Taking a “gap year” instead of jumping into college soccer as a traditional freshman has become a more popular route for college prospects. There are gap year programs popping up both in the US and abroad. Some gap year programs are fantastic and fully immersive programs with great coaching, support staff, competition, facilities, living situations, while others are money grabs at best and are glorified JV soccer programs.
I have worked with kids that have taken gap years and visited gap year campuses personally. Deciding whether or not to take a gap year before college soccer is a personal choice that depends on your individual circumstances and goals.
Here are some factors to consider when making this decision:
Academic Considerations: If you have specific academic goals or a desired timeline for completing your education, taking a gap year may delay your progress towards those objectives. Some gap year programs have an educational component that does not use a year of eligibility while other programs abroad allow you to learn a foreign language – such a great skill.
Soccer Development: Assess your current skill level and the potential benefits of taking a gap year to further develop your soccer abilities. Will the additional time dedicated to training, competing, and potentially working with coaches and teammates significantly enhance your skills and prospects for playing at the collegiate level? Allow you to play at a higher collegiate level than if you had not done a gap year?
I personally believe that full immersion is the only way to really get to the next level. There are programs out there that fully immerse you in soccer and I believe have a proven track record of improving players. Like anything, to get really good at something, full immersion can be greatly beneficial.
Recruitment and Scholarships: Evaluate the potential impact on your college recruitment and scholarship opportunities. Keep in mind that coaches may have already made offers or commitments to incoming players, and taking a gap year could affect those arrangements. Every situation is different, but you need to understand the possible risks and rewards. With the COVID 5th year of eligibility still allowing a group of athletes to play 5 years of college sports (through 2024-2025), we will see more roster spots open up after the 2024-2025 school year. So a gap year for those graduating in the next two years could have even greater benefits.
Injury Risks: Consider the risk of injuries that could occur during your gap year. Engaging in intense training and competition without the proper structure and support could have consequences. Weigh the potential benefits against the risks to ensure you make an informed decision and know what the program you are considering has to offer.
Personal Growth and Exploration: A gap year can provide valuable opportunities for personal growth, self-discovery, and exploring different interests and experiences. If you feel the need for a break or want to pursue other passions before committing to college soccer, a gap year may be a worthwhile choice. Being on your own in a gap year program can also help a prospect mature and when they return, they are much more ready to make an impact in a collegiate soccer program and for the rigors of college academics.
Ultimately, it’s important to carefully evaluate your priorities, long-term goals, and the potential benefits and drawbacks of taking a gap year. Discuss your options with your family, coaches, and mentors who can provide guidance based on your specific circumstances.
Internationally: ETURE in Valencia, Spain. This is a completely immersive soccer program that has been highly successful in helping players mature as soccer players and young people, where they are able to find great opportunities afterwards and even learn Spanish.
Domestically: The Pre College Developmental Academy has opportunities in a few different locations in the US. Offers a residential immersive program and also allows players to take classes at junior college – not just getting an advantage in soccer but also gaining coursework towards graduation if wanted, but not using any eligibility.
For Women, ETURE offers women a similar opportunity to the men, training and playing with professional teams in Valencia Spain – this is a specialized program – please reach out to me for more information if interested.