The Recruiting Process - What to do

Starting the Admissions Process
Sometime in your junior year of high school you should begin the admissions process by taking a personal inventory of what college related considerations are important to you. I suggest that you write down a list of factors (highest priority to lowest priority). Some of these that you might consider are:

• Location • Academic reputation • Academic offerings (fields of study)
• Social life • Size • Facilities (academic and/or athletic)
• Class size • Job/graduate school placement • Student make up
• Soccer team • The soccer coaching staff • Participation opportunities

Collecting Information

Using your list as a guide, speak to your high school guidance counselor, teachers, family members and friends about different schools that might meet your needs. Other sources that you might want to review are national publications (The College Board’s College Handbook, Peterson’s Competitive Colleges, Barron’s Profile of American College – to name a few). You may also want to review some college web sites. Finally, attend presentations when individual college representatives are at your high school. The information gained from this exercise will help to shape your decision and it will begin to help you form a list of schools that you would like to further preview and potentially visit.

Contacting the Coach
Most universities have an on-line recruiting questionnaire. I suggest you complete this form and submit it. Upon completion of this form, write the coach informing him of you interest and let him know that you have completed the recruiting questionnaire. I suggest that you personalize your letter or electronic message to the coach and you do NOT send a “blind message” out to more than one coach. MAKE CERTAIN THAT YOU ARE SENDING YOUR LETTER TO THE CORRECT COACH AT THE CORRECT SCHOOL. I would also suggest that you ask the coach what he would like from you to properly evaluate your talents. Most coaches prefer to watch you in person; however, there are coaches that do not recruit off campus and want prospects to send them videos. The best time to send a message to a college soccer coach is in the late fall or early winter, during your junior year in high school. There are a number of club tournaments in November, December and the spring months that college coaches attend. Ask them to watch you at one of the events you will be attending. You should also realize that every coach will NOT be at every tournament.

Coaches Contacting You
Soccer recruiting is not rocket science. Coaches will watch you play and then put you into a category, just as you are putting their school into a category. If you are hearing back from Top Tier NCAA Division I programs than you can assume that you possess the qualities that these types of schools are looking for. If you are not hearing from these schools, then review the schools you are hearing from and see if any of these schools meet your needs. For those of you that are looking to play at one of the “Best of the Best” soccer programs, they know who you are. They will be contacting you!

College Visit
At this point in the process you have most likely identified some specific characteristics that are important to you and you have identified a number of schools that posses these qualities. During your junior year in high school it would be wise for you to visit some of the schools on your list. Contact both the head coach and the Admissions Office and schedule a tour, interview and meeting with the head coach. You may also want to ask the coach if you could meet a few players.

Some suggestions during and after your visit:

  • Be on time
  • Be attentive and interested
  • Dress neatly
  • Be prepared
    • Know some important facts about the university, current team and the program
    • Prepare a short list of questions that are important to you to have answered
  • Send the coach a note after you return home
  • Be honest – if the school you visited is not right for you, let them know
  • Stay in contact – realize that the coaching staff will be working very hard to secure next year’s class

The Summer Between Your Junior and Senior Year
Attending a camp that the coach of the school(s) you are interested in provides you with a firsthand opportunity to observe the coach and possibly work with him. We conduct our “College ID Camp” to provide prospective students the opportunity to work with our coaching staff, meet present and former players and get a feel for our campus. This past year we had two prospective students apply “early decision” to attend Denison University. Both were accepted and have enrolled. The College ID camp was the determining factor in the decision. I strongly suggest you attend a camp at a couple of the schools that you are heavily considering.

Applying for Admissions
I suggest you apply to a minimum of three schools and a maximum of six. Your final list of colleges should be discussed with your college counselor and parents. You may want to apply to colleges which range in selectivity: “stretch schools,” “likely to be accepted” and “safety schools.” Every school that you apply to should be a school that you believe will help you achieve academic and athletic success.

Apply early decision is an option you may want to consider. By applying early decision you will find out if you are accepted for admissions at a specific school before those students applying through the regular admissions process. This application option is best suited for a student who:

  1. Has made a clear cut decision early in the process and wants to make this decision and not have to worry about it for the remainder of his senior year.
  2. May be a marginal candidate academically and wants to know if he is accepted at his #1 choice. If not, he is notified early of rejection or deferral and can move to other schools.

If you choose to apply early decision you should speak to the school’s Admissions Office about the agreement if accepted.

Finally, remember that you are responsible for making sure that your application is submitted before the deadline and that all parts of your application arrive on time. This would include: transcripts, test scores, references, application parts and essays.

Making Your Final Decision
Your final decision will be made based on your initial considerations, information you have gained during the recruitment process, your ability to afford to attend your school of choice and your feelings about the coaches, current team members and opportunities available to you. You should ask yourself this question, “would I choose this school if soccer was not a motivating factor? Will I be happy with my decision if I incur a career ending injury, I lose interest in soccer or if I am unable to play for any reason?” Consider information given to you from family members, friends, coaches and teammates, but realize that this is your decision, not theirs. You must be happy at the school YOU are choosing.


This past weekend I spoke at a college recruiting presentation in Cincinnati, OH. It was in conjunction with a showcase tournament featuring some of the top u-17 boys club teams in the United States and Canada. The tournament showcased over 600 soccer players that are graduating from high school in 2012. There were approximately 70 college coaches in attendance to evaluate this group of prospective student-athletes. It was extremely surprising to me that at the recruiting presentation there were no more than 20 athletes and 75 parents in attendance- I assumed there would have been more in attendance, with the purpose of the weekend event being to showcase talent and learn more about the recruiting process.

The recruiting presentation was a panel discussion and the speakers were top collegiate coaches from NCAA Division I, II and III. One point which all of the college coaches addressed and agreed upon was the evaluation process while recruiting prospective students.

All of the college coaches believed that the best way to evaluate a prospect is by watching them play in person. It was interesting that all of the coaches also agreed that they observe prospects multiple times and that the prospects performance changes, and often evaluations change, when watching them play during the specific tournament games and when watching them play in different tournaments.

I believe the best way to evaluate a prospect is in a 3-day camp setting, where players have the opportunity to play competitive games, train and physically test (strength, speed agility). From this program I can honestly evaluate a prospect’s abilities, work ethic, character and personality.

At the College ID camp we invite college coaches to serve as camp coaches (instruction) and as evaluators (provide feedback). We will invite over 100 college coaches to attend the College ID camp program at Denison University. Our high school junior and senior participants will not only participate in physical activities, they will also learn about the demands placed upon college soccer players, the difference between Division I, II and III athletics and how to determine what program is the right fit.

In addition to college coaches, we have current and former collegiate soccer players at the camp to work with the prospects and answer questions. When speaking to our former campers, some of their most enlightening experiences have been their interaction with these players.

To conclude:

  1. Take advantage of college panels and presentations when at showcase tournaments
  2. In person evaluations are the #1 way college coaches make decisions
  3. Consider attending a College ID camp at schools that you are considering attending