1) Extend your list
Even though you recently narrowed down your college list to only the schools you will be applying to, go back and research other options.
In both the early stages of high school recruiting when you first create your original school list, and now, “crunch time” of your senior year, I preach creating as many options as possible.
Research your favorite school’s competitors across their soccer conference. They tend to have similarities in culture & academics. Send a creative email to this new list of college coaches and you may get a couple of new bites.
Talk to your high school coach, club coach and other coaches in your club.
Often you will see trends, where multiple players from high schools or clubs gravitate toward college programs. This is likely due to coaches having a relationship. The soccer coaching network across the region is a small world where everybody knows each other, and this could lead you to new opportunities.
Ask to speak to other coaches across your club. Their connections may open a new door or accelerate an existing conversation.
3) Have an honest evaluation with a trusted coach
Talk to a coach that has a feel for the college soccer landscape and can suggest the level of play that is a good fit for you. There is too much hard work involved behind the scenes as a college athlete to sit the bench for 4 years. Many players that will never see the field end up transferring or quit the sport they love. Understand the appropriate level of play for you, and where you have a realistic chance for playing time.
4) Prepare your body
This can mean different actions depending on the player’s fall high school soccer experience. Some may be sharp after a highly competitive season where they excelled for their team at a high-level conference. This player would benefit from hitting the gym and rest before the first showcase.
Another player may not have been challenged during the high school season and need long-distance running, explosive sprint training and technical ball work in a high paced environment to get up to speed.
5) Don’t miss club practice
We are all busy. Plan ahead to avoid conflicts. Remember, this is “crunch time.” Right now is the peak of your college soccer recruiting timeline. Be sure to get to every club practice to ensure your spot in the starting 11. Attend additional club team practices. Get to practice early, stay late. Prepare to showcase your best abilities and have your coach notice you are going the extra mile. I will often pick my starting 11 for the early November showcases based solely on practice attendance.
6) Over-communicate with college coaches
At the Division 1 level, make sure to include assistant coaches as they often do most of the legwork in recruiting. Some programs designate an assistant coach to be the lead recruiter.
In early November, communicate the showcases you will be attending, and remind them again 3-5 days before the event with your game schedule and jersey number.
Email content ideas:
- Keep your emails short and sweet, but personalized. Your email should not look like a blast to 50 coaches.
- Include your academic profile, soccer experience/awards, hs and club coach’s contact info, jersey number & links to video.
- I like sending at least 2 videos 1) game footage where you are heavily involved in the play, and 2) a highlight video
- Ask if there are any remaining roster spots available for your position
- Mention a topic that shows you have done for your homework:
You attended a game and loved the environment in their stadium
You saw them play and believe you will enhance their attacking wing play
A player on their roster played for your club 2 years ago
You noticed their school has recently been recognized for its physical therapy department – your intended major.
The process of college admissions and athletic recruiting can feel like a roller-coaster. Things can often change. Maybe you were the 15th rated center midfielder on Scranton’s list this Summer, but they have had 8 of the players ahead of you commit elsewhere. You are now a prime target. The opposite can happen too. You were one of their top prospects after attending a camp, but they came to watch you play and you didn’t have your best performance. They may now communicate with you less as they are focusing on other players.
- Once your showcase schedule is released, have a look at your opponents. If you are playing a team from Washington DC, and you are highly interested in American University, there is a greater chance that their coach will attend your game versus the Arlington, Virginia team, since there are many local players on the Arlington roster they may be currently talking to.
- Attending the PA Classics Boys Winter Showcase? Email the Franklin & Marshall coach to see if you can schedule a tour before or after the event.
- Want to stand out? Pick up the phone and make a call. Coaches receive around 7 phone calls each week from players, compared to hundreds of emails. Make sure you have a plan and consider practicing a call with someone.
7) Academics & Applications
Keep those grades up and spend the appropriate time on applications.
8) Ghosting is not cool
If you are not interested in a program that is continuously reaching out to you, reply and be honest. You do not want to be known in the college coaches network as the prospect who does not reply. Honest communication will also maintain a good relationship with your club for future players. You want to appear like an impressive student-athlete that is responsive and has a plan.
9) Know your dates
Keep an eye on your calendar to track early decision and application deadlines, high school events, club practice schedule, showcases you are attending, college camps and visits.
10) Need help? Speak up
If you are not receiving the assistance you need, it is not too late. There are professional college recruiting services that exist and specialize in these services.
Before you do that, check out information on FCUSA’s College Development Program website.
At FCUSA, we work with Larry Blumenstyk, Director of the College Admissions Programs at Learning Associates. We have known Larry for 20 years. He raised two student-athletes that both played college soccer, one that played in our club. Larry has physically visited over 150 college campuses and has relationships with admissions professionals across the country. He can help you laser-focus your search and find the perfect fit.
This is a stressful process. You will not get a reply back from every coach, so try not to get frustrated.
Often, you may not hear anything from a coach because they cannot reply to the thousands of emails they receive. Coaches may have a plan to see you at an upcoming showcase, but they will not always communicate back to you.
Maybe the most essential thing…you must perform on the pitch. Leading up to your showcases, be the fittest you have ever been in your entire life.
Remember, a coach may stop by your game for 15 minutes. You must impress with your play, attitude, communication & leadership.
You never know who is watching:
– It may appear that zero college coaches are watching your Sunday morning 8 am game on a frozen field.
– Don’t forget, many opposing club teams are coached by head & assistant college coaches.
– A college coach may come to watch one of your teammates, but you can catch their eye with a great performance.
Lastly, consider options where college soccer isn’t the plan. If you are an impressive student, perhaps club soccer is the better fit while you focus primarily on academics. In the past few years, we have coached student-athletes good enough to compete at a high-level Division 3 soccer program but decided to attend Penn State or Wisconsin as they likely would never see game time at such high-level soccer programs. Their plan was to focus on achieving their degree and join the college club soccer team in a more relaxed, fun environment.
Stick with it, market yourself, and don’t forget to play with confidence and a smile.
This article is written by FCUSA NJ coach Kevin Nash, current coach of the FCUSA NJ 03B Elite team. Kevin has been coaching high school-aged boys for 14 years and has assisted in sending over 80 players to college soccer programs. He experienced the college recruiting process as a player, winning a HS state championship at Bridgewater-Raritan HS, and going on to become a 1st team All-MAAC Conference forward at Loyola University in Maryland. If you have any questions, you can email Kevin at: firstname.lastname@example.org.