If you want to play soccer in college, you can’t sit back and wait for coaches to contact you. Only the top few percent of players are recruited without promoting themselves. The rest (which is almost all players) need to market themselves in order to catch a coach’s attention.
Some teams, such as premier-level teams or developmental programs like ODP do actively promote themselves and their players. They’re also well known to college coaches. Players on those teams will have an easier time getting noticed by coaches.
Beyond the top few players in the country or those on a top team, the players who contact coaches, actively market themselves, and attend college showcases have the best chance of connecting with coaches and ultimately playing in college.
However, before you contact a coach, you want to determine which schools might be a good match for you, not only from a soccer standpoint but in academics as well. We’ve covered how to find schools that are the good fit for you and what questions to ask when you have an interview with a coach in other places. In this post we’ll stick to attracting a coach’s attention.
After you’ve created a list of schools to consider, try to winnow it to ten to fifteen. You’ll be adding and scratching schools as you find out more about them.
NCAA rules usually don’t allow coaches to contact players before September of their junior years. However, there aren’t rules on when a player can contact a coach. Understand, though, that coaches usually focus on one recruiting year at a time so unless you’re a star, contacting them too early is unlikely to garner you much attention. Having said that, if you’re visiting a campus, say in your sophomore year, by all means contact the coach and ask if you can stop by and introduce yourself. And if you’re playing at a tournament that a coach at one of your target schools will attend, it won’t hurt to let him know you’ll be there.
Once you have a relatively short list of schools to contact, introduce yourself to the coach in an email. This should be an email individualized for each coach, not a group email to a bunch of coaches. In it, 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, the position you play, and the club and developmental team, if any, that you play for.
If your club or school team is highly ranked or has won a state cup or a top tournament, include that information. Also include the names, locations, and dates of the upcoming tournaments your team will be playing in. This will let the coach know where he can see you play. Include the colors of your team’s jerseys and your player number. If you and/or your team have a website, include that web address.
Contacting the coaches at schools you’re most interested in (well in advance of the tournament,) is important. Coaches are more likely to watch a player at a tournament if the player has contacted the coach.
Another way to market yourself is to attend soccer camps at the colleges you think you might like to attend. Several colleges have camps with coaches from more than one school in attendance. When you contact a coach, you might ask if they’ll be at any camps.
A camp where the coaches provide one-on-one feedback on your strengths and weaknesses can help you determine the type of school (NCAA Division I, II, or III) where you might fit best. If the coach says you’re a quality DIII player, but will struggle for playing time on a DI team, don’t be disappointed. That’s great information. With it you can direct your efforts to those teams that will be a good match for you.
You’ll have another indication of the division where you might fit after coaches can contact you (September of your junior year.) Keep a list of the coaches that contact you, their schools, and the Divisions in which they play. It won’t take long to see if they’re mostly Division I, II, or III. This is another indication of what coaches think of your abilities.
Once you’ve let a coach know about your interest in his school you’ll be on his list. Over time you’ll have an indication of his real interest based on the amount of contact he has with you. The coaches who contact you frequently, send you newspaper clippings, email or call are expressing their interest in you. You’d be well advised to be interested in those schools interested in you and add them to your list of schools that you’re interested in.