In this blog series, we are going to take a deep dive into the process of college recruiting. As a former college coach and current professional goalkeeper, I have a unique perspective from both sides of the process. I am a former division one athlete that has gone through the process and seen the best and worst of it! In our first installment, we will take a look at some of the ways to find the schools that will be a best fit for you. Give it a read below and stay tuned for the upcoming installments as well!
Location, location, location!
No matter what anyone says, LOCATION MATTERS. Not because you need to be in with the "it crowd" but because you need to find a place that you feel comfortable with. If you're a person that loves to be by the beach in your free time then putting together a list of landlocked schools probably isn't your best choice. You will hear me say it a lot throughout this article but it's so important; DO YOUR RESEARCH!
There are some key questions you want to ask yourself when factoring in location. How far from home do you want to be? The glitz and glamor of a massive party school wears off pretty quickly and that homesickness kicks in a lot faster than you think. It's one thing to be a few hours from home but it's totally different when half a country is between you and your family. Could I enjoy my life here if I wasn't playing soccer? Are there things to do both on and off campus that would make me happy if soccer wasn't there for me? While soccer is, and should be, a big part of your college decision, it can't be the only part. Finding a campus, and city, that suits you from a personal perspective can be just as important.
The impact of academics on your life can't be understated. That's why it is important to factor in the educational side of things when making a college decision. What subjects spark your interest the most in school. What areas of study do you think you would like to focus on. At 17/18 years old, no one is expecting you to have all the answers but it's important to start thinking about what you're passionate about outside of soccer. Find your areas of interests. Seek out the academic institutions that excel in those areas. Go to your school's college night. Explore the options you have in front of you. If you don't do your own research then it will be hard for you to be confident in your own decision.
We ain't come here to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS. - Cardale Jones
I think about this infamous quote a lot when I talk to youth goalkeepers about school. Often times, before or during a coaching session, I'll ask how school went that day or what they learned. "Boring" or "nothing" are the most popular responses to date. Too many athletes just want to play sports but the reality is, most of them will end up doing something else within 4 years. I'm not one to dash anyone's hopes or dreams, but the statistics speak for themselves. Less than 10% of high school athletes play college soccer. Of that small percentage, less than 2% of college soccer players get drafted.
Sports can often provide athletes opportunities that they may not have imagined before. Earning a degree from a prestigious university can be one of them. Take your education off the field just as seriously as you do on the field and you'll find yourself with plenty of open doors to run through. Weigh the pros and cons of each school from a soccer standpoint and an educational standpoint. You definitely won't regret it.
Have questions like how to be recruited for college soccer? Check out our Ultimate Guide to College Soccer Recruiting available FOR FREE on our website!
Does division matter?
Yes. No. Maybe. WHO KNOWS? It's such a difficult question to answer. Does division matter to who? To you? I can't answer that for you. Does calling yourself a division one athlete mean a lot to you? Are you worried about status more so than finding the right fit for you? Of course, division one athletics have always been the pinnacle of college sports. However, it isn't the only path to soccer success and it isn't the only place to get good competition either.
Unfortunately, not everyone can play for a top 25 division one college program. There are only so many roster spots at each school. Unless you play for Marshall, they seem to have an unlimited number of roster spots. But in all seriousness, be realistic with yourself. Do an honest assessment of your talent level, your short term and long term goals, and what it will take to get to where you want to be. Is your goal to be a consistent starter from day one in college? Do you have the skill level to do that at a major division one level as a freshman? The goalkeeping position is especially hard given the fact that there is only one position and often 3-4 goalkeepers competing for that position. Coming in as a freshman, you'll likely be competing with players 2-3 years older than you with more experience. Weigh the pros and cons.
Why else would division matter? Let's talk scholarships. Not all universities and divisions are built equally. Here is a breakdown of scholarship opportunities at the various division levels in college soccer.
Division One: men's soccer - 9 .9 full scholarships, women's soccer - 14 full scholarships
Division Two: men's & women's soccer - 9 full scholarships
Division Three: no athletic scholarships
NAIA: men's & women's soccer - 12 full scholarships
The numbers speak for themselves. These scholarships are for coaches to spread out amongst their entire team. With, typically, 20-25 players on a college roster, it's hard to find a full scholarship at any division of collegiate soccer. This also ties in to the academic discussion. There are opportunities from both the athletic and academic side to receive scholarships and grants as long as you take both seriously.
Is your aspiration to play professional soccer after your college career? If so, maybe division does matter a bit more. It is true that a majority of college players drafted, specifically in the first two rounds of the MLS draft, are typically from division one universities but they doesn't mean you can't reach the professional ranks outside of playing at the D1 level. Tim Melia, goalkeeper for Sporting KC in the MLS, played division II and division III soccer during his college career. He is now considered one of the best goalkeepers in the top division of professional soccer in the United States. There is a lot more that goes into becoming a professional than simply what division of college soccer you play. Do your research and make the best decision for you and the future you envision.
For the next installment of our college preparation series, we will dive into the recruiting process and how to thrive in the competitive world of college recruitment. Check out this series and more on our blog now! You can also connect with us via social media on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.