Playing college soccer is not the goal of all youth players, nor should it be. Players should play because they love the sport and have fun. But for teenage players who are committed, passionate, and skilled, it should be at least considered and studied. Yes, college soccer is a significant leap and a serious step beyond high school soccer, but it can be done smoothly, especially if the players, families, and coaches prepare accordingly.
There are hundreds of colleges that have soccer teams including three divisions in the NCAA (www.NCAA.org
), plus NAIA (www.NAIA.org
). Thanks to the incredible momentum of the gender equity push in college athletics, more programs are being added each year, especially for women's soccer.
First, players need to elevate their level of play to their potential:
1. Physical - Become as strong, quick, and fast as you can be. Use Nautilus machines, rather than free weights, and do lots of plyometrics (jumping and footwork) plus stretching.
2. Technical - Gain confidence with the ball, especially being able to play in tight spaces under control with composure and vision. Evaluate and work on weak- nesses ie. the left foot, heading, or crossing. Highlight your strengths.
3. Tactical - Be able to play short and long balls, be able to see the whole field, including behind you, and be able to change your pace and style as the game demands.
4. Intangibles - Composure, Work Ethic, Courage, Determination, Team Work, Role Playing, Versatility, Taking Criticism - to name a few.
Next, is the academic element. There are specific minimums, including standardized test scores, grade point average, and quantity of class credits in order to gain and retain playing eligibility. An unmotivated student will scare away coaches and limit, or eliminate, a player's options. Plus a bad student in high school will have little chance of surviving at the college level where time management and general intelligence are crucial.
Then, there is the recruiting process. The player, with help from the coach, needs to be very proactive in the pro-cess. Far too often, players expect college coaches to see and recruit them - but recruiting budgets and time for col-lege soccer are very lean. Scout prospective schools, coaches, and programs beginning as a Junior. Write letters, including a resume and a request for information, from all potential college coaches. Go visit campuses. Do not wait for the coaches to come to you, but rather take the initiative. Finding the right school - that includes size and location of school, academic environment, coaching style, and, obviously, soccer level - takes homework, courage, persistence and a healthy dose of reality.
Lastly, there are the scholarships - every parent's dream. The suggested approach is that a player and family should choose a college while assuming to pay full tuition for all four years. Then, if a partial, or even more rarely, a full scholarship is offered for one, two, three, or all four of the years, then that's an awesome bonus.
Here are a few places on the web to help you find the promised land - a position on a college team's roster, or better yet, a scholarship.
College Soccer Online
(check the Next Wave -Recruiting Insights page)
College soccer is the peak of amateur soccer in our country and should be the dream and pinnacle for most every committed, passionate player.