With high school soccer over, the emphasis returns to club soccer. Soccer, like so many other sports, participation is year round. For the player that has aspirations of playing in college, a showcase event like the one held in Raleigh is huge.
The boys (men's) showcase event was held on the 15-16 of November and the girls (women's) showcase was held December 5-7. On the men's side the number of college coaches attending were about 175 and on the women's side, a whopping 600 coaches were estimated to be in attendance! There were teams in attendance from the 48 contiguous states and many if not most of the top premiere teams were there. The women's showcase event coincided with the 2003 women's collegiate championships.
Obviously, with so many high caliber clubs and the women's championships going on, there is going to be great participation by clubs and coaches alike. I spoke with several dozen coaches from the Division I, II, and III levels and asked them; "what are the top things you are looking for in a player at a showcase event such as this".
First and foremost on every coaches list is speed and athleticism. Every coach from the big programs to the little programs, covet this. "You either have it or you don't", quipped one coach. "I can teach a kid technique and tactics but I can't teach pure speed and athleticism", stated another. "It also helps if they're big along with that speed", said another. If you had a chance to watch the NCAA tournament final 4, nowhere was that more evident than the North Carolina women's team, who won the championship by the way. Pure speed and athleticism at every position, and when the reserves came in, no speed or athletic deficit. In plain terms, it is the difference between Carolina and everyone else. It is also one of the main differences between Div I, II and III programs as well.
Secondly, technical ability, that is skill with the ball. Can you control or possess the ball in tight spaces, with pressure, make the long and short pass, shoot on goal? Can the player do these things consistently? One coached remarked when asked about technical ability, " can the player play his position with skill and competence?" Another D-III coached remarked, "If a player has mastery or at least a high skill level, they stand out to me and would be a player we would be interested in." Of course this attribute is one that is required on all of the collegiate levels, but at some of the mid major schools and the lower division schools, if a player possesses only some above average speed and athleticism, this attribute makes him or her more attractive to a potential coach.
Thirdly would be a player's mental approach to the game and tactical play. "Do they COMPETE", stated one coach. "We look for players who play hard the whole time they're in the game." Being tentative on the pitch is an undesirable trait. "How well do they read the game? "Are they respectful to other players and the officials?" "A bad attitude on the field is a bad attitude off the field" is how one coach interprets that type of disposition. "It's not the type of player we pursue." he added. There are many other considerations, but among most of the coaches, these were the top characteristics that would make a coach take notice whether they watched you for ten minutes or ten matches.
Here are a few other "pearls of wisdom" or " golden nuggets" that many of the coaches shared with me. These tips can help you increase your opportunities in being recruited and finding a good fit.
Coaches appreciate sincerity. Chances are if you send an e-mail to a coach about yourself and it has a multitude of other e-mail addresses on it, it may get deleted before it ever gets opened. Find out a little about the program or the school and include it in your correspondence with that coach. Players and parents have to be realistic about their abilities.
This was one that was stated by several coaches. All too often kids and parents overestimate their ability in comparison to the type of program they are trying to attend. Solicit the advice of a competent coach or coaches to give a realistic appraisal of your abilities.
Be open to location. Some of the top programs lamented about how difficult it is to recruit outside of their region. If you keep yourself open to schools outside your region (Region II which Ohio is a part of) for example, you not only increase your options to be recruited, but the amount of the scholarship may be greater.
Lastly, be realistic about what a soccer scholarship may yield. At the DI level, 9.9 on the men's side and 12 on the women's side, are all the scholarships that are allowed by the NCAA. At some schools, even though they are allowed their respective amount of scholarships, can't fund them all. Those scholarships are divided by the team, which may have as many as 30 or more players on them.
Unlike football and basketball, a full ride soccer scholarship is rare. Keep that in mind when a school makes a scholarship offer to you. Usually only the "blue chippers" i.e. national and regional caliber players, command such an offer. There are so many other factors to consider but for now we'll concentrate on these.
OPS will have other useful information in helping you plan your soccer future. If you would like more detailed information on recruiting, please contact me via the email link, or the message board.