National Signing Day is fast approaching. This is the day when High School senior athletes sign their letters of intent for the colleges and universities where they verbally committed earlier. The process leading to this momentous event is often wrapped in mystery and extends for years prior to the day. How does a player get recruited? There are some important constants, although each player has his or her own story of serendipity or frustration in getting to the point of commitment. Every player needs to be noticed for the process to start, so following are some suggestions for how to approach the recruiting process. Every coach has a board in his or her office listing the top players to be recruited. Eventually a player needs to land on a board in order to get an offer, but most players don't start on a board. There are several things players can do to bring themselves to the attention of coaches, which is where the process starts.
You should be realistic about your options. You have to be admitted to the school in order to play there. Don't believe the myth about coaches being able to perform miracles. Maybe that works for basketball and football players who generate revenue for a college, but not for soccer players. You have to meet the admission guidelines of the school you attend. Be sure the colleges you select have your major. When Bryce was being recruited by University of Wisconsin, the coach told him about a kid who wanted to play for UW and also wanted to major in marine biology, a major not found at most Midwest campuses! Another important step is to identify soccer programs that are looking for players like you. Go to the athletic website and check out the roster. If the team just recruited three freshman goalkeepers, chances are that they won't be recruiting keepers for the next year. If they have a freshman national player at forward, you may get recruited, but chances are you'll be riding the bench playing behind someone of that caliber. So do your research.
Next, know your assets. You don't have to play on a nationally recognized club team or be an US Youth Soccer Olympic Development (US Youth SoccerODP) star to be recruited. But you do need to bring something to the table. Be sure to keep track of your accomplishments both on and off the field. Don't be shy about tooting your own horn. If you don't do it, nobody will! If possible join US Youth Soccer ODP in your state since coaches recognize the program as developing the best players in the state. Play as a guest if possible for stronger teams in your state or sign up to guest play at the major tournaments if your team isn't going. You need to work to make yourself visible. Most coaches will want to see you play live, so you have to go to the major tournaments for that to happen. DVDs are okay, but most coaches only use those to determine if you can play. They'll want to see you in ""unedited"" situations.
Start communicating with the coaches of those teams/schools you feel are good options. Remember that coaches can hit the "delete" button if they don't want to be bothered, so send them emails and don't worry if you are being a pest. Both Robbie and Bryce found coaches to be very accommodating. They heard back from nearly every coach they wrote to. After one or two exchanges, the coaches would either pursue the communication or drop it. If coaches don't answer, don't give up. They are out recruiting, or coaching fall or spring soccer, so they may not get back to you for up to a month! If you do give up, believe me, they will too. Coaches don't have time to pursue players they believe are no longer interested. So send an email a week. Once a coach responds, answer back immediately. Show them by your actions that you really are interested.
Your first email should introduce yourself. Start the email by letting the coach know why you selected his or her team/school. In other words, personalize your email. Don't use services that will send out hundreds of interest emails on your behalf. These are impersonal form letters that coaches will be receiving from dozens of players. Start your email with why you chose their team: Dear Coach, I visited What's Amatta U last summer and loved the campus. WMU is well-known for being a leader in moose tracking which is what I hope to major in, etc.
Then go on to let the coach know why you think you would be an asset to the team. I can't say this enough – DON'T BE SHY! You have to be your best advocate. Finally let the coach know where you will be playing and invite him or her to come watch you.
NCAA rules limited the contact a coach can have with you. However, if you initiate the contact it's okay. Starting in your sophomore year you can call or email a coach, but coaches can initiate either until very specific dates in your junior and senior year. For a brief explanation of the rules use the NCAA: http://www.ncaa.org/wps/ncaa?ContentID=9
. Coaches know the rules well, so if they act cold to you, it may be that they are concerned about breaking a rule.
Finally get yourself registered with the NCAA. You will need to register and then have SAT, ACT, AP, etc. scores sent to the NCAA just as you would to a university. The NCAA Clearinghouse handles all eligibility issues. So if you are registered there, you can't be declared eligible to play. Most coaches will ask you if you are registered. It shows how serious you are about the process if you can answer YES. You can begin in your sophomore year to make contact, and definitely do so by the summer before your junior year. Most decisions about making an offer will occur in the summer and fall of your senior year, so don't delay. On the other hand, it's never too late. As the pre-season wears down coaches see their boards depleted. The players they wanted for first, second, even fifth choice have selected other schools, so coaches are still looking for that diamond in the rough. Bryce got his offer in May of his senior year after thinking he would never play college soccer. He had turned down three offers because the schools weren't right, but he began to despair. Don't ever despair. Opportunities exist out there. You just need to locate them. Good luck!!