I’ll be honest, I’m not a big NFL guy nor do I watch much professional football. However, the amount of time, energy and money dedicated to this one, uniquely American selection process relates to college recruiting in any sport because it exposes how difficult it is and how important selecting the right players can change the trajectory of your entire organization.
The transition from club/high school soccer to college is something coaches look at in the recruiting process. College soccer coaches are challenged with determining not only who has talent, but which talent will transition best/fastest to the college game and help them win. This is a difficult task and college coaches often get it wrong. Even the NFL, the league with the most money of any sports organization in the world, doesn’t get it right all the time. They have an extensive network of scouts, testing, analysis, and we see situations all the time where they get this wrong.
I mean, Tom Brady was the 199th pick in the NFL Draft and is arguably the greatest player of all time. If a league like the NFL can get it wrong with all they put into projecting greatness, college soccer coaches, with the limited resources they have are bound to miss sometimes.
In working with prospects in the college recruiting process, I watch a lot of high school and club games, host ID camps, etc., and here are some things that prospects need to understand about the transition. If they start working on these items during the recruiting process, they will not only be in a better situation when they get to college but they “increase their stock” as a college soccer recruit.
- Jogging around the pitch … In high school and club you can get away with taking breaks, especially against lesser opponents. In college, movement off the ball and both offensive and defensive transition happen so fast that anything but full speed is not good enough. You need to be conditioned for this both mentally and physically.
- The ball is in the air a lot more … In college, winning takes priority over development. Even at the lower levels of college, coaches get paid to win. Because of this, you will run across some teams that play a far more direct style. You need to be ready to be brave and win the air duals.
- Be brave … High school and club players have often been coached to play “safe” and keep the ball at all costs. College coaches like this, but they also want to see some bravery, they want players that will take a shot, take a defender on, go forward if there is a pass forward to make rather than” pass the buck” and go backwards.
- Inconsistent practice habits … In high school and club a good player can pick and choose the days they want to go hard, the drills they want to go embrace and the workouts they attend. In college, there are no options; you have to go hard every day, in every drill and attend every workout or else someone will take your spot or there won’t be a spot for you anymore.
- Bad body language … In high school and club, a good player may be able to pout or mentally check out and still be better and more productive than some of their teammates. In college, regardless of the level, the stakes are too high. No program is going to have time for an “energy vampire”, someone who sucks the positive energy out of a team.
- Weightlifting … In high school and club there are players that excel off skill and athleticism alone. In college, you could have teammates or opponents that are 4+ years older. Strength impacts every aspect of the game. If you can’t give and take bumps you are in trouble.
- Injured vs hurt … When I was coaching college, I had a lot of players in their first year who would complain about being hurt. They would tell the athletic trainer that something hurt and they wanted to sit out a practice. You need to know the difference between being injured and being hurt. Hurt is soreness, something you can play through that won’t get worse. Injury is a debilitating injury that limits your ability and/or could get worse with playing on. There is of course a time to sit out and rest an injury, but every season I had to reiterate the difference and players that sat out for soreness would get left behind.
- Coaches get paid to win and get fired for not winning … Coaches in college, regardless of level, get fired if they don’t win. They also can get raises or bonuses when they do win championships. College coaches are going to demand more out of you than ever before. Practice will be more structured and way more demanding. Expect the level of commitment to go way up both on and off the field.
To increase your chances of being recruited, start working on these aspects of your game now. This will help coaches want you to be part of their program as they want players who are more ready to make an impact. College soccer recruiting is challenging already, so you need to put your best foot forward.
If you are struggling with the college soccer recruiting process in any way or just want validation that you’re on the right path, I would be happy to evaluate your recruiting to find out more about you and what you are looking for and to tell you more about the process, no strings attached. If interested, click the button below to fill out a consultation request.
I help soccer recruits get more exposure, save money on college costs and reduce the stress of the process. One of the biggest advantages to working with me is that after coaching college soccer for 25 years, I know how a college coach’s mind works. I use the connections I built to help my clients connect with college programs and move them up the recruiting lists.