NCAA Eligibility Center and puts the NCAA Eligibility Center code on his test as the scores have to be sent directly to the NCAA. The code is 9999. Be sure to thoroughly read the NCAA regulations.
Applications & Deadlines
As the search and recruiting begin to narrow, the player needs to be mindful of application deadlines. The player doesn’t want to find himself in a situation where he receives an offer from a coach in mid-January only to find out he has missed the deadline to submit his application to the school. The player might want to consider submitting applications as soon as he begins any discussions with a coach.
Scholarship and Financial Aid
Soccer at most schools is not a revenue-generating sport like football and basketball. Therefore, the soccer programs do not have the depth of scholarship money like the other sports. Each program is given a set number of scholarships for the program – not per year. So, the scholarship money available to the player’s recruiting class is usually dependent upon the graduating scholarship players. It is not unusual for players to receive partial scholarships, which allows coaches to spread the funds across several players.
Because of limited scholarship funds, players and parents are encouraged to research the financial aid and merit scholarship options available through the schools. Again, the player’s guidance counselor can be very helpful navigating the financial aid process.