By Bobby Puppione, Girls Academy Director and College Recruiting Director // TSJ FC Virginia
The college recruiting process for student athletes is just that – a process. It does not happen overnight, and it is not an easy path. There are bumps, roadblocks, forks in the road, and other obstacles you will encounter. But just like after making a mistake in the game, how you react is important. And in the end, you can earn an opportunity to play the beautiful game at the next level. Stay committed to the process, be proactive, and be relentless. It is your journey – own it!
Love the game
First and foremost, you have to love the game. College soccer is a major commitment and not just a hobby or pastime. If you do not love the game, it will be difficult for you to survive when you get to a college program. So, before we can talk about college recruiting, make sure you have a passion for the game.
“College Soccer is a full-time commitment. If you do not love the game, it is going to be a long road for the player if they want to play in college.” – Division 1 Assistant Coach
Performance on the field
Ok, now that we have determined your love for the game, the next thing to consider is your performance on the field. I have not encountered a college coach who will offer you a position on their team without seeing you play, either in person or on video. There are many ways to be seen by college coaches, including practice, games, tournaments/showcases, video, camps, and clinics.
When playing, showcase what you do well, but still remember to play the game. If you are a good passer of the ball, showcase your range with both feet. If you are a “lockdown” defender, dominate your 1v1 moments. If you are a threat in the box, be lethal with your finishing.
However, do not be unnatural in your decisions in the game “just to showcase.” Play what the game gives you, and then look to make the right decision for that moment in time. And if something does not go well in the match, do not worry about it. Move on to the next play. Very few coaches write a player off because of a couple of mistakes.
“When out recruiting, not only do we pay attention to their successful actions on the field, we also watch closely how players react to mistakes and adversity. This gives us a picture of how they handle themselves when things are not going well.” – Division 1 Head Coach
What are you doing outside of training and games?
All student-athletes practice and play games. But what are you willing to do outside of practice to improve your game? Remember, you are competing against thousands of players who want to play in college. You must be willing to do more than them.
Player development resources, such as Techne Futbol, are a great way to improve your game outside of formal training and matches.
“We love when players share video with us showing them trying new skills, doing work at home, and finding ways to improve their game. It shows us they love the game and have a growth mindset.” – Division III Head Coach
In addition, college coaches want to see what you do outside of soccer. Are you a multi-sport athlete? Let them know. Do you work a job? Share what you do. Are you active in your community with service projects? Tell them how you are impacting where you live.
Communication and organization
Many student-athletes struggle with the college recruiting process because they are disorganized and do not communicate effectively. Not being professional with your communication, not sharing the right information, and not having a plan are all reasons why student-athletes struggle in their process. Remember, quality communication and strong organizational skills are key to your success.
“Do not be generic with your communication to us. Be different, be creative, and find a way for your communication to stand out among the rest.” – NAIA Head Coach
Get those grades up
Remember, you are a student-athlete. The word student comes first. If you do not make the grades, you will not play in college. FACT. Coaches will not take a chance on a player if their grades are questionable and they risk becoming ineligible. Focus on your grades! Your academics can give you a “leg up” on other student-athletes. Hit the books!
“When it comes down to it, if all things are equal on the field, we are going to go with the player who does better in the classroom.” – Division I Assistant Coach
These are just some of the ways student athletes can own their college recruiting process. Feel free to ask questions and share feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. Have blog topic suggestions? Please let us know.