Life in this Covid-19 world has certainly brought on a new norm for us all, and although we know this is only temporary, it still has brought feelings of anxiety, fear, uncertainty, and some level of anger to most. All of us are experiencing different levels of these emotions, while at the same time trying to remain positive.
I want to speak directly to those 2020 grads; the seniors who are supposed to be moving onto the next chapter of their young adult lives. That, possibly up until this Coronavirus pandemic, knew exactly what their path would be--and most definitely felt that soccer should be a part of that next chapter.
Along with the cancellations of proms and graduations, also came the cancellation of spring soccer seasons and tournament showcases. The reality of those events being no longer, certainly pose a problem for the 2020 players who are uncommitted. I am here to write to you and tell you that all hope is not lost. Here is what you can do to fast track commitment for the fall:
Let Go of Division: As high school aged players, we strive to play at the highest level of competition in order to prepare ourselves for more opportunities at the collegiate level. I want you to take away your perceived view of what the "best" program for you might be, as most players perceptions are that they must play Division I; especially if they have been playing extremely high club or academy level soccer. Push this belief out of your mind.
Look at what is in Front of You: You most likely have applied to some colleges at this point. Get a large poster board and write out the names of all the colleges that you have applied to. If you are still looking to apply to schools, (this is late in the game but I recognize that with what is going on, some players may still be waiting to apply or accept at schools), apply now. Reach out to the head coach of the soccer program for each of these schools, even if you have already done so in the past. Email and call. When emailing, cc all the assistant coaches as well so there are more eyes on your email. Follow up immediately with a phone call and leave a voicemail if there is no answer. Make sure to introduce yourself in the subject line of your email with your name, graduation year (bold 2020) and your position played. Personalize your email with telling the coach why you like the school so much and include the academic program that you are interested in. It also is very helpful to attach video to these emails, even if the footage is old. Not having video can really diminish interest or interaction from a coach. You want a foot in the door. Keep track on your poster board of when you email, call or speak to a coach. Also keep track of when (or if) you get a response back. The squeaky wheel gets the oil--keep emailing and calling.
Academics are Always First: Start reviewing the schools that you have been accepted to and look only at their academic programs offered and the overall experience that you would have at the school. Rank them in order on your poster board (1 being given to your top choice, and so on). Do not consider the soccer part in your rankings, at this point.
Interaction: After ranking your schools academically, try to be as proactive as possible with the interaction that you have with the soccer coaches of these schools. Follow the soccer programs on Twitter, Insta, or Facebook (with the hope of being followed back) and engage. Comment on their content and update your social media, keeping in mind that you want to present yourself in the best light possible. Perhaps post your in-home workouts or really anything that gives insight to you positively as a person. Keep following up with those coaches. Remember, squeaky wheel gets the oil!
Take Care of Your Body: Even though we cannot train with our teams or play games right now, we can still keep ourselves healthy and fit. Keep up with your foot skills, workouts, and endurance training. There is so much information online regarding soccer foot skills and in-home workouts. Take advantage of this time now, because a coach will eventually want to see you play live (no matter how good your video footage may be!)
Be Okay with the Possibility of Not Receiving an Athletic Scholarship: This is where we need to recognize that no-one is getting a free ride. Yes, there is a possibility that schools still have athletic money to give to 2020's this late in the game. The chance is even slimmer for NCAA D1 programs, but some D2, NAIA and JUCO still have money for 2020's. Please keep in mind that COVID has stretched a lot of school budgets and that can effect what money they have left. This is where all that hard work studying in high school will pay off, when you learn that you can combine academic merit scholarships with other forms of aid.
Prepare to Walk On: A walk-on refers to an athlete that was not recruited or given an offer by a particular school to play soccer. If you are not getting very far with your attempts at college coach communication, it is time to accept admittance at the school that has received your highest academic and overall experience rankings. Once you accept, reach out to the head coach directly and let him or her know that you have accepted at their institution. Also inquire if you can attend preseason, in an attempt to tryout with their team. Usually, a coach will tell you a time frame during their preseason activities to come for your tryout. Understand that walking-on to a program does not guarantee you a roster spot, as most programs have completed their recruitment at this time. Be completely honest with yourself as to what role on the team would be acceptable to you. Some players just want to be a part of a team. Some players will work hard to earn a spot for the following season. Remember, just because no athletic aid is offered freshman year, does not mean it cannot be earned and given in following years.
Good luck in your journey--you will be great!
For more information on the college recruiting process, please visit https://www.academysoccerconsulting.com/the-essential-guide-to-college-socc