So you want to play in College
Posted April 5, 2019
How to Play College Soccer
By Mark Wallace
There is a level and a place for everyone to play college soccer. Through these steps you should be able to find a place to play.
In your freshman year you need to make a large list of places where you think you might like to play college soccer. In this year it would be best to go out and see as many different levels of college soccer as you can.
This is a big year, as you should now have easy access to a weight room, and you need to learn to like it. Fitness is the next aspect that players of this age do not understand. In order to play at the next level you need to get fit and stay fit. College soccer is about the athlete, not the soccer player. There will always be someone bigger, faster, and stronger than you.
With that being said, knowing how to kick a ball correctly and when to use each type of kick will be key at the next level. Be able to hit a driven ball to someone’s head, a driven ball to someone’s foot, and a whipped ball that makes a goalkeeper second guess his ability to get the ball. Dribbling is great, but knowing when to dribble and when to pass is going to get you a look from a coach. The biggest piece of advice is to get your grades up and keep your grades up. Good grades equals money, money that a coach does not have to give from his athletic budget. If you are not playing on a club team you need to find one, one that will attend showcase tournaments.
Contact as many coaches and assistant coaches as you can and let them know your schedule of games and tournaments. Attend as many summer camps that will have coaches as you can, and again contact coaches letting them know you will be there. It will seem like you are bothering them but they cannot contact you yet. This will get your name out there for later.
Refine your list based on location, style of play, and what degree their school offers. The number one thing players believe is that they want to play Div. 1. It is every kid’s dream, but you must understand that there are good and bad teams at every level. When I played, Drury was Div. 1. They have now changed, but at one point they were not able to keep up with a div 3 team like Trinity or a Div. 2 like Midwestern. Don’t get so hung up on the level, but more about the style of play if you are even going to play. In the fall you need to see them play live or on TV so you can look at the players and see if you fit the type they have. Are they big, are they fast, are they really technical? All levels of college have teams that play different styles.
Now let’s focus on you and what you need to be doing, you have had time to correctly hit a ball. The next step for you and the most eye opening thing for me was individual defending. This takes will and heart, and if you are an attacking player and have never had to defend, then you are behind. If you watch college and pros you will see forwards deep in their own half having to defend. The other aspect is playing with contact because the next level is not nice, beautiful soccer but more of a grind it out slugfest. You must be able to take contact and connect passes.
This is a big summer and you MUST attend camps, not local camps by local coaches but at the schools where you want to go. You should be sending updates to all coaches about how you are playing, where you are playing, and the camps you are attending. They cannot contact you yet unless you are at the camp so keep your name in front of them. Hopefully by now you have some film to send them--this will also help. Also, let them know that you will be taking the SAT or ACT and the dates you have signed up for.
This year is truly the most important. Take your SAT/ACT early in this year if you can, but if you do it in your sophomore that is ok as well. How are your grades doing? If they are good then all your schools should still be on your list. If they are bad go ahead and eliminate UNC or SMU and all the other perennial powerhouses at the D1 level. It’s time to refine that list down to 10 or less. Now you need to think about schools 3 ways: dream schools, schools you want to go to and think you can play, and some safety school as well. By the end of the year you should also be sending information into the NCAA Clearinghouse.
Do some self-reflection at the beginning of your Junior year. Have you listened to everything your coaches have said? Is your fitness to the point where you can run two miles in under twelve minutes? Have you lifted weights on your own? Can you strike a ball appropriately, defend as well as the best defenders on your high school team, and can you hold a player off? Now we really start to separate you from your teammates. Are you giving 100% when you go to training, club, and high school? Knowing when to dribble and when to pass at this age is something that keeps players on par with everyone else, and you need to know what to do with the ball. How is your attitude? Are you a whiner or a pick me up guy? Do you lead your team from the field or go silent when things get tough? When things don’t go your way do you pout and separate yourself or do you lead others and be real teammate? A coach can watch 10 minutes of play and have his mind made up about your attitude.
Now for a dose of reality. The college game has changed in the last five to ten years and there are more international players playing in college than ever before. The reason is that too many American kids think that they are D1 material and so when a D2 or D3 starts a conversation, American players will blow them off. You may not get that D1 you want but because you blew those lesser-known or smaller schools off, and now don’t have anywhere to play. Be engaged with anyone who wants to start a conversation because it doesn’t matter the level, high school coaches and college coaches talk as well. The first question they will ask is about your grades, and every time you contact them you need to give them your updated GPA and your SAT and ACT scores. By the end of the year you should have taken one of the tests 2 or 3 times. This shows them responsibility and accountability. You must attend a camp at one of the schools you think you can contribute to.
Coaches can contact you now. You can go on visits at this time, but only five. So, if you have more than that, choose wisely. Your list of schools should be down to five again with the same criteria as before. You should be going to tournaments with a club and contacting coaches and keeping them updated. Send your film because it’s easiest to get it from high school but any film is good film. Ask the coaches what type of film they prefer, some want an entire game while others want shorter clips.
At this point you should be ready for college soccer. You must still fine-tune your craft--decision making can always get better, strength can always get stronger, and speed can always get faster. Working harder and longer than anyone else is a must, because there are other players going above and beyond.
There are two signing dates as a senior: one in November, but I haven’t seen many soccer players’ sign due to this being college soccer season. Don’t stress if you don’t have somewhere to sign in November. Some things to understand are that D1 schools have 9.9 scholarships to give out, D2 less, D3 none, Juco and NAIA schools do have money. In my experience, unless you are the Gatorade player of the year most freshman do not get athletic money, but they do find ways to get their academic money. The second signing is in February. This is usually when many preferred walk-ons sign. If you have not signed by now, that is ok because they are still out there looking to fill out rosters. I did not commit until March or April. Even if you do not commit to play somewhere there are still ways to play. Many colleges have tryouts in the spring, so hopefully one of the schools you are still in contact with is one of these. Many freshman go to their preferred college as walk-ons. Many freshman do not play and redshirt in their freshman year. These are hard realities for many players that were the best on their club and high school teams. One thing you may notice is that was high school coaches were not mentioned. High school coaches are only contacted to find out about grades, attitude, behavior, and home life; they do not ask about soccer nor do they come to high school games.