Don’t just play in a tournament, network before you play!

by Philip MacDonald | Last updated

Most coaches won’t fly or drive to see you play unless you’re putting up some great numbers.  The reality is YOU have to get to them.  He/she can then make a decision as to how (if at all) you fit into their soccer program. 

I participated in a number of tournaments; however, there were important steps I needed to follow before any opportunities truly came about.

1) Alert the assistant coach I would be attending. It’s against NCAA rules to speak with coaches, but I told the assistant coach which team, number and position I’d be playing.

2) Introduce myself to the assistant coach before any games took place

3) Play and play well

4) Follow-up on performance and their opinion and I could help their team.  Coaches will be very clear with you with regards to their intentions.  They are looking to build the best team they can with the talent they can find.

My most successful opportunity came about when I participated as a guest player in an invitational indoor (full field) tournament in Ann Arbour Michigan.  On the morning of the tournament I introduced myself to the assistant coach before the first game had been played.  He watched me play and after the first half (25 minutes) pulled me aside and said I could have a spot on his roster.  He then asked me to play in positions that I normally did not play but having done so showed that I was a versatile player.  None of it would have taken place had I not made the trip to expose myself to this coach.  

All players that have gone somewhere in their career had to make an impact on a coach or scout somewhere throughout the early days of their soccer playing days.  Some players are fortunate to have parents that know the system quite well and do the leg work in terms of contacting coaches.  If you are not in this situation don’t let it bother you because coaches and scouts are well aware of parents promoting their kids.

Remember, once a coach has seen you they will make their decision rather quickly.  Like all aspects of life, first impressions are very important.  You must play well and hope the coach will watch you a second and third time confirming their initial beliefs that you have something to add to their team.

Like making a sale or getting a particular job, a large part of the getting connected to a college coach is a numbers game.  The more contacts you make the better.  However, make sure you are putting your efforts to good use.  Don’t spread yourself thin.  It only takes one coach who will bring you on board with their program.  Start contacting a few coaches per day for a week, then follow-up with each.

While playing at the tournament you may even surprise yourself and receive some invitations from other schools and coaches you never thought of in the first place.  While playing at several showcase tournaments I received a number of division two and three offers from coaches.  At the time I was holding out for a division one scholarship but looking back those were excellent opportunities to play at a higher level while receiving a college education.  And I did not expect any of it.

One last tip is to contact former players from a particular school you might like to attend.  These players likely have contacts at the school and might be able to help you out by forwarding your name and putting in a good word for you to the coach.  This is all it might take to open some doors for you.

Networking is extremely important and so as someone once told me “don’t burn your bridges, unless you are a good swimmer.”  You never know when a contact may be of help to you.  It may be several months or years but it is always important to keep a good rapport with your soccer community.  

You never know what doors might open for you if you can simply get in front of these coaches!

Do you have a tip that worked for you?

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