College Visits: Questions posed by prospective student-athletes

  1. When should I take a college visit?  You should start to organize unofficial visits beginning in your sophomore year of high school.  Ideally, visits should be scheduled during a time of year when the team is training so you have the opportunity to watch a training session or game.
     
  2. Should I contact the coach prior to my visit?  You should always contact the coach ahead of time. One of the main reasons for a college visit should be to interact with the coaching staff and gain exposure.  Otherwise the campus visit is worthless in regards making connections with the coaching staff. 
     
  3. How and when should I contact coach regarding a visit?  Consider reaching out to the staff with a hand written note several weeks or more in advance.  A handwritten note may be helpful in capturing the attention of coaches who are often overwhelmed by email correspondence.  Coaches often do not have the time to respond to every email and that means you can get lost in the shuffle.  After sending a handwritten note, you can call the office to introduce yourself and then follow it up with an email organizing a time to meet on campus. Your email should include a player resume and link to a highlight video if available.  (See our Freebies page for a template resume).
     
  4. What can I expect to happen on a visit (unofficial/official)?  The nature of unofficial visits depends mainly on whether the visit is organized by the coach (in the event they are actively recruiting you) or the prospect who is initiating contact.

    If a coach is organizing the visit the following may take place:  campus tour led by coaching staff, overnight accommodations in a dormitory of a current student athlete, visit to college class with current student athletes, opportunity to watch a training session, meeting with academic support and/or academic departments of interest, and discussions with the coaching staff on financial aid, academic fit, acceptance standards and your potential role on the team. 

    If the prospective student athlete is initiating the contact, the following may take place: campus tour through admissions office and meeting with coaching staff to discuss the program (if pre-organized or the staff happens to be available).  If the team is training on the day of your visit, you may be able to attend a training session if you have asked permission of the coaching staff beforehand.  If you do have the opportunity to meet the opportunity to meet with the coaching staff, ask questions about the recruiting needs of the program (number of players being recruited to your class and recruited positions.  You also want to use this opportunity to discuss whether the coaches have watched you play (at a tournament or by viewing your highlight video) and see if you can coordinate a future event where the coach may be able to watch you play. 
     
  5. How can I maximize my visit?   Make sure to plan in advance.  Visit the school’s website and pre-book a campus tour.  Coordinate a time to meet the coaching staff beforehand and hand deliver your player resume and highlight video if they don’t already have hard copies.  If possible and with the permission of a coaching staff, watch a training session while you are on campus. 
     

WARNING:  Remember that the coaching staff is evaluating you while you are on campus.  They are interested in learning about your demeanor and interest in their school.  They are also looking to see how you interact with your parents and whether you appear respectful and are enjoyable to be around. 

Improve Your Game with Goal Setting

What is Goal Setting?

Goal setting is identifying what you want to accomplish and making a measurable and timely plan to achieve that goal. When creating goals you need to ensure that you can identify steps to achieve your main goal. Setting goals and plans to achieve them can increase and maintain motivation and break down large tasks into more manageable steps.

Why is it important?

Goal Setting is important to provide long-term vision and short-term motivation. Furthermore, goal setting allows you to focus your time and resources to help achieve your aspirations. All high level soccer players set goals. Goals can be how many goals you want to score to how many shutouts you want that season. Whatever your goal, it is important to make sure your goals are measurable. A goal that says I want to give 100% in each game is hard to measure and then hard to maintain over a season. 

Another key point is that make sure your goals are challenging, and not really easy to achieve. You want your goals to push you to be a better player. Using the SMART goal framework is one of the simplest ways to set goals.

Below is a link to the University of California San Diego SMART goal sheet that walks you through how to set goals.

http://trio.ucsd.edu/_files/staff_forms/SMART%20goal%20setting%20sheet

Narrowing Your College Search

Nationwide college graduation rates over a six year period are just over 50%.  It is especially important for you as a student-athlete to research options, know the questions to ask, and take the time to find the right fit so that you are in the graduating 50% and invest in the right athletic program from the start.  If successful, the right choice can save you money, frustration and put you on a fast-track to a successful and rewarding career path. Consider these four categories.

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Location & Size of School:  The school location and student population may heavily influence your college choice.  Each location will offer a unique set of opportunities and experiences.  Do you want the offerings of a large city or are you more comfortable in rural environment?  What resources will you need to access (e.g. transportation, museums, prospective employers, industry and nature)?  Take the time to consider what makes you happy now, what opportunities you want in the future, and how population density and surroundings may influence your well-being.

Some students want to live in the city where there are lots of things taking place.  For instance, Boston has the largest college student populations of any city in the world, with close to 65-schools and colleges in the greater Boston area. On the opposite side of the spectrum, you may feel more at home at a school in a rural setting.   

Also, consider is the size of the student population and average class sizes within your proposed major.  You may need to break these numbers down to better understand how the size of the student population may affect you personally.  Consider the student population broken into the following categories: total school, undergraduate, by department and by major. 

Academics:  If you are seeking a particular major, your may severely limit your college choices.  Keep in mind that nationwide, approximately 50% of college students change majors at least once before college graduation.  Try to find a school that has several majors of potential interest. 

If you do have a major in mind, make sure to compare the prospective program to other schools.  Consider the program's reputation and record of job placement or acceptance into graduate programs.  Take the time to meet with a representative from that program.

Realistically compare your transcript to the acceptance requirements of each school.  If you are being recruited by a particular school, the athletic program may have some influence in assisting in your acceptance, but for the most part, schools have little leeway.  The special athletic "slots" are usually used on the top players being recruited by that school.  The reality is that better grades, rank, and board scores will provide you more college choices, so study hard!

Financial:  You can quite easily find what it costs to attend schools online.  If you are in contact with a prospective soccer program, they may be able to request a pre-read from admissions during your Junior year to estimate possible academic and need-based aid likely available based on your FASFA forms.  Soccer scholarships are few and far between.  Coaches have many ways of dividing money up for recruits and not all programs are the same.

The costs of a college degree are continually rising and vary greatly.  Some programs are so prestigious or have such exceptional job placement rates that they are worth the extra cost.  Others are not.  If money is a concern, evaluate the pros and cons of paying more. 

Athletic Standards:  What level of play suits you?  How much college soccer have you watched, either on Fox Soccer Channel, streamed off college websites or live on a college campus?  The more college soccer you see, the better you will be informed of where you can play!  You don’t want to waste your time pursuing college soccer programs that are totally out of your reach.  Keep in mind that even within collegiate divisions, there is a lot of variation in athletic standards.  

You have to pay attention to the style of play of the school and consider how you may fit in.  Also, you have to pay attention to the recruiting class size and recruiting needs of the school.  Are they looking to play you in your preferred position or do they intend on playing you somewhere else on the field? Don’t be afraid to ask the coach of your incoming year’s recruitment class size and the program’s average retention rate of athletes.

 

Continuing Your Goalkeeper Training After Camp

Every year I get feedback and questions about goalkeeper training. “Where can I get training like this?” “I want to do more goalkeeper training like this, but my coach doesn’t know what to do.”

What should a typical goalkeeper session consist of?

Footwork/Agility
·      The first component of the session should be basic footwork/agility drills. Footwork is an underestimated part of being a goalkeeper. IF you can move around the goal in speed often you will make saves other goalkeepers won’t
       o   Setting up 8 cones in a row and performing several footwork drills is a simple and effective way to quicken your footwork and work on your agility
·      This is also a good time to work on explosiveness. Single leg hurdle hops are a great way to work on the single leg explosiveness that is crucial for goalkeeping. Similar to the cone drill above set out several hurdles in a row and perform jumps forward/facing left/ facing right
 

Passing
·      Once you have completed footwork move onto passing. This is a vital part of being a modern goalkeeper. Coaches will want you to be comfortable with your feet and be able to start play from the back
·       A great exercise is setting out two small goals (2 yards across) roughly 8 yards from a partner. Receive the ball through the cones and then return the ball back to the other player through his mini goal

Handling
·      Next is handling. Appropriate catching technique is a fundamental skill for a goalkeeper. Also, handling is a good way to get your hand eye coordination going before moving to more technically difficult exercises
·      Basic volleys from 6-12 yards, straight at the goalkeeper is all that is needed for this section

Diving
·      After you have worked on handling move to diving. This is again a warm up for what is to come. Therefore, simple side to side collapsing dives is all that is needed for this section

Angle Work
·      Now we are getting into the fun stuff! Angle work should be incorporate next. This is focusing on where you should be getting set in the goal. Furthermore, this portion works on the technical aspect of your game, understanding how to close an angle or how you can make it hard for the opposition to score
·      You want to make a mini goal using the post and a cone with the server roughly 10 yards away at a 45o angle from center of the goal. The goalkeeper starts on the post and then moves into the line of the ball to receive a shot from the server
       o   Look on YouTube for some different ideas. There are plenty out there!!

Shot Stopping
·      This should be the main component of the training. You want to spend the most time on this exercise because it incorporates all the skills you have been warming up for. I would recommend putting a drill together with multiple saves in it. Again, you must make sure you are working on your technique in this section of training
·      An easy drill is to have multiple balls lined up on the edge of the box at different angles and distances. You have to touch a post then get set, make a save, then go back and touch the post before you take another shot

Crossing
·      Similar to footwork this is another important part of goalkeeping that is overlooked. In college, being comfortable dealing with long balls is essential. You should always finish your session with at least 10 crosses from each side. Some from the corner and others from various angles and distances

Distribution
·      Finally, practice a few goal kicks and punts at the end of training. Try and set a target as if you are looking to kick to your striker and then practice hitting that target. You can often do this on your own

Communicating with College Coaches

Social Media
As a potential college player there are certain rules and regulations that have been established by the NCAA surrounding social media. With the huge growth of social media it is important to be wary of how you use social media and the detrimental effect this can have on your college career.

Player perspective
As a college prospect you have to be aware that potential coaches will be able to see many of the things you post online. If you post something derogatory and inappropriate on social media it is likely that the coach you are communicating with will see the post. This can damage your relationship with the coach and in extreme cases the college may see the post and prevent you from enrolling. Therefore, be conscious of posting content online. It may seem funny at the time but it may have a serious effect on your future.

Coaches perspective
There are certain rules that a coach cannot communicate with you through social media. Coaches are NOT allowed to
·      Post on a prospects wall
·      Use twitter @ feature with a prospect
·      Retweet or favorite a comment, story or article in reference to scouting services
·      Send tweets that endorse you or your team

If you receive contact via one of these methods, be aware that this may prevent you receiving NCAA approval.

Coaches are able to:
·      Follow a prospect on a social media platform
·      Send direct messages
·      Tweet about generic recruiting activities (I will be at the Disney Showcase this weekend)

It is important to understand what is an appropriate way to communicate with coaches. Social media is a great way to reach out to coaches and establish connections but you must be careful of the certain NCAA rules to remain eligible.

General Communication
Another component of recruiting to be aware of is the various rules surrounding communication. Please be aware of:
·      The frequency of your communication with the coach
       o   Coaches have a permitted number of hours and contacts they can have with you
·      First permissible date to communicate with you
·      Methods of communication (as stated above)
·      First permissible date to have in-person or off-campus contact

Similar to social media, it is important to be aware of these regulations to remain eligible for competition. Do not be hesitant to speak to the coach in question if you feel any of these are being violated.