PREPARING FOR COLLEGE SOCCER
If you want to play college soccer there is a college who wants you. The problem is, you may not want to attend that college.
Your first step is to select the type of college that meets your career, social and academic needs. The best advice anyone can give you is to pick a college you would want to be at if you were injured and could no longer play soccer. Far too many students choose unwisely and transfer after their freshman year. Transfers will cost you time and money. You may lose college credits, financial and eligibility to play.
The place to begin is in the selection of a college you want to attend.
College Selection: Research, Research, Visit Colleges and Research some more Be Prepared and ABOVE ALL GET GOOD GRADES.
Start by asking yourself questions. You will be moving some place to live for four to six years. What questions would you have about a new community? Here are some to consider:
Do you want to live on big campus or a small one?
A big campus at a major university offers many amenities from a large assortment of place to eat, movies, stage plays, intramural sports, Greek Social Life, and major college sports. There will be a wide selection of studies, an important consideration of you have not determined a major. There are also drawbacks. You will be in large classes, often taught by graduate students who may not be good teachers. Large universities will have large campus making getting to class and parking a chore.
Smaller colleges will offer less choice in a major, but will have smaller class sizes and often classes are taught by professors you can meet and talk with.
Do you want to be in a major urban area or a small college town?
What is the quality of the education the college offers and how readily are their graduates hired?
What is the quality of the college facilities – the dorms, library and classes rooms? Do they have computer support if your lap top crashes?
What is the social life? What friends will you have there?
Distance from home is a major concern few consider. Over 90% of students will attend a college that is a six-hour drive or less from their home; over 75% will go to a school that is less than a four-hour drive. How comfortable will you be driving by yourself to and from campus – in the snow?
Often students do not know the answers to these questions. A good way to start is spend time visiting different college. Walk their campus; sit in on classes; tour the towns they are in. Read guides such as US News and World Report’s annual college edition. Do your research.
Then turn your attention to the soccer program.
Be realistic. What type of player does the college recruit? Checking a source like the College Soccer Source Book is a good start, though you can find the same information on most college soccer web pages by looking through the player bios. How many of the players were on State, Regional or National ODP teams? How many came form certain clubs? How many are from outside the US? How many are transfers? What club and high school honors did the players have? How do you match up? Be realistic.
What style of play does the college follow?
What is the coach’s record? If he likely to stay, or does the coach have a history of jumping from program to program? If the coach’s record has been poor the last three seasons, what are the chances his contract will not be renewed?
What is the coach’s personality? Not just when recruiting, but to his players? Is he honest? He will be your “boss” for a number of years, is the coach the type of boss you can feel good working for?
What are the players like? What is the culture of the team? Do they study together? Do they socialize? Are their cliques? Are they players you feel comfortable around?
How does the school support the program? What are the weight room, locker room and training facilities like? What are the plans in the future?
How much will you have to travel, what are the time requirements and can you be away from class for soccer?
What are the academic demands and will the soccer program help with tutors and special assistance if it is needed? Are their mandatory study halls for athletes? What pressure is on the players in “non revenue” sports to make the grade and graduate?
What will the program do for you if you are injured?
How much playing time are you likely to get? Would you rather play at a medium level school or be on the practice squad and rarely play at a school that has a reasonable chance of going far in post-season play?
Describe the typical day for a student-athlete. This will give you a good indication of how much time is spent in class, practice, studying and traveling. It also will give you a good indication of what coaches expect.
What are the residence halls like? Make sure you would feel comfortable in study areas, community bathrooms and laundry facilities. Number of students in a room and coed dorms are other variables to consider. Will I be required to live on campus throughout my athletics participation? If the answer is yes, ask whether there are exceptions. Apartment living may be better than dorm living.
How Many Transfers OUT/IN have you had in the last couple of years? Some coaches lose 2-4 players every year. That shows a PROBLEM with the coach or the program. How Many Players Have Quit the Program? Walk-on? Recruited?
How much financial aid is available? Will it cover summer school? There is no guarantee. Get a firm commitment. You may need to lighten your normal load and go to summer school in order to graduate in four years. You can take graduate courses and maintain your eligibility.
What are the details of financial aid at your institution? What does a scholarship cover? What can I receive in addition to the scholarship and how do I get more aid? How long does my scholarship last? Most people think a “full ride” is good for four years. Financial aid is available on a one-year renewable basis. Ask what happens to your financial aid if you are injured? A grant-in-aid is not guaranteed past a one-year period even for injuries. It is important to know if a school has a commitment to assist student-athletes for more than a year after they have been injured.
What are my opportunities for employment while you are a student? Find out if you can be employed in-season, out-of-season or during vacation periods.
While you have questions for the coach you should be prepared for questions, also. How would you answer the following:
Do your ACT/SAT scores reflect your current academic progress?
What do they say about your potential?
If your ACT/SAT’s are low, does your school record better reflect your ability and potential?
How’s your commitment?
How do you play as an individual?
Are you a team player?
Even if your team is not having a winning season, how does your contribution make a difference?
What are your outside interests?
Are you “well-rounded?”
What extracurricular activities have you participated in? Held any offices? Won any awards?
Do you work after school? Where? How many hours? If your marks are still good, this may indicate you know how to manage your time well.
What is the one thing about your high school career or athletic career that you are most proud of?
What has frustrated you most?
Do your research and narrow down the list of colleges you are interested in to perhaps ten, but no more than fifteen schools. Be prepared for the process. Once you have done your research you are ready to for the recruiting dance.
When it comes to what students should be doing the best source I know, and one I recommend to our players is the Sport Source. You can purchase a copy online at The Sport Source. There is also a copy you may borrow at the Kansas State Youth Soccer office in Olathe. This book contains information on all college programs including the name of the coach, numbers of scholarships, records, profiles of players and more. What truly makes it valuable, however, is the first chapter which includes a timeline starting with the freshman year on what a player interested in college should be doing.
Recruiting: What you should be doing each year of High School to be recruited.
Here is a synopsis of that time line you should be following:
- Freshman year – Do your research. Visit a wide variety of colleges, walk each campus, meet with the Admissions Office. Narrow the colleges you are interested to ten to fifteen schools. Plan the courses you will take and ensure that you meet the NCAA minimums.
- Sophomore year – Start attending college showcase events. Let your club coach know of the colleges that interest you. Prepare your resume. Write the colleges you are interested in so the coach knows of your interest, the events you will attend and enclose your resume. Take the PSAT and take test preparation courses. Plan to take the ACT or SAT in the spring. Identify one or two college camps you want to attend and apply.
- Junior year – Narrow your college interests. Continue to write and update the college coaches whose programs interest you. Let them know of continuing interest. Take the ACT or SAT in the fall and spring. Register with the NCAA Eligibility Center (formerly known as the NCAA Clearinghouse). (You can do so through your high school counselor.) See, https://web1.ncaa.org/eligibilitycenter/common/ Every time you take a test have your scores sent to the NCAA Eligibility Center. Obtain Admission forms and requirements; practice writing Admission essays. During summer attend the camps of the schools you remain most interested in.
- Senior year – Determine what early admission requirements exist and complete Admissions forms. Keep your grades up. Many seniors believe they have things locked in and decide to take life easy. Their grades fall off and their offer to play soccer disappears. GRADES MATTER THE MOST!
Recruiting: How Players are found.
Five years ago, colleges began looking seriously at players during the player’s junior year. Today it is not uncommon for the top freshmen girls to have verbally committed to a college and in return receive a non-binding offer of financial aid.
Different colleges have different schedules for recruiting players. Many of the top 100 Division 1 Colleges and more frequently the top level Division 2 Colleges are scouting players during their freshmen and sophomore years of high school. The players are scouted at College Showcase events, ODP Regional Camp and at major tournaments.
Many local Division 2 and NAIA colleges will watch players early, but do not start contacting players until the spring of their junior year.
It is rare for an offer to be extended after the player has been seen. For one reason NCAA Division 1 coaches cannot talk to a player or their parents off of campus until after the end of the player’s junior year. The coach cannot email you until your senior year, and then the number of emails is limited.
Finally, put yourself in the shoes of the college coach. The coach will have seen a player for maybe thirty minutes in one game. That is not enough to know the player. If interested the coach will want to see more of the player. They may contact the club coach to discuss the player. More and more often, the player will receive an invitation to a college camp or will be encouraged to attend a camp on campus. Many of these camps are for potential recruits. While on campus, the coach can talk with the player, learn more about them and see them for an extended time.
These camps may be during the summer, but they are also held in the winter and early spring, over holidays such as Martin Luther King Day, Presidents Day or during the College’s Spring Break. Players will live on campus and have extensive interaction with the coaching staff and current players.
Players who have not written a college coach, and expressed continued interest in the school rarely learn of these events.
Writing the coach alerts them to come watch you. If the coach is at the Muscatine College Showcase, as an example, there will be over 170 club teams present, and close to 550 players. The coach will have time to see maybe 12 teams, and that assumes the coach is watching two teams for a half before moving to another game. How will the coach you want to be seen by know to be at your game unless you written him many times, including your schedule, and the reasons why he should watch you?
Some colleges’ budgets do not allow the coach to attend the Showcases you will be attend. In these cases, video of your play can be helpful, but going to the college’s camp is even more essential.
ODP is still a path to being noticed. If you have made the State Team, you have demonstrated dedication and have been screened by respected coaches and found acceptable.
Above all, keep your grades up. The higher your GPA the more attractive you are as a player.
Recruiting: Grant and Financial Aid Packages.
This is a business. The coach recruiting you is charged with one task – develop an attractive program for the type of student the college wants. The purpose of college athletics is to recruit students who will enrich the school this year and in the years that come. A program that fails to win is not attractive. Each college coach wants players with great grades, a family that will significantly aid the school endowment, and will help the team win. If someone who fits that profile better than you do comes along, the coach will lose interest in you very quickly. You are applying for a job and with any job, the best applicants will be paid the most and lose who do not perform and stay desirable are fired.
The coach wants to maximize his limited soccer scholarship fund. Even if fully funded no men’s team and few women’s teams have sufficient resources to give all starters a full scholarship. To the extent, a player the coach wants can afford college with family money or earn an academic scholarship, coach has freed up money from his soccer scholarship budget for other players whose grades are not as good, but who are great players.
No matter how great a player you are, you are worthless to the coach if you cannot maintain academic eligibility. Generally, a player’s grades will fall at least half grade point from high school to college and another half a point in season. Coaches know this. Players with a GPA below a 3.0 are a serious risk for a college coach.
YOU NEED TO KEEP YOUR GRADES UP.
Financial aid is money given to any college student who could not afford to go to college without some financial assistance. This aid is given to a student based upon need as determined by a form completed by a student and his or her parents. One is the Financial Aid Form and the other is the Family Financial Statement. Both forms are based on the results of federal income tax form 1040.
The Financial Aid Package is made up of three parts: loans, work-study, and grants. Loans are moneys that must be paid back after graduation. Work Study is money earned by working a few hours each week on campus. Usually the maximum is 10 hours of work per week. Grants are awarded moneys, something like a gift. They do not have to be paid back and you do not have to work to earn them. A scholarship is a form of a Grant. Financial aid packages can vary significantly from college to college. If you are an athlete, the way your financial aid is distributed between loans, grants, and work-study can depend on how much the coach wants you and how much grant money is available at the time.
A NCAA Division I school can offer 14 scholarships through its women’s program and 9.9 for men. NCAA Division II schools can offer women 9.9 and men 9 scholarships. Many schools do not fully fund to these levels; in other words, a school might be able to offer 14 scholarships, but only funds 5. Many schools have a budget of X Dollars in total, which may not exceed the scholarship limit, but will not equal an exact number of scholarships.
The NAIA has no rules that limit scholarships. However, limits may be found in the rules of certain NAIA Conferences.
Local Kansas Junior Colleges have 16 full scholarships to offer that cover tuition and books, with the result that many players only have to pay an Activity Fee.
Coaches will have very different packages of financial aid based on the school. Private schools will have substantially higher tuition costs, but will have much more generous packages to offer. Students with above a 3.5 and an ACT score of 29 or above will have substantial Academic Grants form most colleges. Students that attended Catholic high schools will often be eligible for tuition reductions or Grants from Catholic Colleges like Benedictine, Rockhurst or Marquette.
Public schools will have lower tuition but also offer lower Grant levels. Many Colleges in bordering Sates will have programs to attract neighboring States students by offering in-state tuition. As a result, many public college coaches will focus students that are in State or are in counties that border their State and whose residents are eligible for in State Tuition. Examples of such schools are Central Missouri State, Truman State and UMKC. The cost for out of State tuition is so high for some schools, principally in California and Florida, coaches in those States rarely look outside of their States.
Some States offer in-state tuition to all athletes, but many States are backing away form such programs. North Carolina is an example of a State that has such a benefit, but its legislature withdrew it starting this year.
Each college will have a different bundle of resources to offer. Needs for particular positions (goalies for example) will vary. Your research should include an investigation into the resources a college has.
Keep in mind most colleges will offer little soccer money to freshman who are not critical position players. The coach wants players to prove themselves before they are rewarded with money. There are top players who received $500 in soccer money their freshman year. The soccer money is reserved for proven starters, especially those players who may have lost academic aid they had their freshman year, because their grades fell due to the time requirements of playing.
To put things in perspective, there are approximately 1160 colleges at all levels for women and 950 colleges for men with soccer programs. Each team has approximately 22 players (some as many as 30, some as few as 15) and assuming that a quarter of each team turns over each year and the influx of junior college players balances the college players who leave due for academic reasons or injury, there are approximately 4,400 openings a year for women and 3,800 for men. This is simply openings on teams, not scholarships, which are much rarer.
Given the scholarship limits, most players DO NOT receive soccer money. Many receive financial aid, however, often Academic Aid.
Finally, be skeptical of anything you are told by other parents about offers their child has received. To put it kindly too many stretch the truth. I have heard parents claim that their child had offers that were outright violations of NCAA rules. I have heard other parents claim full rides when I know the college coach and his resources and what is committed and know that no freshman would get more than $500.