The College Recruiting Process: Finding the Right Tournament

Author: Alyse LaHue, Chicago Red Stars, Follow: @alahue

This article was originally printed in 2012 and re-printed with permission 

Every year there are hundreds of youth soccer tournaments taking place in every corner of the country. Maybe you’re even hosting your own tournament. Or perhaps your son or daughter will be participating in one.

While these events allow for friendly competition, there is another activity taking place around the edges: college student-athlete recruiting. It has seemed that over the years the age of recruitment continues to be younger and younger. While there are rules in place that attempt to ‘control’ the process between college coach and athlete, coaches will still begin to look at athletes when they are 15 or 16, sophomore-aged.

Be Seen.

Most college coaching staffs will attend numerous tournaments, showcases, training camps, and high school games each year to identify the right student athletes for their programs. Tournaments allow them the greatest opportunity to see the most athletes in one location over a short period of time.

Coaches register in advance of attending tournaments, so you will be able to get a fairly accurate picture of which schools will be in attendance at each location. This information will be posted on the tournament’s website and should be easily accessible. See this example here from San Diego’s Surf Cup and notice the wide range of coaches from all college divisions who attended this tournament in 2010.

Pick Your Tournaments.

It has become a way of life for club teams to attend tournaments as part of their curriculum. So if your child is already on a club team, chances are your tournament list is complete for the year.

Not every single tournament commands the reputation to attract college coaches, so if your club is attending events without a prevalence of club coaches, speak up and make suggestions to your club coach or club coaching director. Make them aware of your goals and intentions in whatever level of college soccer you are aiming to participate in.

If your club team is not entered in tournaments you wish to participate in, there are sometimes opportunities to register as a ‘Guest Player’ and be assigned to a team for that tourney. Look for this info on the tournament website or reach out to the tournament director for further information.  This proactive method of involvement can provide you with an opportunity to be seen by college coaches that may not have otherwise had the opportunity to watch you play.

Be Proactive.

If you’re a sophomore or junior, it will be good to have narrowed down your list of top 10 to 15 realistic school choices, which will help to focus your college search. Then you can specifically look to see if the coaches from those schools will be at the tournaments you are attending. One of the most important aspects of the recruiting process is to be proactive in your efforts.

Go ahead and reach out to those coaches (via email is okay) to let them know that you are going to be attending ABC Tournament with XYZ Soccer Club and you’re a center midfielder who wears #11 (you get the idea). Coaches often keep a list of players who have contacted them so they can keep them on file at the tournament and try to watch that athlete play. They want to be able to give you feedback and they are always curious to evaluate the players interested in their school. Players that have actually shown interest in their program are going to be a notch ahead of the hundreds of other athletes whose names they haven’t even heard of yet.

But if you are not at the point of having narrowed down your college choices yet, have no fear. You can still review the coaches’ attendee list and select colleges to contact via that list. It will put you ahead of many other athletes who haven’t begun their own college marketing process yet.

The Event.

It would be impossible for me to write exactly what coaches are looking for in an athlete, although I know if they had the choice they would have an exceptionally gifted athlete who also has amazing grades! After that, every coach is going to differ depending on their style of play and the current state of their team.  Some of these factors you will be able to dig up by doing simple research, while other factors may require a discussion with the coach.

You’re not going to be able to control all of the factors happening during a tournament, but one thing you can control at all times is how hard you work on the field. Make every moment count while you are out there and you’ll have taken some excellent first steps towards your college soccer career.

About the Author

Alyse LaHue is the General Manager of the NWSL's Chicago Red Stars. LaHue has studied the college recruiting process. She was previously the GM of pro men’s team LA Blues and amateur women’s team Pali Blues. She is also a founding member of Gonzo Soccer, a non-profit Girls Soccer & Leadership Academy based in the United States, Mexico and Columbia.