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Parents Blog

Susan Boyd blogs on USYouthSoccer.org every Monday.  A dedicated mother and wife, Susan offers a truly unique perspective into the world of a "Soccer Mom". 

 

A Few Good Men and Women - College Recruiting

Susan Boyd

Note:  In this blog "you" means the player.

Being recruited by a college to play soccer really just has two components:  making sure coaches know you want to be seen and being seen by coaches.  However, as rudimentary as it appears, the process is anything but simple.  I've been through it once with Bryce and I'm now going through it with Robbie.  The learning curve escalates sharply, so hopefully I can pass on a few tidbits for achieving your own college dreams.

An important step to take before even moving ahead to being recruited is to get registered with the NCAA Eligibility Center (https://web1.ncaa.org/eligibilitycenter/common/).  Coaches will ask you if and when you registered.  Without NCAA approval no coach can put you on the team.  The NCAA provides a central location for gathering all your data (grades, test scores, and coursework) while also serving as the judge on eligibility to play in college.  Therefore, before you take any ACT or SAT tests, it's a good idea to be registered since you want those test scores sent to the NCAA.  There's a spot on your test registration form for putting in the NCAA as one of your "college" choices.  There's a one-time fee for registering, but there is also a way for lower income families to get the fee waived.  In addition, the NCAA (www.ncaa.org) is a great source of information on the recruiting process.  You can download a booklet of the rules for eligibility and for recruitment.

If you want certain schools to show interest in you, you'll need to show interest in them first.  Send emails to the coaches in August and September of your junior year.  Make the emails personal – in other words don't send out bulk emails.  Individual emails require more effort, but have a bigger payoff.  Use methods such as addressing the coach directly and then talking about the school and why it interests you:  I had a chance to visit your campus last May and thought the new student union was amazing// I want to study engineering and I see your school has one of the top programs// I loved the way the team never lost its cool against Wake Forest and managed to come back and tie.  Make sure the coach knows you want to go to University X and not just go anywhere that will take you.  Finally apprise the coach of your playing schedule – tournaments, showcases, high school state finals, etc.  Once you have a dialog going with the coach, don't be afraid to ask serious questions about the program, your place in the program, and your chances.  Remember also that in general the assistant coaches do the initial recruiting.  However, I think it's best to write to the head coach and let him or her decide who should be corresponding with you.  In some cases all the coaches may end up writing to you.  Take that as a huge compliment and a sign that the school is definitely interested in you as a player.
 
In general coaches can contact you by email and letter no earlier than September 1st of your junior year and by phone no earlier than July 1st between your junior and senior year.  However, you can call coaches as much as you want.  Although that seems intimidating, it really is a great way to indicate your interest in a program.  Plus the coaches can talk to you about how they see you fitting into their program which is valuable information as you begin to make your choices.  Coaches are also limited to the number of times they can speak to your parents.  This assures that they won't have to deal with "parent agents."  Coaches want to recruit the player and not the parent.  In fact if parents are too pushy, coaches see that as reluctance on the part of the player to really want to play at the college level.

You will need to make visits to the campuses of schools holding the most interest for you.  These visits are classified as unofficial – i.e. you made the choice to go visit – and official – the college invited you to visit.  Unless you are Bill Gates' son or daughter, you'll need to limit the unofficial visits due to the expense.  So you'll need to carefully consider the schools where you think you have the best chance of being accepted and getting recruited.  Coaches can't talk to you off campus until your senior year, so they love to get players to come to campus so that they can talk to you and your parents.  In addition visiting the campus gives you a chance to see if you feel you'll fit in.  Soccer is wonderful, but ultimately if you don't feel comfortable at the school with its social life and academics, you won't do well.

The biggest advice I can offer is to stay in contact with the coaches.  If they write to you and you don't write back, they wipe you off their lists and move on and the opportunity is gone.  If write for a while and then lapse, again the coaches may just move on.  They have a limited window of opportunity to pursue certain players and if they don't get enough nibbles, they move on to hungrier prey.  On the other hand, it's tough to stay on top of it if you have several coaches interested in you, so just make it a habit to take a hour on Sunday evening to send short emails to the coaches indicating you still have an interest.  Again keep the emails personal, but they don't need to be elaborate.  One or two quick lines let the coaches know that despite your busy schedule you have the time to write.  They'll  appreciate that.

Once you let coaches know you want to be seen, you'll need to get to the places where coaches can see you.  There are three methods: least efficient, possibly efficient, and very efficient.  Camps are the least efficient means for being seen by coaches both from a cost perspective and for the number of schools represented.   Most college programs offer camps throughout the winter, spring and summer as a means of seeing players and bringing in revenue to the program.  If you have a particular college you want to attend, camps offer the possibility of both getting in an unofficial visit to the campus and having the coaching staff of that university see you play.  But it comes with a price tag.  Resident camps cost around $550 for three or four days.  Day camps at local campuses that have a cost around $100 give you a quick taste of the program and the school.  As a selling point these camps may state that coaches from other schools will be present, but we are talking just a handful, compared to what you would get at a college showcase tournament.  So in general camps are not a very efficient means for getting seen.

I'll skip to the most efficient means because it helps set the stage for the possibly efficient method.  College showcase tournaments are the bread and butter of recruiters.  It's an opportunity for them to see the top teams in the country (and by logical extension the top players in the country) by traveling to one venue.  Recruiting budgets are small, so coaches need to be as efficient as the players in deciding where to go to recruit.  The downside for the player is that most of these tournaments use a ranking system to decide which teams get accepted.  Tournament committees will look at who got to state finals, regionals, and nationals, who won or came in second at other top tournaments, and at the overall club (can they get six teams from a club to qualify for entrance).  This leaves plenty of good teams and players out of the running.  Nevertheless, college showcases are the best place to be if you want coaches to see you.  So how do you get there?

First, when you tryout for a team at U15, U16, and U17 play ask the coaches, the club president, and the parents and players how serious they are about playing college soccer.  If a coach or a club isn't committed to getting players to the next level, you probably won't get the opportunity to go to a showcase.  If the players and their parents aren't committed to playing college soccer, then they will look at tournament choices purely on an economic basis, not on an advancement level.  Look at the club's website to see if they list the players who have moved on to college.  That gives you a good indication that they are serious.  So pick your club well!  Second once you get on a team, encourage the coach and team administrator to apply for the top tournaments.  Sometimes they are reluctant because they believe they won't be accepted.  In the end, it's no harm no foul as you'll get your money back if not accepted.  When I worked for US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program I often got calls from very prestigious tournaments asking if I knew of any good U16 or U17 teams that they could add because they wanted to make an additional bracket.  So don't sell your team short – apply even if you don't think you have a chance.  Third, work hard to win those accolades that will get your team in these tournaments.

All is not lost if you can't get into the top national tournaments.  There are plenty of local tournaments that attract local college coaches.  You may not be seen by a California school if you live in Wisconsin, but you will certainly be seen by coaches from Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Minnesota.  Lists of tournaments can be found on the internet through state soccer organizations and tournament guides.  Some of the top tournaments to consider are Dallas Cup, Blue Chip, Disney College Showcase, Surf Cup and the Final Four.  But every state offers strong showcase tournaments such as Metro FC, John Talley, KISS, and others.  So check websites and tournament listings to find tournaments that your team can qualify for and enter.

Once you get into a tournament, go to the tournament website and see which colleges have indicated they are sending representatives.  Then write to the colleges you have an interest in.  It doesn't hurt to submit a copy of your unofficial transcript in the email and list any test scores if you have taken the ACT or SAT.  Whatever you do, don't inflate your grade point or test scores in hopes of getting a coach to see you.  Coaches have strict standards they have to meet with the admission's department and no coach appreciates having his or her time wasted by a player they have no hope of admitting.  Likewise, only write to those schools in which you have a serious interest.  While you may hate to cut off an opportunity, if you know a school doesn't have your major or is too big or too small for your tastes, then don't "tease" them.  The pleasant surprise is that you may get several schools that express an interest in you that you didn't even write to.  Remember your teammates are asking coaches to come watch them, which means the coaches are watching you as well.  My son Bryce ended up at a school he never contacted to come watch him!  In addition prepare a profile sheet for the players on your team that the team administrator can hand out to the coaches on the sidelines.  Don't do a booklet as coaches can't use that as efficiently.  Instead, prepare a sheet landscape mode that lists the uniform number, player name, position, address, phone number, email, GPA, and test scores.  Leave a column at the end where the coach can make notes.  Anything else the coach needs he or she will get directly from the player once they contact him or her.

Now there is also a possibly efficient means of being seen.  Since you may not have the opportunity to play on a team that gets selected to these college showcases, you can still get to these tournaments as a guest player.  Most of the major tournament websites offer a link where you can register as a guest player or where you can contact teams that have asked for guest players.  Usually the guest player form asks for things like position, years played, and some statistics.  Don't oversell yourself.  Coaches are leery of a "too good to be true" player.  Be honest and forthright, but don't brag.  The upside of being a guest player is that you get to the major tournaments.  The downside of being a guest player is that you are not guaranteed any playing time at all.  Therefore give the coach a reason to put you in.  Let the coach know which college coaches have indicated that they will watch you play.  That means that the team players will also be seen by these coaches, so it's to the team's advantage to give you some playing time.  In addition be honest with the team coach about your intentions.  You want to play to be seen to be recruited.  Don't be afraid to ask the coach about playing time.  Most college showcase tournaments are simply round-robin festivals without winners which allow coaches to play everyone without worrying about "success."  So that makes it more likely that even guest players would get playing time.  Just remember to also ask your own club coach for permission to apply to be a guest player.  In some cases guest teams may be affiliated with national soccer organizations for which you do not have a pass.  In those cases the guest team administrator can usually get you hooked up with a pass pretty quickly.  Faxes and the internet certainly help to speed up the process.

Just remember that college coaches need to recruit the best players they can to their teams, but that doesn't mean that they won't have to look deeply into the ranks of teams to find those players.  You need to be sure to make yourself evident to the coaches.  This isn't the time to be shy or modest.  It's about selling yourself.  Coaches are looking for players who have the confidence to make the sale.  So get out there and promote yourself!

 

 

Priceless

Susan Boyd

I have a graduate degree in creative writing, specifically a double degree in poetry and playwriting.  This degree equipped me to teach other students and to write poetry and plays, none of which pays much.  I began graduate school in computer science, right at the start of Microsoft and Silicon Valley.  Had I completed my degree in computer science I would not be 1) writing this blog and 2) refinancing my house to pay for my kids’ college.   I tell you this not because I want to elicit your sympathies but to illustrate that we don’t always make our choices based on the most reasonable options.  I ended up choosing writing because I love it, even though I knew it wouldn’t pay.

The same can be said for our kids choosing select soccer.  All the time I hear parents talking about their child succeeding at soccer to the point that they will get a college scholarship.  If that’s anyone’s motivation for playing soccer, then I suggest you do a quick cost/benefit analysis.  For the very few who will be lucky enough to acquire a full or nearly full scholarship to college there are 1000 players who will get a small partial scholarship and another 4000 who won’t get anything. 

Soccer is classified as an “equivalency” sport meaning that coaches can divide their scholarships among all the players on the squad.  While that is good news in the fact that most players on a soccer team can earn a scholarship, the bad news is that it will probably be about 30% of the total cost of college.  Coaches will work to develop a scholarship package that includes academic as well as athletic money, but in the end few players get a full ride.  Right now coaches have 9.9 full scholarships to work with for men’s soccer and 12 for women’s soccer.  With the squads reaching 30 – 32 players you can quickly do the math, which is exactly what I decided to do. 

Parents on the sideline often joke with one another that if they had put all the money they spent on soccer into the bank instead, they would have paid for college easily.  I wondered if that were true.  Here goes what I discovered for one son.

The club soccer fees for 13 years were approximately $9,000.  It would have been higher but one year he played on an ethnic team and the fees were only $150.  We traveled to at minimum five tournaments a year from U11 up for an average cost of $500 a weekend (if the family came along it would double) for a total of $20,000 - $35,000.  Soccer uniforms and gear averaged around $300 a year for a total of $3900.  Indoor soccer added $250 a year for a total of $2,000.  I had no idea what to include for gas and wear and tear on the car, but I thought a total of $1700 would be fair.   The grand total:  $36,600 to $51,600 and that isn’t even factoring in ODP and Super Y League costs (my brain is already exploding).   If I invested that money in a modest CD I could probably have saved up at minimum $43,000 to $60,000.  That would have covered a state school very nicely and most private schools for a year or two.  So while not exactly paying for college, I can attest that it’s more than my son presently has in scholarship!

I’m not advocating removing your child from youth soccer.  Far from it . . . my point is that playing any sport or participating in any extra-curricular activity that can be translated into a college scholarship shouldn’t be based on the goal of earning a scholarship.  It should be based on the enjoyment and immediate benefits the activity provides.  For our family it meant lots of weekends together in all kinds of weather sharing a common interest.  It also meant the chance to visit cities we might never have considered as vacation spots and making wonderful discoveries.

Playing soccer has provided us with good friendships, fond memories, the joy of success, and the humility of defeat.  You can’t put a dollar amount on those benefits – as the ad says they are priceless. 

When Bryce was awarded a scholarship for soccer, it was definitely one of his proudest moments, but the amount of the scholarship didn’t define his pride.  Being recruited and wanted by a college soccer team was reward enough.  Keeping that in perspective helps me when I have to write that check for tuition and room and board.  He plays soccer because it is his passion, and that’s reason enough to keep playing.

 

Nietzsche Never Bought a Car

Susan Boyd

German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche said "That which does not kill me makes me stronger," which I find a highly unrealistic view of life.  According to the philosopher with every major event in my life I am either doomed to die or arise Phoenix-like with greater strength.  This particular philosophic adage may hold true for say Sylvester Stallone who developed strength enough from the originals to remake both Rocky and Rambo.  He claims he owes this renaissance to human growth hormone which I think should create the corollary to Nietzsche's axiom, "Drugs which do not kill me make me stupid."  My experience is somewhat different.  I am writing this blog, so obviously nothing has stopped me dead in my tracks, but I certainly have been run over by life a few times and as I creak out of bed each morning I don't feel stronger.
 
My prime example is buying a car, which we are presently trying to do.  I have bought probably 30 cars in my lifetime and I am never prepared for the experience.  Robbie found a car on Ebay that he thought would be perfect to replace his 10 year old, 135,000 mile Toyota Rav 4.  Those of you who may have read earlier blogs of mine know that I have a six year old Sienna with 183,000 miles on it.  The "check engine" light has been on for three years.  But it gets us to soccer practice, games, and even trips, so I have decided to try and nurse it along.  Plus Robbie is now old enough to do the weekend trips to Chicago, so a safer, more reliable car makes sense – or least that's what he tells me!

This particular car sat on a dealership lot in a north suburb of Chicago, so we decided to go visit them rather than attempt to bid.  We also found the same car listed on Auto Traders, Car Soup, Used Cars, etc.  So we figured the dealership was motivated to sell.  The price was clearly listed and since they were attempting to sell it on Ebay, we figured that they had a reserve which had to be lower than the advertised price.  There had been no bids on it on Ebay, so we also thought they would appreciate a bird in the hand.  I did my research.  The car was listed at $24,997.  I got the Kelly Blue Book for the car and found four others like it on the internet with retail prices of $23,000 to $23,500.  I figured we could offer $1000 lower than that and reach a good deal.  I was going to trade in the Rav 4 with a trade-in value in fair condition of $2600 and pay cash for the balance.

Here's where the "not stronger" part comes in.  I don't know why I thought this dealership would be any different from the two dozen or more I have dealt with over the years, but it was worse and I wasn't up to the battle despite being a car buying veteran.  The first thing the salesman did was add $890 to the price of the used car for "shipping."  Apparently, according to the dealership, it wasn't fair to pass on the full cost of shipping a used car they had bought in Florida onto one buyer when another buyer might be purchasing a car that hadn't been shipped.  So their reasoning was to average the cost and charge all used car buyers this fee.  Since my car was local I was now being asked to subsidize someone who had the unfortunate taste to select a car that the dealership had crossed state lines to acquire.

This fee added onto the published retail price made the total cost $3000 over Kelly Blue Book.  From that point forward things just disintegrated.  No matter what my offer, the total price of the car in dealer math ended up being the same, $26,000.  I made an offer, they lowered the value of the trade-in and viola! $26,000.  I refused the extended warranty (worth $2000), they took that off the offer and amazingly my total out of pocket remained the same, $26,000.  No matter the permutation, I would be paying $26,000 for the car.

It was voodoo economics, which now required an additional economist.  Joining the salesman was some backroom guy who "only had my best interests at heart." Amazingly, even though the cost of the automobile never fluctuated, this new guy begged me to come up with "just a few hundred more" and we could reach a deal.  A few hundred more would have made the price of the car $3000 and a "few hundred more" over the price of KBB.  He thrust a sheet of paper at me with some typing on it that indicated he had paid $26,000 for the car.  Since he had foolishly paid $3000 more than the retail price of the car according to a half dozen other reliable sources, I guess I was expected to bail him out of that situation.  Either I had to question the business acumen of the dealership or I had to hand it to them for chutzpah.

As my dejected son watched this circus, I summoned the strength to walk out with the words of the backroom guy still echoing behind me, "Susan we're only $600 a part – what's $600?"  That may have been my Nietzsche moment.  "Only $600?  Perfect. . .you take $600 off the total price of the car and we can still negotiate."  He looked at me like I spinach in my teeth.  We drove home in the old car.

Am I stronger for that experience?  We'll find out in about four hours when I toddle down to another dealership to start the process all over.  At least the price of the car we are looking at is listed just under Kelly Blue Book.  So I am hopeful that things will go well.  Right!  Just listen to me . . . I haven't learned a thing!  

 

No...not that football

Susan Boyd

I can state with confidence that should you visit our house and the TV is on, it will be FOX Soccer Channel, unless it's Judge Judy time (my guilty pleasure) or unless the Packers are playing. You may think this a brave statement to make when writing a blog for a soccer website, but the truth be told I think most soccer fanatics in America will admit to also being hooked on a football team. Here in Wisconsin it would be gross sacrilege not to cheer on the Green and Gold and not to hold the Bears and Vikings in contempt. 
           
Personally I have never been a huge football fan even though I dated a running back for the Detroit Lions for about three weeks back in the 60s. I did a very good job of pretending to understand what he was talking about by smiling, nodding, and looking him straight in the eyes. But I really haven't come much farther in my understanding of the nuances of the game. I know you need to drive down the field, get the ball in the end zone, and occasionally kick the ball for various reasons. I really don't know what a running back is, although according to the Lion I dated – a RB carries the ball during the drive down the field. I don't know if linebackers run or block or if they are offense or defense.  I do know that a quarterback is offense because Brett Favre is the patron saint of offensive players. 
           
Despite this paucity of knowledge and the fact that I really don't much enjoy American football, somehow every Sunday (or the odd Saturday, Thursday, and Monday) I find myself watching the Packers. This year it was fun to watch them; other years not so much. Sunday a week ago, the Packers played Seattle Seahawks (I grew up in Seattle and I love the Seahawk uniforms) at Lambeau Field in a raging snow storm. That was the most fun I ever had watching football. The Packer players were actually enjoying themselves. I expected them to all suddenly lie down and make snow angels during a time out. For a while the grounds crew tried to keep the field lines clear by shoveling and using some contraption that looked like a snow blower with a mustache, but eventually they gave up the battle, and ball placement was anyone's guess. My son Robbie played a soccer game in Fort Wayne, Indiana under the same conditions, only there we didn't have the benefit of a grounds crew. We parents swept off the sidelines and the goal box once. After that we let the elements win.
           
What a difference a week makes. This past Sunday the Packers again played at home against the NY Giants in -1 degree with a wind chill of -23 degrees. The announcers kept reminding everyone that this wasn't the coldest game ever. That honor went to a game in Cincinnati where the wind chill was -56 degrees. Having sat through a soccer game in Cincinnati in the snow I trust the announcers' data. This time the Packers did not look like they were having fun. The Giants didn't look like they were having fun either. Both teams did their best to lose the game and eventually the Packers won at losing. I knew four people who went to the game who got to sit through the bitter cold to watch the Packers lose and pay $500 each for the privilege. I seriously doubt I would have felt much differently at the end of the game whether the Packers won or lost because I doubt I could have felt anything! I actually expected uniforms to shatter into pieces when a player was tackled.
           
So now for seven months we can avoid American football and once again concentrate on the real football in our house. The MLS draft this weekend yielded three friends of my sons, so there was lots of dancing and whooping without Packer cheer. Now if you stop by you'll be able to win a bet with anyone you choose on what the Boyd's are watching, unless of course it is Judge Judy time, then you'll lose.
           
I have to add a footnote to this blog. . .my sister-in-law, Tamara Jenkins, who is married to my screenwriter brother, Jim Taylor, who won an Oscar for Sideways, just got an Oscar nomination for her original screenplay The Savages, which she also directed. If any of you are Academy members please vote for her. If you're not a member then at least go see the movie. It's great – poignant, funny, true to life, and the theaters are warm.