Researching College Soccer Programs
- What it Takes to Play College Soccer
- Former Players Advice to the Next Generation
- Schellas Hyndman's Do's and Dont's
- What to Research
- Finding Coaches Contact Information
- Communication with Coaches
- How to Effectively Use Video
- College ID Camps
Gerald “G” Guerrieri — Texas A&M University
In my travels across the nation I am constantly asked, ”What does it take for a player to compete as a college soccer student-athlete?" The answer may be as broad and difficult to define as the question.
Coaches receive letters and phone calls every week from high school players, coaches, and parents claiming that they have a player who can play Division I. The college coach's first questions are always, "Have you ever seen my team play?" and "Do you know what the Division I level is like?" Too often they do not. They have only seen youth and high school games and are not aware of the speed of play at college. The same could be said of college coaches pushing their players to the pro or international level. We do not always get a chance to truly see that game, and naturally think that our most talented players can excel at those levels without truly understanding what the level demands.
The Division I level of the NCAA is the most recognized level of college soccer. Players and coaches put in long hours all year to insure success and development. These hours (12-20 per week, depending on the team) are in addition to college classes, individual study, and social activities. The time load of a Division I player is likened to a full-time job that attracts thousands of player-applicants every year.
Speed is the primary component that distinguishes a Division I player from Division II, NAIA, and Division III. The technical speed of a player to take control of the ball and do it in as few touches as possible separates the top Division I player from all others. The tactical speed to read and anticipate 2 to 3 passes ahead of play, rather than just reacting to the current pass, run or clearance, determines the speed of the game and thus the level of play from Division I (tactically the fastest). The physical speed of a player is the most obvious. If players are always getting away from you in club or high school play, you may want to look for programs at a lower level where you can compete successfully.
A quality Division I player typically has a repertoire of attributes to bring to a college team. Here are examples of what a typical Division I player must be able to do:
- have the physical speed to break away from strong tenacious markers
- are able to hold and shield the ball with the head up
- are confident and talented enough to take on 1, 2, or 3 players on route to goal
- are comfortable and successful with both feet while under pressure
- have a superior physical fitness level
- are physically strong enough and quick enough to avoid injury due to physical play
- have the tactical ability to read and play within the tempo of the game
- have the technical ability to play a controlled 1 and 2 touch game
- can play the ball from side to side as well as back to front
- can and will defend anytime the ball is lost
- have the personality to play under pressure
- have a superior physical fitness level
- have the physical speed and strength to keep up with the nation’s top strikers
- have the grit and determination to play within the team’s defensive system
- have the technical ability to play controlled 40 yard passes to teammates
- have the technical ability to control long passes from the opponents
- have the determination and ability to win 50/50 balls consistently
- have the composure to play and create — not just destroy
- have the stature and physique that brings confidence to their teammates
- have the strength and agility to win 50/50 balls and avoid injury
- have the technical ability to make 100% of the saves in the middle of the goal
- have the leadership and social skills to get along with and lead their team
- can distribute the ball safely in their half of the field
- can penetrate the other team's half with long punts, throws or drop kicks
- work harder in training than in games
- have the tactical ability to play within the flow of the game.
To compete as an NCAA Division I player, the student-athlete must be focused, dedicated, and opportunistic. However, to play college soccer, you do not have to do it at the Division I level.
What does it take to play college soccer? The answer is "What do you want from your college experience?" If you have the technical, tactical, and physical tools to play at the Division I level, do you have the time and dedication? If you would sit on the bench for a Division I team, would you be happier playing for a Division II, III, or NAIA program? The answers to the questions lie in your abilities and aspirations.
Former Players Advice to the Next Generation of Rush Players
Below is what Lizzy Raben, Former U17 National Team CB, Started as a Freshman for Duke in the ACC, and of course is a Rush Alum and W-League Player, had to say. It’s always good to hear a different voice on what the future holds!
To players who are coming in to college:
When it comes to picking a school, find the right fit for you.
Everybody is looking for something different in a school, whether it’s location, style of play, academics, size, your role on the team, etc.
You need to consider the things that are most important to you and find the school that’s going to give you the best combination of what you want. Don’t feel pressure to attend a school because of reputation or because of its name. Look for what’s important to you and remember that it’s different for everybody, and that’s okay.
In terms of preparation, prepare diligently and rigorously during the summer, not only with fitness but also in the weight room. The weight room component is definitely something that I wish I would have taken a little more seriously. There’s nothing worse than coming into preseason feeling unprepared, so make sure you’re keeping up with your fitness and more importantly keeping up with your soccer. One way to do this is by looking for opportunities to play against bigger, stronger, faster players. Doing this is always going to improve your game, and this is especially true when trying to prepare for the college.
One thing that was surprising for me was the quickness with which the season happens, along with the intensity at which it happens. Women’s soccer has one of the shortest preseasons in all of college sports, and so the pace at which you are asked to adapt and prepare for your season as a team is extremely fast and very demanding. The season is only a few months long, as opposed to the year-long season that you get in club, and so the season flies by. Enjoy it!!
One challenging aspect of the college game is certainly overall physicality. From competing in practice to playing in games, the soccer is extremely physical. It was certainly something that I had to get used to and something that I wasn’t quite expecting. Another challenge was adapting to a new system and to new players. Coming from club, especially one such as Rush, you’ve been playing with a particular group for several years where everyone has been trained in a particular brand of soccer and held to certain expectations. When you change teams, you will find yourself with a new set of expectations and a new group of players that has never played with you. This transition can be difficult. My advice is to learn from the older players, ask questions, and when in doubt, do what you know to be right. Another thing to help with this transition, one that I wish I would have been better at, is to remain open minded going into the season, as well as patient. Keeping an open mind to new systems, tactics, and styles of play is something that’s only going to improve your game as a player. Staying patient while learning and working through these challenges is equally important. Also, ask for help!
Remember that your team and coaches want you to succeed.
My first year in the college game presented me with challenges and experiences that has only helped me grow as a player, and has left me with memories that I’ll never forget. Though you are leaving something incredibly wonderful behind here at Rush, know that you have a lot to look forward to. The college game is what you make it, so make it great.
Overall Program Evaluation
What Division do they compete? NCAA DI, DII, DIII
For all reasons this will become very important in your decision making process down the road, but the first question usually asked is what division does the program compete because that impacts everything from recruiting, to competition, to commitment level expected.
What is the overall record of the team over the past years? Have they been consistent, Are they a program on the rise? Have they won their conference?
The record of the team and where they compete is important. It will give you valuable imformation about what your potential four years with the program will entail. For example, the coach has been there for 30 years, winning records each year. The program will most likely be stable and the coache has found a suitable long term home. On the flip side, if a program has tranistion every 2-4 years, then msot likely coaches are using that job to get to teh next job. So while it still may be the right fit, best to make sure that the school is exactly where you want to be...i.e. make sure you don''t attend the program for the coach only.
The performance of the team will give you good indicators of the commitment level of the players and demands of the coach. At all levels, success takes work, so make sure you ask the right questions. Up and coming program with new coaches also provide opportunties that may not come at other programs, such as starting as a Freshman. Don't discount program based solely on records or coaches turnover, but they are key factors when looking at programs as a whole.
What is your Level of Play
As a player and parent this can be a difficult item to determine in the recruiting process. It contains many factors besides just pure ability. To play at the highest levels, yes, the ability (talent) must be there or the opportunties will not be. However, the player must also determine their commitment level to that standard. This is not said to discount the level that you as a player want to compete. Desire and persistence can pay huge dividends for players if they are patient enought to wait for playing time.
Keys to Helping Determine the Right Level:
- Coaches Evaluations- Speak with your Club, ODP, ID Camp coach and ask for honest feedback on the level you can play. Understand that these are also only one coaches opinion.Look to get feedback from multiple coaches that coach at all levels.
- Watching Games- Watching competition or even training can be a great way to see the level that you will be expected to play. Watch as many levels as you can and numerous program to guage. Many programs place video of games online. The best way to really understand the speed and ability is to watch in person, be a student of the game. Ask yourself, can I play at this level this year, next year, ever?
- Train with College Players- If possible, train with college level players. NCAA Recruiting regulations vary by division on this item, but good chances would be with PDL Teams in your area or as college players visit your former club. Any chance you can get to train with college level players will not only cevelop you as a player, but show you the level of play.
Roster and Recruits
The Roster for a College Program will help you determine a great deal about what the coach will be looking for in coming recruiting classes and also where the coach typically recruits. The Roster will determine which players the coach will be creuiting. If you see 7 defenders listed and 2 forwards, the likelihood of the program needing an attacking player is very high and chances are good. You will also need to assess the age of the program. If it is Senior heavy then the next incoming class may be very large.
The tendancy for coaches to recruit from the same areas is high. All coaches are looking for the best possibel players, but if coache shave confidence in players coming from a particular area or club it may be good to ask a few more questions. For example, if they are California State Schools, they recruit more players in state simply due to cost of in state versus out of state tuition. It costs the program less money to bring in teh player from California than Colorado.
Pay Attention to each years recruiting announcement. It will add to the roster and ultimately show exactly what coaches brought in that year. If three players came in to fill your role, the likelihood of them recruiting you are lower. On teh flip side, if the coach has one player coming in and the other player playing that role will be a junior or senior, then they will most likely be looking for that role as a priority to fill in the upcoming class.
In the Women's game, the recruiting process is not allowing you to research much of this at the Divsion I level in a timely manner. Make sure you ask the questions?
Where do you see me playing?
How many other players in my role are you recruiting?
How much playing time do you see me getting?
What other roles on the field do you see me playing potentially?
One of the most critical factors to your success in school will be determining the best fit from a coaching and playing perspective. There are numerous things that go into great and not so great programs and coaches. Make sure you get a good feel for the program, the coach, his coaching style, and how the players react to the style.
Coaching Philospohy- How does the team play? Is it possesion oriented through the midfield, longer more direct, strong counter attacking? Does s/he like to change systems constantly? All good things to take note and understand where you might fit best.
Coaching Style- How do they communicate? What do they communicate? What is said to players prior to games, at halftime, in training sessions? How is it said? Always yelling and screaming or cool and calm? Players must understand what type of coach they play best under. It will go a long way towards your success and the successful relationship between you and your coach.
What do Former Players Say?- How is the coach spoken about by current and former players. Is it the coach that you would never play for again? Or the one who challeneged you in all the right ways? Former players will be honest, so look for their direct feedback.
Most importantly will be the people you train and compete with daily. Understand the environment, will these people be with you living with you, training with you, traveling with you, and competing with you over the next four years. Are these people you want to be around? Do you spend your free time similarly? What are their attitudes like?
One of the most asked questions from players and parents. All programs post their contact information for all levels of the athletic department from the Athletic Directors to volunteer coaches. Each website is different where they place this information, but a few things are typically standard.
Google It- Google is a great tool, use it your advantage. Do a few test runs. Google " XYZ University Athletics Department Directory"
Athletics Directory. Most programs will only list the office number for coaches on the coaches page, some won't list any direct contact information on that page. So they are placed on one staff or atletics directory page. Use the top bar to see if they have it listed.
Search the athletics website- Some sites bury the coaches information in different places that made sens eto them, but not the average user. Use the search tool in the athletics website to speed the search process.
How and When you communicate with college coaches is critical. It is vital players act with professionalism and return phone calls and emails in a timely manner. Coaches have spent the time to contact you, if you do not contact them back for reasons other than I was deathly ill or travelling out of the country it will not get you recruited. Below are a couple guidelines, along with NCAA Rules, that will help you better communicate with coaches.
Practice, just like your soccer skills, script and practice phone calls with coaches. These can be your top programs or maybe it is a program that you have some interest. The first call you will most likely be nervous, but after that it will become easier and easier the more you speak to coaches and build relationships. The communication process is vital to the development of the relationship with your potential coaches.
Be Proactive- Based on most rules, the player is the one that will determine the recruiting process. You must be the one to contact prospective programs first. Whether it is via email, phone, or at an ID camp; don't wait to be discovered
Return Communications in a timely Manner- The golden rule would be do your best to return any correspondence within 48 hours. This is a matter of courtesy and professionalism. Even if the news is not what the coach wants to here they would much rather here a "no thank you" than nothing at all. It allows all parties to move forward in the recruiting process.
Coach XYZ, thank you for contacting me. I am looking forward to speaking with you more and am very interested in your program!
Coach XYZ, thank you for contacting me. I am looking forward to researching your program and speaking with you to see if your program will be a fit for me.
Coach XYZ, thank you for contacting me. I regret that your school does not fir what I am looking for in my academics. Thank you for your interest.
These are over simplified responses, but have a yes, no, and maybe response to show just how simple and easy it can be.
Coaches are Pro's- The primary job of a college coach is to recruit, then to develop. Without top talent, the development process gets harder. The are very experienced in recruiting players. This means, they are great at speaking to young people, can help carry the conversation, and they are expecting your call! So don't feel nervous, dumb, or intimidated by the potential of speaking to a coach. If you are to get to where you want to go, the sooner you speak to coaches and are comfortable with it, the better your results!
Having a good recruiting video is extremely important for every high school soccer player who hopes to earn a soccer scholarship and play the sport college.
College coaches generally don’t have the time it takes to see hundreds of soccer recruits in person. That’s why a high-quality highlight video is an essential aspect of your online resume.
It takes just a few minutes for a well-made recruiting video to show coaches what a high school soccer recruit can do on the pitch.
But you need to realize that if you want your highlight video to be effective, you need to know specifically what soccer coaches are looking for. When it comes to recruiting videos, each sport is different. For example, a soccer highlight video for field players should use 20 to 40 plays taken from game footage. Goalkeepers should combine game highlights with skills footage.
If you follow these guidelines and create an excellent recruiting video, you’re taking the first step toward earning a college soccer scholarship.
How to Film:
- Tape from a high perspective when possible (at least several feet from the ground).
- A tripod is highly recommended.
- Do not zoom in and out. The wider the angle the better, don’t loose track of the ball.
- Imagine the field separated into thirds (offensive, middle, defensive). When the ball is in the offensive or defensive third of the field, film the entire 18-yard box. When the ball is in the middle of the field, film the entire middle third.
- Show enough of the field so that we are able to see the player’s vision, runs with and without the ball, use of space, combinations with teammates, etc.
- Coaches want to see the progression of each play so you need a wide enough angle to capture multiple players, but they also want to see foot skills and technical abilities so do not lose focus on the primary player you are recording.
Position Specific Instructions
- Field Player: match footage only
- Goals, shots on goal, assists
- Crosses, clears
- Corner kicks, goal kicks
- Traps from the air, headers
- Steals, Tackles
- Passes: clean passes to a teammate, 1 touch, give-n-go’s, thru balls, possession
- Ball Handling – 1 v 1 moves, shielding, keeping possession
- Good runs
- Goalies: skills footage and match footage
- Include Diving to your left and right(low and high shots)
- High Balls – collecting an punching crosses
- Breakaways – how well you cut the angles and do sliding saves
- Punting – follow the ball to see distance
- Goal Kicks
Examples of Recruiting Video's
College ID Camps are here to stay. While a wonderful opportunity it is important to understand all of the facts before deciding how much of your time and money you are going to invest in the College ID Camps.
- Compete or be seen in front of the coaching staff
- Experience the college life, living in the dorms, eating the food, staying on the campus
- Compete against other players vying for same position, side by side comparison
- They are money makers
- Coaches are not always the ones running the camp. Make sure the coaches that you are looking to be seen by are the ones running your sessions, not just putting their name on the camp.
- Can be just a number. Make sure they are organized and you will get more from the camp than just playing games in front of coaches. The coaches should be the ones running the training sessions and interacting with your player.