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College Recruiting Tips For Soccer

KeeperDadKeeperDad Registered User Posts: 41 Junior Member
edited November 2013 in Athletic Recruits
Recently, our daughter reached a milestone in the college recruiting process (she made a verbal commitment). Awhile back, I started writing down some notes about our experience – about our general approach to the process as well as about specific steps we took, and I thought it might be helpful to others to share some of those notes with the folks on a Northern California soccer discussion forum.

As I said in that thread, "We approached the recruiting process somewhat differently than many would say is the best way to have your child seen by college coaches. I don't mean any of what I share below to be taken as definitive – as the only way to go about this process. I don't even know for certain how effective some of these steps were. I'm offering these tips more as food for thought than anything else, and would be very happy to have my thoughts be challenged, discussed, etc."

Anyway, I've spent a fair amount of time lurking on the Athletic Recruits forum here on College Confidential and have benefited from a lot of what has been shared. This is my small way of giving back a little bit.
Post edited by KeeperDad on

Replies to: College Recruiting Tips For Soccer

  • KeeperDadKeeperDad Registered User Posts: 41 Junior Member
    Sorry - one of the forum moderators removed the link because I was unaware of the rule that only authoritative websites could be linked to. My mistake. The moderator was kind enough to allow me to post the information here. It's a lot of information, so I'm going to post it in multiple replies.
  • KeeperDadKeeperDad Registered User Posts: 41 Junior Member
    Recently, our daughter reached a milestone in the college recruiting process (she made a verbal commitment). Awhile back, I started writing down some notes about our experience – about our general approach to the process as well as about specific steps we took, and I thought it might be helpful to others to share some of those notes.

    There is a lot to share, so I'm going to split it into multiple posts. And as you'll see, we approached the recruiting process somewhat differently than many would say is the best way to have your child seen by college coaches. I don't mean any of what I share below to be taken as definitive – as the only way to go about this process. I don't even know for certain how effective some of these steps were. I'm offering these tips more as food for thought than anything else, and would be very happy to have my thoughts be challenged, discussed, etc.

    I've also been told that while there are parts of my notes that apply to D3 recruiting, they are a bit more applicable to D1 recruiting.

    With that being said, here are the thoughts I've written down over the past several months:

    1. Players: Work hard on your academics. When you think you've done enough, work harder.

    College coaches are looking for well-rounded young people who will not have difficulties being accepted by the college's admissions office and who will be contributing members of their squad on every level – athletic, emotional, social, mental, etc. Strong academic performance is an indicator to coaches that the player will fit that description. It suggests to the coaches that the player knows how to establish healthy priorities in their life, can set and reach goals, can manage their time effectively, etc.

    College soccer programs only have a certain amount of scholarships they can offer, although since soccer is what is known as an "equivalency" sport, those scholarships can be spread out over more individuals than the number of available scholarships. Athletic aid will not always be available in the amounts you are hoping for and/or in the years you are hoping for. Working hard on your academics while you're in high school gives you flexibility when you're in the process of choosing the school you want to attend and at which you want to play soccer.

    Our daughter has friends who are very good soccer players, have dreamed of playing at a D1 school for a long time, but won't be able to attend the school of their choice because there is not a full athletic ride available for them at that school and because 1) their families can't afford the tuition and 2) because their grades were not high enough for them to either be accepted by the school(s) they wanted to attend or be awarded enough academic (merit-based) aid for them to believe that, even with need-based aid added, they will be able to afford tuition.

    Other friends will most likely play at a D1 school, but they are leaving the choice of which school to attend entirely up to which soccer program can offer them the most athletic aid. Since the point of this process is for our sons and daughters to receive the best education possible, this doesn't seem like the best strategy.

    Strong academics can give you enormous flexibility in the recruiting process because you don't have to depend entirely on the amount of athletic aid offered as the determining factor in choosing which school you are going to attend. Our daughter will be playing soccer at the school of her dreams (and at a school which we believe will provide her with a wonderful academic experience) because she worked hard on her academics.
  • KeeperDadKeeperDad Registered User Posts: 41 Junior Member
    2. Parents: Resist the temptation to view the amount of your child's athletic award as an issue of prestige. For parents, there is quite a bit of emotion wrapped up in the recruiting process. You naturally want to see your child succeed. You've sacrificed quite a bit to help your child succeed in their soccer life – you've spent countless weekends in other towns at soccer tournaments, you've lived in hotels, eaten at restaurants, etc. You've paid enough money over the years for club soccer fees, for equipment, for hotel stays, etc. to fund your child's college education (but did so because of your child's love for the sport). Now, it's tempting to see the amount of your child's athletic award as justification for all the time and money you've invested. But take a step back and remember that the point of this process is ultimately to allow your child to receive the best education they can. That may or may not mean that your child receives a large athletic award.

    3. Parents: Strive to maintain a stable family life. It was interesting to hear one coach we met with talk very pointedly about the fact that they recruit the whole family – that they are looking for stable families who won’t cause problems once their child has been recruited.

    4. Players: Don't be involved in the wrong groups of friends. Be careful what goes on your Facebook and Twitter pages. Pay attention to not only what you put on your Facebook wall, but to what others may post about you that ends up on your wall.

    5. Be a better player. When you think you're good enough - work harder, learn more.
  • KeeperDadKeeperDad Registered User Posts: 41 Junior Member
    6. Don't immediately dismiss the value of loyalty to your club – in other words, don't always be looking for a better opportunity. Here's a quote from Claudio Reyna, US Soccer Youth Technical Director: "One of the problems [with American youth soccer] is that we have kids bouncing around all over the place. Kids frequently switch youth clubs, join travel teams, transfer to other high schools, all in pursuit of better soccer. (But) that turnover needs to calm down a little bit. It's better for the development of a kid if they're at one place in the same sort of comfortable environment, rather than move around."

    We were told for years that if we wanted our daughter to be exposed to college coaches, we would have to switch clubs because the club our daughter played for was not good enough – her team didn't play in Surf Cup, Disney, Las Vegas Showcase, etc., etc. We were approached by coaches, team managers, and parents from other clubs from the time our daughter was 12 years old until now. One time, we were even accosted on the sidelines by a parent of another team who told us in no uncertain terms that we were harming our child's future by not switching clubs and coming to play for his daughter's team (funny, how no one ever told us that we should switch clubs but not to their child's club – there are a lot of ulterior motives packed into this sort of thing).

    Throughout this process, we could definitely see certain advantages for our daughter if she were to play for a different club, but we raised her to keep her commitments. Before this past season, she was strongly recruited by three different teams – all of which were arguably stronger than the club she played for. She had been quite frustrated during the previous season, and it would have been easy for her to switch teams because of that. But she had already made a commitment to her current club to continue to play for them. As her mom and dad, we were proud of her when she made a choice based on principle (to keep her commitment) rather than her emotions (to play on a more successful team that would have been less frustrating).

    As her parents, we thought long and hard about whether or not encouraging her to keep her commitment to her current club might be damaging to her future soccer prospects. We are a family of strong Christian faith and in the end, we relied on a piece of ancient wisdom from the Psalms which speaks of the one "who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind" and says that the one who does this "will never be shaken." (Psalm 15). We decided as a family that the oath our daughter made (her commitment) to her soccer club might end up "hurting" her in the short-term (by hindering her from playing at the highest level in college). But we believed that the character she was building would never be shaken, and in the end, that's far more important to us than her soccer career.

    In the end, her soccer club which supposedly was "not good enough" was instrumental in guiding us through the maze of the college recruiting process. They spent hours with us on numerous occasions, walking us through the process, giving us advice, listening to our concerns, etc. – always with our daughter's best interests at heart (not just in terms of soccer, but in her overall development as a person – academic, social, emotional, athletic, etc.). They acted as a liaison between the coaches at our daughter's dream school and our family. The result: our daughter will be playing at a nationally-ranked D1 school. So apparently, it wasn't necessary to switch clubs.

    One possible reason for switching clubs which someone pointed out to me after reading my notes was if your current club doesn't know much about the college recruiting process. That seems legitimate to me, but I do believe that as much as possible, such a parting of ways should be transparent and amicable.
  • KeeperDadKeeperDad Registered User Posts: 41 Junior Member
    7. Prepare a soccer profile which includes the following information (we used a two-column layout for our daughter's profile – with soccer information on one side and academic information on the other side):

    Contact Information: name; mailing address (we used a PO box); telephone number; email address (we set up an email alias for our daughter to use that forwarded to her email address and our email address – so we would be able to help her stay on top of contacts from coaches); website address (if applicable)

    Personal Details: birthdate; Graduation year; height; weight; position; parents' names (and email addresses); a photo (either a headshot or an action photo)

    Soccer Details: club team; high school team

    Team Accomplishments: tournament and league season successes (championships, placing as finalists, placing as semi-finalists), both for club team and high school team; successes of teams you've guest-played with; successes of ODP/ID2 teams (it may not have played any part in how her profile was received, but we chose to put team accomplishments before individual accomplishments – as a subtle implication that team success was more important to our daughter than her own individual success.)

    Individual Accomplishments: highlights of participation in ODP/ID2, Market Training Center; individual awards for club and high school participation

    Soccer References: name, position, and contact information (phone number and email address) for current club and high school coaches, club director of coaching, past coaches, ODP coaches, etc. Goalkeepers should include goalkeeper trainers. Ask permission to add their information before you do so. Ask your coaches to write quotes about you that you can include in your profile

    Academic Background: high school and its location; course of study (are you pursuing honors classes?); current GPA (simple or weighted); scores for standardized tests (SAT, ACT, and/or PSAT); academic honors; counselor's name and contact information (phone number and email address). Ask permission to add their information before you do so.

    Community Service: List any community service activities in which you participate.
  • KeeperDadKeeperDad Registered User Posts: 41 Junior Member
    8. Prepare video highlights. You should start recording video at an early age – in our experience, it takes some practice before you become adept at capturing video appropriate for a highlights video. We started with our daughter when she was about 12 or 13, even though coaches won't want to see video of players at that age (highlights of when they are 16 or 17 are probably more useful). Take a lot of video (it requires a lot to get enough satisfactory footage).

    In your final highlights video, use an arrow or a circle to identify your child. Post it on YouTube, and keep it up to date. For field players, off the ball footage is important. We've been told that goalkeepers need videos of both highlights and training sessions, although we never ended up taking video of a training session.

    It may make sense to consider hiring a professional (the perspective from the tall cameras used by many professional sports videographers can be good, especially for field players) – at most showcase tournaments, there is an approved company that takes videos. If all (or many) of the parents on your child's team chip in, the cost can be manageable.

    Keep the purpose of video in mind – and this is the purpose of a lot of what you're going to be doing during the college recruiting process. No college coach will choose a player based on video highlights. What you're trying to do is convince the college coach that it will be worth their time to come watch the player at a game.

    9. Consider putting your profile and highlights video on a personal website. We developed a website which included our daughter's profile, videos, photos, a schedule of where she would be playing next, etc.
  • KeeperDadKeeperDad Registered User Posts: 41 Junior Member
    10. Start the recruiting process earlier than you think you should. Freshman year is best. I can't tell you how many times we heard parents saying, "We've got plenty of time." Those are the same parents who two years later were saying, "I wish we would have started earlier."

    11. Ask your club coach and director of coaching for an honest appraisal of what level of school you can play at. That will help you formulate a list of 10 schools you might want to attend from a soccer standpoint. See #12 below.

    12. Research colleges from an academic and athletic standpoint. Use the U.S. News & World Report Ultimate College Guide (or something similar) and SportSource's Official Athletic College Guide for Women's Soccer. Choose 10 target schools for academics (divided fairly equally between schools where a student of your academic standing should be easily accepted, schools where acceptance will be a bit more challenging, and schools where you anticipate acceptance will be difficult) and 10 target schools for athletics (divided fairly equally between schools where a player of your skill should easily make the soccer team, schools where making the soccer team will be more challenging, and schools where making the soccer team would seem to be quite difficult). Rely on your club coaches to give you an honest assessment of your skill level, and use that assessment in evaluating which soccer programs will be easy, challenging, and difficult for you. Then focus on the overlap between your academic list and your athletic list. Note: in our experience, goalkeepers need larger athletic lists because schools that are on your original list may not be recruiting for goalkeepers in your graduation year.

    13. Begin to send emails to college coaches on the overlap list in your freshman year. Include your profile and upcoming game schedules (although realistically, they probably won't come and watch you until you're in your junior year/U16-17). Copy the head coach and/or recruiting coach, depending on who you are sending the email to. Same with the goalkeeper coach if that's your position.

    As a goalkeeper, our daughter's athletic list of schools was large – at least initially. Because of this and because she has a really busy schedule, we settled on an approach to emailing coaches that was a bit different than what we had read was the best approach. Once our daughter had decided on the contents of the introductory email she wanted to send to coaches, I sent those introductory emails for her from her email account. Subsequent emails (thanking a coach for coming to watch her play, thanking a coach for their time at an ID camp, and later in the process, responding to emails from coaches) were sent by her. This made the process a bit more manageable for her.

    It's important to personalize even the introductory emails a bit based on your child's research of the school's academic and soccer programs. Be able to tell the coaches why you want to attend their school and play soccer for them. In our daughter's case, we came up with the basic introductory email first and then for each school, she told me why it interested her and we came up with a paragraph to add which made each introductory email more specific to the school.
  • KeeperDadKeeperDad Registered User Posts: 41 Junior Member
    14. Begin to call coaches on the overlap list. You can almost always find their phone numbers on the team web pages of the colleges' intercollegiate athletic websites. Prepare a list of questions in advance – include more questions on your list than you think you will ever ask (otherwise, you will almost certainly have "dead space" during your calls when you can't think of any more questions).

    We searched on the web for lists of questions, combined the lists we found, and came up with a list of over a 100 questions. Our daughter didn't come close to asking all of the questions we came up with, but it gave her confidence that she wasn't going to run out.

    At one point, when it appeared that the NCAA was going to allow coaches to initiate phone calls earlier than it had before (the new rule was rescinded before it went into effect), we prepared a list of questions our daughter could ask when coaches "cold-called" her – and when she hadn't researched the program.

    I have a feeling that our daughter's introductory emails weren't as effective as introductory phone calls would have been (our process was to send introductory emails and then make phone calls to the coaches who had expressed interest in some way, but now I wonder if it would have been better to just start out with phone calls because I suspect coaches get a ton of emails and a player's introductory email could easily be lost in the shuffle).

    It will be a challenge for your son and daughter to make these phone calls, but they can start with schools for which they believe they could easily make the team – it may end up being practice, or depending on how well you and your child have judged their abilities, it may end up being one of the schools they seriously consider. Your child should keep in mind that college coaches talk on the phone with youth soccer players quite a bit – they know you're nervous. Sometimes (especially if they want your child badly), they will be nervous too. Your child will probably never be completely comfortable with this part of the process, but it's a good growth opportunity for them.
  • KeeperDadKeeperDad Registered User Posts: 41 Junior Member
    15. Play in showcase tournaments. But choose the right showcases - it doesn't do any good to play in a showcase where 300 college coaches are in attendance if the coaches of the schools you want to attend aren't going to be there.

    This is probably the biggest fallacy that leads to players frequently switching clubs. The thought is that the only way to get seen by college coaches is to play on a team that's going to Surf Cup, Disney, Las Vegas Showcase, etc. every year. And so if the team you're playing for doesn't go to those showcases, you'll have to switch teams or you won't be seen by college coaches. That's a fallacy that coaches and parents on other teams (who have a specific motivation – that their child's team will get better so that their child will be seen by college coaches because they've believed the fallacy as well) try to convince you of.

    Players who take this approach are hoping that one of the coaches who sees them play will want them to come to their school, and they are relying on volume to facilitate the recruiting process for them. Their thinking is that if there are 300 college coaches watching, the chances increase of one or more of those coaches seeing them and wanting them to come play at their school.

    This line of thinking is logical to a point, but its making assumptions that don't have to be made. A better strategy, we think, is to make the lists of colleges suggested in point #12 above and then use effective strategies to put yourself in front of those coaches. Find out where they will be – their own ID camps, other schools' ID camps, ODP camps, Market Training Center events, showcases, etc. Then do everything you can to put yourself in front of those coaches at those events. Ask your club coach and coaching director to talk to those coaches in advance and ask them to watch you.

    Consult the college coach lists at showcase websites. And/or just ask the coaches when you call them which showcase tournaments they will be attending and if they would come and watch you play. Make sure your club coach knows what colleges you want to attend and what college coaches you anticipate coming to watch you play so they can do their best to give you adequate playing time in games where the coaches of your target colleges will be watching.
  • KeeperDadKeeperDad Registered User Posts: 41 Junior Member
    16. Your team should develop a team profile that can be distributed to college coaches at showcase tournaments. The team flier should include the following:

    Team Information: team name; team photo; about our team; team accomplishments

    Who To Contact: We included contact information for our team's coach, our team's goalkeeper coach, our team manager, and our club's director of coaching.

    Brief Profiles of Individual Players: name; uniform number; position; height; weight; left- or right-footed (or both); parents' names; phone number; email address; high school; graduation year; GPA; test scores (SAT, ACT, and/or PSAT); up to 5 academic/community service accomplishments; up to 5 athletic accomplishments

    We printed all of this on two-sided 11x17 sheets of paper and created a tri-fold brochure that was 11 inches tall and approximately 5.67 inches wide.

    We ended up printing the fliers with the "About Our Team" and "Team Accomplishments" sections blank, and then created clear labels to fit those areas so that we could print a large number of fliers (we had them printed by a local stationery store) and then customize them for each showcase tournament. This also allowed us to include our tournament schedule in the "About Our Team" section. Since we believed other teams might initially attract more college coaches, we felt including our tournament schedule might be helpful.

    We assigned one outgoing parent to be in charge of distributing the fliers to coaches. It doesn't take long to get a sense of who the college coaches are – they tend to sit apart, they often wear clothes that have their college's name on them, they sometimes have clipboards, etc. The person who distributes the fliers should keep track of the names and colleges of the coaches to whom they give fliers and should note the games those coaches attended (so you will know if coaches attend more than one of your games, which could possibly signify greater interest). The list of coaches and their schools should be distributed to the players after the tournament – if you want to help your players, you can research contact information for the coaches at their program websites prior to distributing the list to the players.
  • KeeperDadKeeperDad Registered User Posts: 41 Junior Member
    17. Write thank you notes to coaches who watched you play. Emails are good, but a handwritten note will really stand out. A phone call would stand out even more.

    18. Guest-play strategically if necessary – but make sure you will play. And make sure the guest-playing opportunities will be at events where the coaches you want to play for will be watching. If you can find out what games the coaches you want to play for will come and watch you (hint: it's a good question for a phone call!), you can pass that information on to the coach of the team for which you will be guest-playing.

    19. Attend ID camps at the colleges you're interested in – but contact the coach first to let them know you will be attending and your purpose. And/or have your club coach and/or director of coaching contact the coaches to let them know you will be attending. Attendance at an ID camp can be invaluable in the recruiting process (we know it helped tremendously in our daughter's case – it was the first time, to our knowledge at least, that the coaching staff of the college she will be attending saw her play). But you have to be certain they will watch you during the camp. There will probably be a lot of players attending the camp, and you want to make sure that you are "on their radar" from the beginning. A call from your club coach or director of coaching will help in that regard, as will a phone call or email from you.

    I recently read about a brilliant tactic a goalkeeper's family employed to get her seen by the coach of the school she wanted to attend: "We found a camp where the coach of the university (our daughter) was interested in was going to be there. We had not been able to get them to see (our daughter) at any tournaments, but they had shown interest from video. I called (the) camp director (and) asked (for our daughter to) be put on the opposing team to the coach of the school she was interested in. She was on the weaker team and got the action she needed. (The) next day (the) coach came over and asked if she was interested in joining his team/school."
  • KeeperDadKeeperDad Registered User Posts: 41 Junior Member
    20. Network, network, network. Your club coach and director of coaching can be invaluable in this regard if you reach out to them (early in the process). Keep them apprised of your progress and target schools.

    21. Watch as many college games as possible. Either on TV or in person. If you watch one of your "overlap" teams' games in person, sit in a strategic spot to maximize the chances that the coach will see you (we started doing this after our daughter had attended the ID camp of her dream school - so the coaches knew who she was in advance).

    22. Register for the NCAA clearinghouse

    23. Be aware of recruiting rules. You can download the NCAA Guide for the College Bound Student Athlete at the NCAA website.

    24. For the schools you're interested in, "like" the Facebook page of their soccer program. Follow them on Twitter. Comment on their Facebook page after games you've watched.

    25. Boys – consider participating on a Development Academy team. If that's not possible.consider participating in ODP or id2. Girls – consider playing on an ECNL team or participating in ODP, id2. It's more important for boys to play on a Development Academy team than it is for girls to play on an ECNL team. Investigate the possibility (with your club's DOC) of receiving an invite to a US Soccer Market Training Center event/training session.

    Well, those are the end of my notes. As I said, comments, discussion, and challenges are more than welcome!
  • catdaddycatdaddy Registered User Posts: 170 Junior Member
    Just wanted to say this is the best list of suggestions I have ever seen on college soccer recruiting. My daughter is a HS Junior and recently committed to play at a Top 25 Div I soccer program. We did many of these things but I still wish I had read this 3 years ago. This is very good info and anyone wanting to play college soccer should keep a copy of this and follow it.
  • SteveMASteveMA Registered User Posts: 6,079 Senior Member
    Good point about the grades. They give you a lot more flexibility down the road. Our DD is looking at all levels D1-3 because she will qualify for a lot of academic money at most schools. It certainly opens doors and makes her more attractive to coaches. I also know of a couple kids, soccer players coincidentally, that are not getting recruited the way they "should" be because of the athlete's attitude and their parents. Word gets around, quickly.
  • anothermom3anothermom3 Registered User Posts: 275 Junior Member
    Wow, as a parent of one in this process, you summarized so well. Could you PM me the link? I would like to send it to another parent or two. Many thanks.
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