Have you always dreamed of playing soccer in college, but then think "How do I even get recruited" or "Is it too late for me to get started"?
If you don't really know where to start in the college recruiting process, that's ok, you're not alone. These are common questions that many soccer players like you are faced with, but don’t know where to start.
So I have created a short guide for you. I want to help you during this process, so you don’t make some of the same mistakes I did.
To start, here is a basic fact sheet to learn more about college recruiting.
1. When you should start planning for college
It’s never too early to start planning for college. The more prepared you are, the better chances you have of succeeding. But as a rule of thumb, you should start thinking about college around your Freshman to Sophomore year of high school. This isn’t to say that Juniors and Seniors will have a more difficult time being recruited and accepted into their dream program, but you will be a few steps behind in the process.
2. What you need to plan for
You may be wondering what it takes to play soccer in college.
Well, that largely depends on your goals. Different colleges have different requirements and are looking for different qualities in student athletes. Therefore, the first thing you need to do is figure out what your goals are.
- Do you want to play in-state, out of state, or does location matter?
- Do you have to play Division 1, or is any level fine?
- How important are academics and extracurricular programs?
- What do you want to get out of your experience?
- What does life look like after college?
- Do you have to get a scholarship? Learn more about scholarships here.
Just start brainstorming and create a list of everything you want out of your soccer career, college, and life after college. Keep this list handy, as you will use it help select colleges later on, but for now, use this list to come up with your top 3 goals.
These goals should help give you a better idea of the path that is right for you, so take this seriously, because it will help guide you over the next few years.
3. Where do you want to play
So now that you have your top 3 goals, and a broad list of additional goals and requirements, you can start developing a list of colleges you may be interested in. You can start by searching for schools and programs based on your list of goals. However, don’t let this limit you too much. It’s good to have a solid list of 10-20 schools to start, so you don’t want to eliminate schools from the list just because you “think” they aren’t what you want.
For example, you may have your eyes set on playing Division 1 and won’t accept anything less. That’s not the best approach though. I can promise you the level of talent and opportunity in some of the other Divisions are just as good. So don’t exclude every school that doesn’t meet all of your requirements, because at this point, you don’t know what schools will be the best fit for you yet.
You will then want to start researching the schools in more depth in order to narrow it down to 6-8 schools that not only seem like a good fit for you, but that also seem like you would be a good fit for them.
Good research and documentation is very important in this step so that you can get a better understanding of the schools you want to go to and the programs you want to play for. It will also help you make decisions further on in the process.
4. On-Field Development
Regardless of what colleges you’re interested in, you will want to develop your skills as much as possible, but as I mentioned before, different colleges want different things. So, if there is a specific college that you really want to go to that you know is in need of a possession minded center mid, you can focus extra effort on developing your possession skills that will make you stand out more as a center mid that can possess the ball and control the game.
If you are not constantly getting better, you are falling behind. So you should always continue training and developing. Even professional athletes work every day to become better, and hire coaches and trainers to help them develop to the next level. So if you aspire to play soccer in college and beyond, you should always be developing your skills and improving as a player, whether that’s practicing, working out, or just watching game film.
5. Off-Field Development
When it comes to being recruited to play college soccer, coaches aren’t only interested in your abilities on the field. They are also interested in your GPA, test scores, extracurricular activities, and overall character. And just like your on-field skills, developing off the field is very important regardless of where you want to go.
Based on the research you have done, you should know exactly what each school is looking for out of recruits and potential student-athletes, so you should have an idea of what areas to focus on.
For instance, maybe your dream school only expects you to have 3.0 GPA, but they want you to be very involved in extracurricular activities. In this case, don’t neglect your grades, but make an extra effort to get involved with different groups and communities to build your resume so that it stands out to your ideal college coaches.
It is very important that you focus on your academics, because your GPA and test scores could end up being the deciding factor on whether or not you get recruited to play Division 1 soccer or qualify to get a scholarship.
As I mentioned previously, the talent and skill level of D1 teams compared to D2 and D3 is not that different. Some of the major differences come from off the field performance.
For additional information, check out this NCAA Guide for Student Athletes.
6. Get in front of your target coaches
So now that you have your list of colleges narrowed down to 6-8, and you are developing your on-field and off-field resume, how do you actually get yourself noticed?
The first thought would be to reach out to your list of coaches. But before doing so, it may be beneficial to do a little networking first to see if anyone you know (coaches, family members, teammates), is somehow connected to the coach or another staff member within the program. People are much more receptive when they have a connection with someone. However, if you don’t have anyone that can connect you to your list of coaches, don’t worry. You can still easily find their contact information on their program's website and reach out to them.
Beginning on September 1st of your Junior year, you and college coaches can begin corresponding through phone calls, email, text, and other electronic communication. So at this point, you can begin reaching out to coaches by expressing your interest in their program, sending them your profile and highlight videos, and sending them a schedule of your upcoming games, training sessions, and camps.
For those who really want to get ahead of the game and stand out, recruits are allowed to call coaches at any point, even before their Junior year. So, you could start giving coaches a call early on just to get your name out there and to ask them questions that may help you through the process and stand out even more.
The main goal when approaching these coaches is to be professional and courteous, and show them how interested you are in their program and why they would be crazy not to recruit you.
7. Make yourself stand out
Ok, so now you have the coach’s attention and are in communication on a regular basis, but how do you really impress them so that they want you on their team?
Everything that you have been doing up to this point should help you stand out and impress your potential coaches. If you did your research on the schools and coaches, you should already know what they are looking for. Also, over the last couple of years you should have been developing your resume and highlight videos to promote the qualities that your ideal programs are looking for.
It is very important to create a player profile or resume and a highlight video with actual game film and training clips that highlight your skills in the areas that coaches are interested in. Most players these days are not making videos or building a player profile, or if they are, they make it very generic instead of creating it specific to their target coaches. You will be much more likely to standout if you personalize your resume and/or videos as this will show the coach not only that you have the requirements they are looking for, but you are also committed to their program.
When making a highlight video, you may want to start out with a short 3-5 minute video of your best clips. If the coach is interested after this, they may request full game videos to watch even more. It is very important to film as many games as possible to make sure you capture as many highlights as you can to create the best video possible.
Assuming you have done all of your preparation and have sent the coaches your profile and highlight videos, it’s now just a matter of being professional in your communication, and performing your best in games and during training. Even when you aren’t playing your best game, the least you can do is keep your head up and try your hardest. Always assume that someone is watching you. So always give your best effort, and I can assure you your hard work will pay off.
8. Next steps and choosing a college
Now that you are deeper into your recruiting process and have had the opportunity to research your top 6-8 schools, and have been in communication with the coaches, you should have a much better understanding of each program. So by now you should be able to narrow it down to your top 3-4 programs.
At this point, you should start making visits to your top 3-4 schools (assuming its after September 1 of your Junior year). One of the things that brings the most clarity during your recruiting process is actually going to the campus and walking around. Seeing where you’ll be spending the next 4 years, seeing what the athletic facilities are like, and actually meeting the coaches and staff can have a huge impact on your decision. So if possible, it is highly recommended that you visit the schools.
So once it finally comes down to making a decision, you just have to do what’s best for you. What school checks most, if not all of your requirements? There is no definitive answer for this, but when the time comes, you will most likely know what feels right.
9. Recruiting Tools
Check out our additional tools to help you during your recruiting process.