While soccer skill and talent are always on the college recruiter’s radar screen, there are other qualities that can help you increase your chances of getting a scholarship to play soccer at the next level.
More than ever, girls and boys from Alabama are finding themselves at the top of recruiting lists at major colleges around the country. While the cream of the state’s crop is rising to the top at an unprecedented rate, there are some things you can do to increase your chances of landing a scholarship to play soccer at the college of your choice.
First, it is important to be in a daily training environment where you’re getting pushed by good coaching and other good players. Players often overlook that and try and go to where everything is about exposure, exposure, exposure, when really it should be about training, training, training.
You do need to attend ID camps and to make sure you’re on a team that can get you seen by college coaches, but you don’t have to play in all the different leagues that are all about exposure. While it is important to go to a few events a year, the biggest thing you can do is be in a program that’s convenient for you, where your coach is knowledgeable, and where you’re being pushed. If you’re in that environment you can play anywhere.
If you’re a player who works hard in a club where you’re being pushed with coaches that you respect, and in an environment that you enjoy and are having fun, then you can go to a college ID camp and get noticed. It’s more about what are you doing every day to make yourself better as opposed to “do I get to go to Arizona for a tournament?”
When it comes to actually settling on a college, one mistake I believe a lot of young people make is not casting a wide enough net. They’re too selective and they’re too judgmental about a program without ever giving it any serious consideration. Drive over there. Meet the coach. Walk around the campus. Check it out. You’re not too good for that school. Everybody thinks they’re too good for this school or that school, but they’re not too good for it. If you’re too good for it, you’ll be the best player on the team as a freshman.
So many people dismiss small colleges because they’re not Division I or they’re not UCLA. I think kids need to humble themselves and look at all the different options out there because you could be happy at a variety of places. I played at Division II University of Tampa, and it was definitely four of the best years of my life, playing college soccer at an unknown school that had just started a program that got better and better. During my senior year, we finally made the NCAA tournament, lost in the first round, and the very next year they won a national championship. I wasn’t too good for the University of Tampa. It worked out just fine for me.
Conversely, don’t feel pressured to attend a Division I school that is interested in you if your heart is somewhere else. What we see a lot of times, especially among our girls, is a player being courted by Division I programs but she doesn’t want to play Division I college soccer. She might have a 32 ACT, a 4.3 GPA, and she wants to play at a Division III school, which may have very good academics and very good athletics. Many of our kids put academics ahead of the soccer, and that’s not a terrible idea. We’ve only had three or four people go on and play professional soccer from our club, so the idea that you’re going to get a real job after college is probably a realistic plan.