With the recruiting process emerging sooner and at a younger age for student athletes, the difficulties and challenges of picking the right school are becoming more and more difficult for up-and-coming players. This inevitable process can be hard to figure out. How can a younger student athlete be expected to predict their needs at a university when they’re still embarrassed of being dropped off at high school by mom?
For a soccer player who thinks about upcoming matches during math class and leaves school early regularly for tournaments, it can be hard to realize that college requires you to be both a student and an athlete. Both aspects are extremely important when going through the recruiting process. Even if the soccer program is everything you dreamed of as a child, if the academic aspects of the university aren’t the right fit for you, you’ll regret it.
Soccer won’t be there for you when you’re crying over final exams. So making sure the school offers a great program for your area of interest or an array of opportunities for fields you may be interested in is a must. Looking into the different schools within the university such as business, arts and science, engineering or law is definitely worth the time. Believe it or not, everyone (and I mean everyone) stops playing elite level soccer one day. Education is the bedrock you’ll rely on when that day comes.
Another important factor that young students athletes might ignore is the social aspect of a university. It might be tough to accurately gauge an entire university on an unofficial visit, but asking yourself if you could see yourself fitting in off the field is another question worth pondering.
A lot of people think that just because they’re athletes someone will bend the rules or give them a break. The NCAA is very concerned about student-athletes, academics and graduation rates. Today there is more pressure on coaches to makes sure their student athletes graduate from colleges. Why would a coach recruit a player that has bad grades when it could affect the coaches’ number of scholarships or job stability? Coaches are looking for students who have a sincere concern about their academics and they want people who are doing well on their testing (ACT and SAT). Soccer will get you to the door but you won’t get in if you don’t have academics.
The NCAA doesn’t give you any leniency for ignorance. You really need to do your homework and the best place to start is to learn the NCAA rules. If you are uncertain of something you can always contact the NCAA for more information.
Always remember to ask yourself these questions: Would I come to this university if I didn’t make the soccer team? If the answer is no, don’t go to that university. If you would go to the university even if you didn’t make the team, this could be the right university for you. Enjoy this time, investigate and prepare yourself to make the right decision. It will be one of the biggest decisions of your life.
Here are a few tips to help you through the process:
Don’t get your heart set on one school before you do any research:
- Make sure you take into account all the factors (Academic, social, athletics, etc.)
- It’s a huge mistake to choose a school because of someone else’s recommendation.
- What do you want (academics, social environment and athletic environment)?
- Does the coach want you?
- Will you make the team?
- The roster (If you’re a goalie— do they already have that position filled?)
Don’t be obnoxious or over-attentive:
- Coaching is a full-time job. There is a difference between contacting, showing interest, and the other side, which is being a little obnoxious and overbearing.
- If you contact a coach more than once a week you’re starting to be overbearing.
- Easiest way to contact a coach is through e-mail (you don’t want coaches to start avoiding your calls).
- An introduction letter is very important and not a reproduced one. Make this letter something personal and do not send a fill-in-the-blank mass email. Seeing a face makes you easier to identify and is more personal. You have to remember the coaches will identify the players they want.
Let them know why you want to be there:
- Let them know why you want to attend the school (e.g. coaching style, academics… this is why I think I would be a good fit for the team…).
- Talk about why you personally would be a great addition and what you would bring to the team.