If you have been following my YouTube channel for more than a year, you know I played for an NAIA football program my last two years of college. Transferring from two NCAA D1 schools, it was definitely a significant change in speed of play, physicality and mental sharpness. But playing in the NAIA was one of the best choices I have ever made in my career. Here is why you should consider an NAIA soccer scholarship.
When talking about USA soccer scholarships, it is usually NCAA D1 which comes to mind. While Division 1 is definitely the most elite league in college sports, it is not for everyone. As talented of a player as you think you are, there is the issue of whether you will even make the cut. NCAA D1 is very competitive in both academics and athletics so you may be better suited to pursue a scholarship in one of the lower college leagues.
Having said that, the NAIA is a great avenue to continue your development on the pitch in a league filled with quality footballer's. Many coaches will compare the level of NAIA to NCAA D2, but having played in both the NAIA and NCAA D1 for 4 years, I can accurately say the top 10-15 NAIA programs could easily compete at the D1 level.
The NAIA is comprised of smaller colleges usually located in remote locations, as opposed to the large universities which mainly make up the NCAA. The atmosphere in the NAIA is much more intimate and personal. For foreign athletes coming to study in the USA, this atmosphere can be much more inviting and easy to adjust to.
Some more added benefits of playing in the NAIA are scholarships and eligibility. NAIA schools are allowed to give out 12 scholarships per team (2 more than NCAA D1). The average NAIA athletic scholarship was $7,016 in 2017. The NAIA Eligibility Center is also less strict in comparison to the NCAA Eligibility Center.
To be eligible for the NAIA, you must meet TWO of these three requirements:
- Achieve a minimum of 18 on the ACT or 860 on the SAT (Critical Reading and Math only.)
- Achieve a minimum overall high school GPA of 2.0 on a 4.0 scale.
- Graduate in the top half of your high school class.
When looking to play in college there are two main factors which standout amongst the rest: game time and tuition. You should be looking for colleges that offer you a great chance of competing for a starting position your freshman year. Regardless of what college league you play in, if you are a standout player you will eventually get the recognition you deserve. Playing in the NCAA, NAIA or even the NJCAA does not dictate whether you will become a professional footballer or not.
College tuition has become increasingly more expensive over the years and is resulting in massive debt for students and families. Never discount a school based on their league or location alone. A full ride scholarship in the NAIA is much better than paying full tuition in the NCAA.
Below is a list of the best NAIA soccer programs in 2018/2019:
- Central Methodist (Mo.)
- Missouri Valley
- William Carey (Miss.)
- Madonna (Mich.)
- Rio Grande (Ohio)
- Oklahoma Wesleyan
- Cardinal Stritch (Wis.)
- Rocky Mountain (Mont.)
- Baker (Kan.)
- Spring Arbor (Mich.