At first glance, the college recruiting process can be incredibly stressful and overwhelming – especially to students with little formal guidance as to where they should begin. Yet, despite the increasingly high demand for online resources and guides to help educate individuals and their families interested in college soccer, the majority of recruiting services available remain unproved and largely ineffective.
Whether you are just starting to explore the landscape of college soccer, or are several months into the process, make sure you avoid these three “myths” that we often see students fall victim to:
1. Do Players just “get recruited” (e.g. will coaches come and find ME)?
The majority of students and parents fully believe that talented high school athletes are actively recruited by college coaches, and even offered “full-ride” sports scholarships quite frequently. Unless you are a national-team caliber player, this is unlikely to happen.
Soccer is the most popular youth sport in the United States. There are tens of thousands of players, many of whom are also hoping to get recruited. Only 2% of high school athletes are “actively recruited” by college coaches. Full-ride scholarships are even less common.
The recruits who are most successful are also the most proactive and persistent in reaching out to coaches to introduce themselves and notify them of where and when they are competing. Simply sending a coach your schedule or playing in a showcase tournament will not get you recruited in and of itself.
2. If a coach likes me enough, can they get me in regardless of my grades?
Let’s consider a hypothetical scenario: the head coach at Division III program is finalizing his recruiting class, and there are two left-backs on his list that he has to choose from.
Neil plays for a team in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy and has been a starter the past two years. He’s been evaluated as a solid athlete with decent technical skills, good field vision and great recovery speed. His GPA and test scores aren’t the highest, but are still within the “range” that the school typically accepts from.
Jeff plays for a competitive club team as well as his high school team. He is not considered to be as good a natural athlete as Neil, but he is known to possess intangible qualities that make him a great leader. In the classroom, he has performed very well; his GPA is in the Top 5% of his class, and his test scores are very competitive.
Nine times out of ten, the coach will take Jeff over Neil.
Despite what you might read, college coaches do not get much leeway or “pull” with Admissions officers; in fact, they’d much rather not have to even go there. Moral of the story: the stronger a student you are, the more appealing you are as a recruit.
3. I’m already halfway through my senior year; it’s too late for me to consider playing in college?
While starting to familiarize yourself with the recruiting process as early as possible is highly recommended, you shouldn’t be discouraged if you were late to the game and find yourself with limited options in your senior year.
Most recruited athletes who “commit” are encouraged to apply in the Early Decision round of admissions. Although it’s not the norm, some of these students will get rejected or deferred (typically, due to a major drop-off in academics). When this happens, coaches begin to re-evaluate the talent pool for students who can fill in these newfound gaps.
Additionally, there’s always the option of “walking-on” to a team once you are accepted into the school. While by no means easy, I’ve personally seen many walk-ons become key contributors on college teams. Most coaches also attend showcase camps at the summer; it is not uncommon for incoming freshman to attend these to get seen. It doesn’t help to have great references from club and high school coaches, either, who can help to make a case for you before the tryout happens.