Top Ten Questions to Ask a College Coach

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If you are considering playing soccer in college, we recommend you reach out to prospective programs as part of your college search. Here are some recommended questions.

Q1. How many players have you committed to my recruiting class?  And how many are you hoping to commit?
You need to make sure that the soccer programs you are pursuing are still recruiting prospects for your class. Keep in mind that although a soccer program may be done recruiting scholarship players, there may still be openings on the roster for recruited walk-ons.

Q2. How do my scores (GPA, SAT) weigh up to the general admittance requirements of your college?
You don't want to waste your time talking with a coach if you don't have a chance of being admitted to his/her school.  Some colleges/universities allow athletic programs to admit students with lower scores than the average student while some do not.  Coaches can request (and often do) a pre-admittance read of your transcript/scores to determine if you are likely to be admitted to the school.

Q3. Does the school have the major I want or are there a variety of potential majors?
Some prospects are entertaining schools because of the strength of the athletic program and a chance to play in the professional ranks. The majority of prospects, however, are combining academic pursuits and athletic performance.  Make sure the school offers either the program you require or a degree that facilities your needs.  Keep in mind that nationwide, approximately 50% of college students change majors at least once before college graduation. Make sure the school has a great variety of majors just in case.

Q4. How many of your seniors are graduating this year and what are their positions?  How about juniors?
Knowing this information will help you understand the likelihood of playing in your first two years. For example, if you are a forward and the school is graduating forwards in the next two years, you may have a high likelihood of playing straightaway.  On the other hand, if program is not graduating forwards, you may find yourself on the bench or redshirted?  Check out the program’s roster online and see for yourself.

Q5. What is your program's style of play and how do you see me fitting in?
It's important to know if your abilities fit into the schools style of play.  Prospects should know if you are going to play in a similar role or are the college coaches expecting you to play in a different role or position.  You may want to also ask if the system of play may change in the near future.  Also, you may be able to stream some live games off the athletic program’s website.  Many athletic programs offer live streaming for free.  This is a great way to see firsthand if you could fit into their style of play.

Q6. Which events will you recruit this season/year?
By knowing the coach's schedule, you can make sure to get all your information (resume, club name & squad number, game times, etc.) to the coaches ahead of time.   You may even be able to influence your club manager or coach to register for a particular event where this coach will be present.

Q7. Would you like me to send you updates to our schedule before and during the events, if you are recruiting the event?
In the weeks leading up to an event, coaches are preparing the recruiting schedule for the event.   That means that prospects have to get the schedules, squad numbers, times of games and field locations to the coach early.  Do not overwhelm the coach, but make sure that you get the information to the coach in a timely fashion.  If you send your information to the coach the last few days before the event, the likelihood that you get onto the recruiting schedule is not good.  You can send a coach update emails from the venue of your games and confirm that you will be playing in the next game.

Q8. What is your graduation rate for your program?
A low graduation rate might reflect a high rate of transfers or a lack of student support services.  Be wary of a program with a high rate of transfers, as this may be an indication that players are unhappy with the program.

Q9. How do you decide if a player is to be redshirted during the course of a season?
Some players are recruited because the coaches see the prospect playing minutes straightaway. Some players show potential and the coaches feel they will offer more in the years to come. Some coaches decide at the start of the year who will redshirt the season, while others wait until the season is under way.  Redshirting is sometimes a good idea as prospects may play more towards the latter end of their playing careers.

Q10. How are financial aid, academic aid and scholarship aid earned and/or distributed among recruits and the team?
Financial aid packages can consist of athletic scholarships, academic scholarships, and/or need-based financial aid.  It is important to understanding how this will come together and whether these numbers may change over the four years.  Some programs will increase soccer scholarships if the player performs well during the four years. 

Tips for Contacting College Coaches

NCAA college coaches are restricted from contacting freshmen and sophomore recruits year-round and can only contact juniors during certain periods of the year.  Fortunately, there are no restrictions for recruits contacting coaches.  It is important for athletes to directly contact coaches early and often to promote interest and form relationships.

When to start?  Initial contact can be made as early as freshmen or sophomore year. 

Step 1.  Prepare a player resume.  Visit our website for a free template of a player resume.   

Step 2.  Visit the team website of colleges of interest and complete their online prospect questionnaire.  Research the program and roster.

Step 3.  Prepare a personal email or letter to introduce yourself.  This letter should be personalized for each coach and include your team name, squad number, upcoming tournaments with game times and fields if available.  Familiarize yourself with the program and provide program specific references in your letter.  Visit our website for a  free template of a pre-tournament letter

Step 4.  Prior to tournaments, you should reconnect with the coach either by phone or email to confirm playing times and field information.  Take time to prepare your talking points.  Speak to your club coach and make sure you are playing in the game that your are asking a coach to watch.

Step 5.  After a tournament, upload tournament highlights via youtube and send the coach a link if possible.

Common mistakes.  Do not send generic emails with "Dear Coach".  Do not carbon copy multiple programs in one email.  Do not have your parents call or write for you.  Coaches want to learn about you and know that you are capable, mature and most importantly, interested in their program.

Nutrition: Planning Pre, During and Postgame

Nutrition should be an important consideration in your pregame preparations, during the match and postgame activities. Being able to eat and hydrate effectively can be the difference between a good and bad performance. Unlike many other aspects of soccer, nutrition is tangible. You can control what you eat and drink before, during and after games. But there are so many various energy drinks and other material in this area, what should you be eating and drinking?

Pregame

Pregame you want primarily carbohydrates, such as, pasta. If possible between 2-3 hours before a game you should eat a meal with a plate that is comprised of half carbohydrates, one quarter protein (like chicken) and then one quarter vegetables. As you get nearer to competition you should stay away from solid foods and try to seek carbohydrates from sports drinks such as Gatorade, Powerade or other isotonic drinks. Energy drinks often lead to heavy crashes in energy, so be careful how you use them.

During

During the game, you generally want to stay hydrated with water and Gatorade. Usually 2-4 cups of Gatorade at half time is sufficient. Furthermore, consuming a protein bar can also be a good way to reenergize at half time. On a warmer day you should be sure to hydrate as much as you can throughout the game. On weekends with multiple games, like tournaments, you should be hydrating consistently to ensure you can perform to your maximum ability.

Postgame

Post-game you should eat within an hour of the game. Your post game meal should compromise of a plate with half protein, one quarter carbohydrates and one quarter vegetables. A plate primarily of protein (chicken, fish, other meat) is important to provide the right nutrients for muscles to repair and recover. A lot of people disregard the importance of the post-game meal and rather have pizza or a burger but this can seriously delay your physical recovery. Again, if you are playing multiple games over a weekend, how you recover can make the large difference in your performances.

Tactical Awareness

As a collegiate soccer player, you must have a high “soccer IQ”, in other words, tactical awareness. Your ability to show that you understand the system that your team is trying to implement will make the transition into the match day squad and then starting 11 significantly smoother. College coaches expect you to have a prerequisite knowledge of different formations and styles of play prior to college. They are likely to demand that you play multiple positions in various systems throughout your four-year career so now is the time to prepare to avoid being left behind in preseason. Whether you have a strong grasp of these concepts or feel that this part of your game needs work here are a few suggestions for improvement.

Watch soccer...A LOT! Watching the English Premier League, MLS or other professional soccer matches should be your first protocol when you look to improve your tactical awareness. Professional soccer players are at the pinnacle of their sport and you can learn a lot from watching these players in action. But how do you know what to be looking for?

Below is a list of questions that you should think about as you watch soccer to improve your tactical awareness. First, pick a team. Then work through these questions:

What system is the team playing?

  • High pressure?
  • Counter attack?
  • Control possession?
  • Direct to the striker?
  • Wing play?
  • Even…”parking the bus”?!?!

Why have they chosen to play this system?

  • To nullify an opponent?
  • To play to their strengths?
  • Understand the different reasons for different systems and how they change week to week and even during a game

What formation are they playing?

  • 4-5-1?
  • 4-3-3
  • 4-4-2
  • 4-2-3-1

How do the formations change when teams defend and attack? Often formations are fluid depending on the area of the pitch the team is playing in.

Once you have looked at tactics from a team perspective, focus your analysis on individual players.

Pick a player who plays in your position

  • What is their role?
  • How do they fit into the system and formation?
  • Where do they position themselves when attacking? When defending?
  • What are their movements on the field?
  • Try to see what they do off the ball.  For example, how did the striker get into the correct position to score the goal?

Try to learn, or even idolize, what that player does. Modeling your play off a professional is a great way to improve as an individual.

Then talk about this stuff with friends, family and coaches. But develop an appreciation for different styles as you never know what style you’ll be asked to play. A college coach hates nothing worse than you telling him/her that this is what your other coach told you to do. 

Ultimately, you have a responsibility as a collegiate soccer player to understand the tactical side of soccer, not just the technical side. Improving both sides of the game is imperative to your personal development and your ability to cement a starting position.

3 Key Soccer Mentalities: What Coaches Want

Whilst technical ability is crucial to being a good player, mentality is often overlooked and undervalued by many young players. As they recruit players to their programs, coaches will explore a player’s mentality by watching them on and off the field and through general conversations. But what are they looking for? Three common factors have been raised over and over again by coaches of what they look for in players.

1. Winning mentality

The first key mentality factor coaches want to see is if you have a winning mentality. This centers around the question: how much do you want to win? They want to see that you are willing to battle for your teammates and often put the team’s priorities ahead of your own.  They want to see that you are passionate about winning and commit as much effort as possible to win in training and matches.

2. Coachability/desire to improve

The second key mentality factor is coachability and desire to improve. Coaches want to see that you want to improve as a player and a person. Players who embrace the idea of continual development often have a better chance of a successful college career as they can adapt to the immanent bumps that will arise along the road. Coachability also applies outside of personal development. Can you be coached and buy into a system that the team plays? Can you embrace a new role in the team that you may not have played before? Are you interested to learn more about the position you are playing? Do you ask questions about your personal performance and about team performances? All of these questions are important things you should be considering in order to be a coachable player.

3. Ability to accept criticism

The third key mentality is ability to accept criticism. Unlike club team where you are in a familiar surrounding with a coach who perhaps favors you or has coached you for a long time, college coaches have 20+ other players like yourself they have to worry about. Inevitably you will be criticized by team mates who often are vastly experienced themselves and will be criticized by coaches. Be ready and willing to embrace criticism. Coaches expect you to be mature enough to be criticized without it affecting your performances. If you are able to take criticism and turn that into a learning opportunity to get better and not let that criticism affect your performance then you will be an a much better position to reach the starting 11 but more importantly enjoy your college career.

These are three key mentalities that college coaches have found imperative to success in college soccer. There are many more to choose from but if you can master these three then you will be in a very strong position to have an enjoyable and successful college career.