Let me start this article off by saying this is not an all-encompassing list of skills you need to master in order to play college soccer. There are many different routes athletes take to play at the collegiate level. There are no perfect paths that can guarantee you a place in a distinguished soccer program. Rather, the tips listed below are only geared toward helping you achieve recognition from college coaches. In my 5 years of playing and studying college soccer the 3 tips listed below are the most crucial traits needed to play soccer at the next level.
Understanding of The Game
There are some things a coach can forgive and some things he cannot. The few attributes of a player that may be lacking at the high school level are a player’s genetic makeup, technique, fitness (maybe), and coachability. Some athletes may have a later maturing body and coaches take that into consideration when assessing a player’s potential. Other individuals may have the athletic potential on the pitch, but are lacking the technical skills in order to be successful; they have the body of Usain Bolt but also the control of Usain Bolt. However, these players still have the positional awareness of a soccer player.
One trait a coach will almost automatically look for on the pitch is whether a player has the tactical skills in order to play at the college level. Does the athlete understand his positional role on the field? Does he effectively create space when off the ball? Does the player maintain the proper formational shape when in possession? If you have no general sense of your surroundings on the field and are lacking the basic understanding of shifting, pressuring and covering, you are going to have a very difficult time being noticed by college coaches.
You need to understand that coaches consider more than just your ability to play soccer when it comes to making up their team. You are not just an athlete; you are a student/athlete. How can you prove to be an asset to the team both in the classroom and on the field? How you conduct yourself while interacting with prospective coaches will strongly dictate that kind of interest you will garner. How you handle difficult situations away from soccer is just as important as the monumental moments while on the field. I have seen countless players commit to prestigious schools not based on their athletic talent, but for their incredibly optimistic attitude toward life.
Going into my Freshman year of college at the University of Memphis I felt as though I was technically behind the majority of the players. I was solely recruited for the passion, emotion, leadership, and physicality (maybe a few other things) that I exhibited on the pitch. I had the touch of an average centre half and a mediocre long ball to go along with it. However, I had the opportunity and privilege to play college soccer because I wanted to play at the next level more than 99% of my competition. You see, I wasn’t born a soccer player; I was born an athlete. Huge difference. I had to grind in the shadows in order to get recognized and fortunately for me I eventually did, but not without sacrifice.
I eventually earned my spot during that freshman season and went on to start 16 games. I’m pretty sure the majority of the seniors were baffled why this kid with an average first touch was starting in a defensive mid position that was more geared toward an experienced player with majestic control. Little did they know that work ethic and sheer determination were the winning attributes that landed me a Division 1 scholarship and a starting position ahead of them.
There is no substitute for hard work. There are no excuses for ignorance. There is not one single reason why you shouldn’t be positive and optimistic. Every excuse you provide me with as to why you aren’t getting the kind of recognition you think you deserve, I could in turn provide you with multiple solutions to your problems. Success always finds the players who reject the ways of the ordinary and fashions new paths to the extraordinary.