The college recruiting process can be very stressful and confusing for parents and players. We interviewed Amanda Cromwell, Head Coach of UCLA soccer and Jane Alukonis, founder of College Committed an online program for 8th - 12th grade girls who want to play college soccer, to discuss college recruiting misconceptions and best practices.
To sign up for a free webinar on the college recruiting process, click here.
When do most players start the college recruiting process?
AC: The recruiting process is moving at an unprecedented pace. Just the other day a 11 year old committed to a school. I’m not a fan of the process being this accelerated. Most players commit sometime in their 10th-12th grade years. I would suggest players start taking some action in the 8th grade by attending a college camp, going to some games, or visiting a college campus, if you happen to be in the area. No later than 10th grade players should be reaching out to coaches and hopefully putting a lot of time and effort in the recruiting process.
TDS: What makes the college recruiting process so difficult for players and families?
JA: The number one challenge is figuring out which schools are realistic for each player. Many players come up with a list of schools they would like to go to without truly knowing if they would be a good fit for those schools. They spend a lot of time (and in some cases, money) targeting these schools and don’t gain any traction. This may happen with 2-3 schools and the player ends up frustrated and lost. It’s also difficult to figure out what actions a player should take to get seen by their schools of interest - Should I email? Call? Visit? Have my club coach call? Etc. Most players aren’t sure what actions to take or how to do them.
To see which schools may be a good fit for you, you can take this questionnaire.
What should I be doing to ensure I don’t fall behind in the college recruiting process?
JA: The recruiting process is something that is very easy to “put off”, but I don’t recommend doing so. You have to take action and put a lot of time and effort into the process. A lot of my players are very diligent about their school work and always make sure they do everything they need to do to be top students. They should face the recruiting process with this same work ethic - put aside time once a week to refine your overall strategy, reach out to schools, arrange visits, etc.
If you’re not sure what types of things you should be doing, read this article.
TDS: What is the biggest misconception parents have about playing soccer in college?
JA: Most players and families underestimate how hard it is to get recruited to a top school. As a youth coach, it’s common to be asked “Is my daughter good enough to play at UNC?/Penn State/Duke, etc.” It is extremely competitive to get recruited to a top 10 soccer program. The second biggest misconception revolves around the number of scholarships coaches have to work with. A division I program can have a maximum of 14 scholarships. An average college roster is close to 30 players, so full scholarships are rare.
What separates the top collegiate soccer players from the rest?
AC: Top players have an extremely high work rate. Starting at a young age - they were constantly seeking ways to get better whether it be training with boys, playing pickup, or working on technical skills before school. Another common trait among these players is resilience. A lot of best players I’ve coached have faced difficult setbacks in their career (i.e. getting cut from a team, major injury,, a coach telling them they aren’t good enough, etc.) but they find a way to overcome obstacle(s) and come back stronger. Lastly, each of these players had a deep love for the game. They aren’t forced by anyone to put in the extra work, they do it because they enjoy it.
TDS: What are some of the things parents do wrong in the recruiting process
AC: A lot of parents try to take on the recruiting process for their child. They write ALL the emails and when they come on campus they do more talking than their child. As coaches, we want to get to know the parents, but it’s most important to get to know the player. We want players who take the initiative on and off the field.
TDS: What’s the single most important thing a young soccer player can do if they want to play in college
AC: Put in the work on and off the field. A lot of players want to play college soccer. It’s very competitive. If you’re not willing to work for it someone else will. A strong academic performance can open doors to mulitiple schools, poor grades can close doors.
TDS: If you’re not at a top tier club, can you still make it to a good D1 school or should you switch clubs
JA: I played for a small club growing up and ended up playing at Duke University. I definitely believe it’s possible to make it to a good D1 school even if you aren’t on a nationally renowned club team, but you may have to be creative and do extra things to get on coaches’ radars. Statistically speaking, you will have a better chance of being seen by colleges by playing on a very strong club team, but it is not absolutely necessary. There are some advantages to playing for less decorated club team, it’s all about finding the right fit for you - a place you will be challenged and developed.
TDS: Do players often switch positions once they get to the college level
AC: We love versatile players because it gives us more options for our lineups. We like our wing defenders to be very attacking minded, so we may convert a forward to an outside back. One of our current players happens to be an incredible forward and center back. In a game this year she scored three goals and then we put her at center back to secure the lead. We also have players that are specialists at one position who we don’t need to move around. Simply put, we look for the best players we can find and if they are versatile that’s an added bonus.
TDS: If a player emails a coach, will they write back?
AC: As a coach, we have to follow a set of guidelines referred to as NCAA compliance, which forbid us from writing players back until they reach a certain point in school (September 1st, 11th grade). Additionally, coaches can get dozens of emails a day from interested players, so it is not common for coaches to write players back. However, it is still very important to email coaches. Most college programs track players who have reached out to them and make an attempt to come see them play.
TDS: Should players participate in ID camps?
JA: If the school is a good academic and soccer fit for the player, then ID camps can help you get seen and potentially recruited by the coaches. All too often I see players attend ID camps at schools that aren’t good fits and this can be a waste. It’s really important to do your homework beforehand and make sure you are a good fit. Look at the average academic scores for that school, look at the current players’ bios and see if you have similar accomplishments, see if that school has already recruited a lot of players for your year, etc. You can even call the coaches and ask questions if you’d like - i.e. How many players typically attend? What are you looking for? Etc. If you’re a good fit for the school and you want to be seen by the coaches, then go. It’s important to email the coaches before and after these camps and be sure to introduce yourself in person. See this article for Tips on Emailing College Coaches.
For further information on the college recruiting process go to www.collegecommitted.com College Committed is an online program designed to help 8th-12th grade female soccer players identify colleges that are good fits and provide resources to help players and parents navigate the college recruiting process effectively. Features include advice from college coaches at schools of all levels (to include UNC, UCLA, and Duke), a matching questionnaire to provide players with good fit schools, task lists for parents and players to know they are taking all necessary steps, webinars to provide a thorough education on the process, and an email system to ensure you are sending complete emails to college coaches. College Committed was founded by former Duke University soccer players who take pride in focusing only on the girls soccer recruiting process. Go to www.collegecommitted.com to watch a free webinar and see your match schools.