Week by week, take control of your college recruiting efforts and future ...
Building Your Top 20 List
Take the first week to create your Top 20 College List based upon the criteria below. Create a pros and cons list, as you uncover details about various colleges to build your list. This will be your target list you work off of for the next four weeks. Remember: The majority of the colleges on your list should be realistic options both athletically and academically. Also remember: your preferences might change, and that’s just fine – adjust your list accordingly.
- Geographical location: Beach or mountains? Do you like seasons or unchanging weather? Do you prefer a school close to home, or are you looking for a brand new experience in a completely different place?
- Size of school: Public or private? Large 4-year? Small 4-year? Big city or small town? Are you a small private or big football team kind of person?
- Division: Make sure to consider ALL divisions (Div I, Div II, Div III, NAIA, junior college) - even those that may be outside of your initial thoughts. You will be surprised at the variety of opportunities out there.
- Soccer program: Is it a realistic match? Look at the current team, coaching staff, alumni, style of play, social media handles, and current players' youth playing bios to help determine if you can realistically play there.
- Athletic program: Take time to research the entire athletic program, including other sports they offer and facilities/support they provide to athletes.
- Academic profile: Evaluate the GPA and SAT/ACT requirements. Be realistic when evaluating your grades. Academics & college experience should be put before soccer. What major are you interested in and does the school offer it? Can you academically get into this institution?
- Financial aspects: Consider tuition - both in-state and out-of-state - and the percentage of students receiving financial aid. Do they offer athletic scholarships? If so, what does it take to get one?
- Social atmosphere: Super important! If you didn't play soccer, would you still want to be at this college? Note other interests that you have such as Greek life, clubs or activities outside of soccer.
- Quality of life: Evaluate the quality of life, scholastic intensity and then soccer.
Your To-Do : Write down your top 20 schools. Congrats; you just created your recruiting list and will be working off this in the coming weeks!
Emailing College Coaches
Your Week 2 objective is to start connecting with college coaches that are on your Top 20 list. Email. Email. Email. Remember, coaches are busy, but appreciate enthusiastic emails with the facts about you. Before a tournament or a camp, email them 2-3 weeks prior, and again a few days before. .
- Email is personalized: When coaches receive an email from a recruit, they want to know that it is NOT a copy/paste to every coach across the country. There should be something personal to show genuine interest. Keep it brief, yet informative, authentic AND personal. Tell them why you are interested in attending their college and being a part of their team.
- Player should write the email (not the parent): Coaches want to hear from you, not from your parents or via a database email system. Also, make sure your email address is professional, containing your name and grad year, if possible. (firstname.lastname@example.org or a school address if you have one) Some players choose to create an entirely new email that is focused only on soccer, in order to avoid having coach communications getting lost in their regular email.
- Include your upcoming tournaments/games: Tell them when/where you will be playing next, including game details.
- Interested college major: Many schools have very specialized majors, so coaches will narrow their player search to those specific majors.
- GPA: Noting your GPA is always important, especially if it's stellar. Most highly academic schools aren't able to recruit a player lower than their school GPA standard (Ex: 3.6+). If you do have a stellar GPA, it can be advantageous to the soccer program, because perhaps you would qualify for an academic scholarship instead of having to use soccer scholarship money.
- Be sure to add your coach contact email. Interested college coaches will often want to connect with your coach at the beginning of the process in order to get an idea of the type of player/person you are.
Your To-Do: Send one email to every college program within your Top 20 list. If you are not using a soccer-specific email address, create a folder within your regular email account labeled "recruiting emails," and save your sent emails there, so that you can keep track and properly follow up.
Create a Highlight Video
During Week 3, begin gathering your game highlights over the past six months to compile into a reel. Highlight video/clips have become an important part of the recruiting process. By sending coaches your highlights, you are still staying in front of coaches. Here are some things to consider when creating your highlight video:
- Initially, find a video section that shows a 10-12 minute, uninterrupted segment of a quality game against a good opponent on a good surface that allows the coach to see you both on and off the ball as much as its possible.
- Save the long video but use the best parts of it and others to create a highlight video. Keep it short (3-5 minutes): Highlight videos should be just that: your highlights - not entire games, just clips showing your special moments. If they are kept within 3-5 minutes, they will likely watch most of your video. If it is too lengthy, you will bore them and they will move on. The main intention of your highlight video is to pique an interest. It's rare a player is offered a scholarship solely off of a video. However, your video gives the coach an idea if you are someone they want to continue tracking and see play live. Or a highlight video can remind them who you are after they have already seen you play. If they become serious about recruiting you, they will likely want to see an entire game at some point, so keep that in mind.
- Keep it positive: Show your positives. This is not the time to show that you're human and make mistakes. Leave your bloopers off the reel and wow them with your talent.
- Intro to your video: A few must-haves at the start: name, team, league/level, jersey #, grad year and your email/your coach email. Something to consider including: a quick 5-10 second intro of you speaking can show personality and put a face to the player on the video. It's nice to have a personal touch to help you stand out and give the coach a look at you, the person. This is definitely not a must-have, but rather nice to add, if it seems fitting to you.
- Make it relevant to your position: It's helpful to have "sections" in the video that are specific to you/your position. For example: if you are a forward, you can have sections for:
- Defensive plays
- Movement off the ball
- Set Pieces
- Make yourself visible: Remember, the scout doesn't know who you are. Add a circle, arrow, light or some indication other as to which player they should be watching. Even if you indicate your jersey # at the start, they are not going to scan the field for your jersey # on each clip. Make it very obvious who you are on every clip.
- Music: If you are going to use music, make sure it is tasteful.
- Cost: There are many resources and options to help create a video. Many players create great videos themselves. You just need clear clips showing your highlights; you're not looking to win an Oscar.
- Upload your video to any recruiting platforms you're using and to YouTube or other video hosting site. Preserve and use the link to you video in emails to coaches. This is better than attaching a video to an email, as the size could cause technical problems.
Your To-Do: Write down what you want the coaches to see about you. A coach has only a few minutes to make a decision on you, so what do you want to come across as you, the player? Make sure your video contains the important aspects noted above and that it is produced in a shareable link.
Week 4 will be your chance to circle back with another touch point to your Top 20 College List. Your highlight video may now be complete, which is a perfect reason to follow up. And if it's not quite done yet, even sending them a teaser with a few clips is a great reason to touch base with them again. Whatever your reason, it's important to use this "downtime" to get on their radar and the perfect way to do so is through consistent communication.
- Club Coach Utilization: Club coaches are an extremely important resource. You definitely should rely on your coach for guidance in this process; they know you well as a player and a person.
Schedule a 1-on-1 coaching call with them to discuss these three main items:
- Review Top 20 College List: does your list realistically match your athletic ability? Do you have reach schools and safe schools on your list?
- Review Your Highlight Clips/Video: does your video/clips represent you as a player? Are you using the right footage to showcase your best moments?
- Developmental Areas for Improvement: areas to work on to prepare for college soccer level; how can you prepare for the next level? What aspect of your game can you improve upon?
- NOTE: Make any adjustments to your Top 20 College List based upon feedback from your club coach; keep an open mind - your preferences will likely change
- Follow-up email to college coaches: Go back to your email /email folder that you created labeled "recruiting emails" and reply to the emails that you initially sent with an updated personalized note. A great practice is to use the same email chain, so the coaches can see the previous info you sent.
- If the coach hasn’t responded to your initial email(s), maintain the same email chain and send any new press clippings/awards/press photos that reflect your accomplishments since your last contact with the coach
- How often should I email? There isn't a magic number of how often you should reach out. But what we can say... players that reach out more frequently have a better chance of being remembered and their emails read. Sending 1-2 emails in an entire year makes it difficult for a coach to remember you. Have different touch points/reasons to reach back out. If you really want them to remember you and truly know your interest level, you must make yourself visible.
Your To-Do : It's time to send a follow-up email. Refer back to your email/email folder "Recruiting Emails" and your Top 20 College List and make sure that every coach gets a follow-up/personalized email from you that includes your highlight video or a teaser clip that gives them an idea of the type of player you are.
From the time you start this process, until the later days of the recruiting process, you will be making adjustments. You will find that some coaches don’t have a place for you, or you visit a school and it isn’t a good fit, or you simply discover that you are interested in a school that you had not considered before. Be open.