How To: Get Recruited (College Soccer)
"There is nothing coaches despise more than getting a bland, regurgitated email from a recruit and shows zero effort or sincerity."
Whether you're a current high school player or a nervous parent of one, getting on college radars sometimes seems like a daunting task. Are Academy/Showcase tournaments my only opportunity? How do I get noticed or know who is watching me? A recruiter in any profession will tell you that they are looking for people who stand out and are different from the others. Take matters into your own hands and approach the recruitment process differently and more proactively than the others.
First, you need to get proactive about this process. If you're a Sophomore in high school, begin to send out as many emails to schools as possible. Due to NCAA rules and regulations, coaches won't be able to contact you at this point but getting your name out there matters. Send numerous (personalized) introductory emails out to as many coaches as you can.
Footy Tip: Even if you may have no current interest in going to that University, send the email. The college coaching circle is a tighter than you think, which means even if one coach may not have space for you at his/her school, he/she will talk to someone who does.
At this stage, the aim is exposure. Get your name out there to anyone and everyone. Let them know who you are, what graduating class you're in and where they can see you play in the future.
Footy Tip: Put effort and time into these emails. Don't send a generic email out, "To whom it may concern" style. Click through the school, program and history then alter details of your email so they pertain to that school/coach/program. There is nothing coaches despise more than getting a bland, regurgitated email from a recruit and shows zero effort or sincerity.
Once you've done that, purchase a 3-ring binder (these can cost less than $2 and you probably have one left over from the class you aren't paying attention in), print out all emails sent/received and keep a record. This way, you can have all of your correspondence in one physical place and refer back to it whenever needed.
Your recruiting game plan should look like a big funnel. At first, you want to send out as many communication signals as possible and then begin to narrow them down into viable categories. For instance, if you that a certain college coach was at one of your club games, send a follow-up email to them and thank them. This is not kissing-ass, this is doing your due diligence.
Once you get into your Junior/Senior years, back and forth contact is allowed by the NCAA. This means that your funnel will begin to take shape and you will either get interest or not from certain coaches. You can look in your binder and see which college programs are showing interest and which ones don't look like they will pan out.
Footy Tip: If you have a dream school (or schools) that you want to attend and have heard no interest from their coach, don't stop sending correspondence. A lot of big schools allow walk-ons to join the team once they've been accepted into school so being "recruited" isn't the ONLY way you can play for that school (although it's the easiest way). A lot of walk-ons have amazing careers and even surpass the big name recruits within their four years.
Now that you have your funnel narrowed down, the correspondence between you and the coach can get more detailed and concrete. Phone calls are a great way to personally connect with a coach. Prepare yourself for the phone call by doing research. What are the key aspects of the school? How has the team been doing in recent years and who are their best current/former players? What is the coach's history and how can you learn from it? Have a list of questions laid out in front of you when you're on the phone so you sound intrigued and engaged in the conversation.
Footy Tip: Don't make the conversation about you. Approach it like an opportunity to learn and showcase yourself as a thoughtful, genuine person. You may be nervous but remember, there is another human being on the other end of the line whose JOB it is to deal with high school/college men and women. Listen to them, ask good questions and be thoughtful in your responses to their questions.
After you get off the phone with the coach, send a quick follow-up email within 48 hours thanking them for their time and reiterate your interest in playing for their program. Coaches get bombarded with emails, calls, texts etc. so staying at the forefront of their mind can make the difference. The fact is, you won't be a fit for every school and every single coach isn't going to like you. Even the best players in the world still have haters so it's pointless to feel upset if you aren't getting phone calls left and right. YOU are the player that someone is looking for. Keep being proactive and put yourself in the best position possible to get recruited by the right school for you.
Now, you've most likely narrowed your funnel to a handful of schools you are interested in AND are pursuing you as well. This is the most important time to make a school visit (if you haven't already). Make sure you walk around the campus, feel what it's like to be there, meet the coaching staff/players in person and decide if it's a right fit for you or not. It baffles me when players make a 4-year commitment to a school without ever stepping foot on campus.
Footy Tip: I made numerous campus visits when I was getting recruited and some of my "dream schools" ended up not having the atmosphere that fit my personality. They just weren't the right fit. However, the moment I stepped foot on campus at the University of Notre Dame, I knew it was the school for me.
You may have a lot of preconceptions and expectations in your head about a certain program/school. Until you experience the feeling of being on campus, you'll never know what you're signing for. This is why so many players end up transferring after their Freshman/Sophomores years. Know what you're going into it before you spend the time, money and effort to commit to a school.
All that's left is for you to pick your school! You've gone through the arduous process, made an extraordinary effort to get recruited and now enjoy the decision. Wherever you go, know you're going into a competitive environment where you are on the bottom of the totem pole again and have to earn every inch of respect. If you have the discipline and personal initiative to implement this recruiting strategy, you'll be a fantastic addition to any program.
Go influence the game