By Pat Grecco
As soccer student-athletes prepare for preseason and return to their Varsity teams, there is a lot to think about with regard to preparation for playing at the collegiate level. I cannot impress the idea of starting your college search early as I’m a firm believer in the concept of “The early bird gets the worm.”
How can soccer help you with your college search?
The obvious is, of course, getting a scholarship. Yes this is true, but more important, being a soccer player can actually help you narrow your choices and assist you with the admission process. College coaches can endorse you with Admissions and help you get into a school that you might not have been admitted to without soccer.
When do I begin?
The best time to begin is 10th grade as college coaches will identify talented sophomores. Although NCAA rules will not allow college coaches to contact you directly until the end of junior year, you can phone, e-mail, send US Mail and visit the coach. Coaches will come to see you play at tournaments and college showcases, although it is difficult for them to see you during the Varsity season since that is when they are playing as well. Post-season play for Varsity is sometimes a chance for them to see you.
Which schools should I pick?
Pick the schools that have the right fit, have your major, suitable geographic location, size and most importantly, the best academics and the level of soccer that's right for you. Be realistic in your selections, have lots of options. Talk to your coaches and guidance counselor. Begin writing to about 30 schools, then narrow down your choices to around 10, and apply to about six. Your first communication should be a hard copy, Athletic-Academic Profile, also known as your soccer resume, with a cover letter, addressed to the coach by name. After initially writing, further communication will be done by Internet and phone.
How do I know the coach wants me?
The college coach will see you play, get in touch with you when permitted by NCAA rules, call frequently, and invite you for an “official visit” during your senior year. The coach will also get in touch with your soccer reference to discuss your level of play.
How can I get the coach to see me play?
This is called networking. You can write, fax, phone and e-mail the college coach. Also send your Varsity, club, ODP schedules as well as tournament and college showcase schedules. Perhaps you will be selected to play in a college showcase. This would be a great opportunity for you to invite the coach to watch you and evaluate your level of play. Also, go to a summer camp at a college, possibly one of the schools where you plan to apply. You can also let other college coaches know what summer camps you will be attending.
Finally, don’t sit home and wait for your phone to ring! Be proactive for yourself, and don’t let your parents take over what you need to do, that is the networking with college coaches.
Pat Grecco, a member of the Halls of Fame for both the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association and Long Island Junior Soccer League, has helped thousands of student-athletes gain admission to college. Her network of personal contacts among college coaches, extensive library of reference materials and a keen sense for the family's needs and wants are keys to her success. She is very happy to offer her services pro-bono for those families who cannot afford to pay her. You can visit her website at http://www.collegeboundathlete.com/