If you’re a high school soccer player and want to continue playing in college, start planning as early as your freshman year.  While premier-level teams or developmental programs like ODP usually market their players and are well known to college coaches, some other teams aren’t so organized.

If your team is lacking in the marketing department, you can still make a college squad.  It will just take a little more effort on your part.  To make sure you find a spot on a roster when your time comes, consider doing the following.

First, build your résumé early, starting in your freshman year of high school.  Keep a record of the tournaments you’ve played in and where your team placed, as well as the awards (scholastic and athletic) you’ve won.  Keep news clippings and awards in a box or plastic container.  Having the information in one place will make it much easier when the time comes to create your résumé.

Get on the highest-level team you can by your sophomore year in high school.  If your team isn’t at an elite level, try to guest play at top tournaments.  Some tournaments list players interested in guest playing in an effort to match them with the attending teams.

Create a list of schools (perhaps fifteen or twenty,) that might be a good match for you.  (This list will likely change as time goes on.)  Once you have that list, contact the coaches.  Coaches’ emails and addresses can be found on school athletic websites.  A good time for this is during your junior year.

Introduce yourself to the coach in a short email.  Express interest in the school and ask about the possibility of playing for the soccer team.  Include your name, school, graduation year, GPA, SAT score (if you know it) position you play, the club team you play on as well as any developmental teams you might play for.) If your club or school team is highly ranked, has won a state cup, etc., include that information.  Also include upcoming tournaments you’ll be playing in so the coach knows where he can see you play.  It helps to include a jersey color and your player number.

NCAA rules usually don’t allow coaches to contact players until September of their junior year so if you email the coach before then, don’t expect a response.  If you happen to visit a college or play in a tournament nearby, take the time to contact the coach and ask if you can stop in and meet them.  (You can initiate contact but they cannot.)

Attend soccer camps at the colleges you think you’d like to attend.  Some camps have staff from several colleges who coach and observe.  A camp where the coaches provide one-on-one feedback on strengths and weaknesses can help you determine the type of school (D1, D2, D3) where you might fit best.  (The coaches at the Lafayette College soccer camp in Easton, PA do this.)

These days, many players post a résumé and video online.  (Some send DVDs to coaches, but these tend to get misplaced and might not be seen.)  An online video is a good alternative.  There are several recruiting websites that provide a spot for players to create online résumés and videos and for coaches to view them.  A few of those are:  www.ncsasports.org, www.activerecruiting.com, www.berecruited.com, www.athleticscholarships.net, and www.collegesportsscholarships.com.

Some of these websites charge a fee, but they have the advantage of being visited by coaches looking for players.  Coaches from schools you hadn’t considered might contact you after seeing your résumé on sites like these.

As an alternative, some players post their information on a Facebook page.  If you choose to go this route, use your real name on the profile and in the URL if you can.  Be sure to include either a headshot or action shot of yourself.

You can also start a YouTube channel and keep it updated with your latest videos.  However, only those coaches to whom you provide the URL for your Facebook page, website, or YouTube channel are likely to visit.

No matter whether you create your own website or Facebook page or use a recruiting website, list the tournaments you’ll attend, club and school game schedules and results, player stats and include video.  Update frequently.

Some teams hire a videographer, but sometimes a parent videotapes several games and compiles a DVD.  If that’s the case for you, be sure the games videotaped are competitive.  Show the entire sequence of play.  Films that only show finishing shots won’t provide a coach what he needs.  He wants to see how the play develops, the way the player positions themselves, how they move, etc.

Finally, make an effort to attend games for the schools you’re interested in attending.  It will give you a good indication if you can play at that level.  Be sure to let the coach know you’re attending.

Marketing yourself requires time and effort, but the rewards of making and fitting in well on a college team are priceless.

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