|NCSA RECRUITING ARTICLES ARCHIVES - 2008|
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The Proper Soccer Highlight Video
College coaches would clearly prefer to see a prospective student-athlete play in person, but realistically, this isn't always an option. Depending on your location and the coach's, they may never be able to make a trip out to one of your games. This reiterates the importance of the club team you play for. If your club team goes to tournaments throughout the year, the more exposure you will get to college coaches. If you are on a well-known team, the more prominent of tournaments you
will be going to, thus the more coaches will be in attendance.
When a coach cannot come to watch you play live, the alternative method to evaluate you is through video. This is also a way to satisfy a coach's interest if they aren't completely sure they want to recruit you. The proper highlight video in addition to a letter or personal recruiting website will give a coach everything they need in order to determine their initial interest level. Below are some guidelines for how to create a quality highlight video:
1. Film from a high perspective (at least several feet from the ground)
2. Imagine the field separated into thirds (offensive, middle, defensive). When the ball is in the offensive or defensive third of the field film the entire 18-yard box and beyond. When the ball is in the middle of the field, film the entire middle third. Show enough of the field so that we are able to see it from the player's perspective, runs with and without the ball, use of space, combinations with teammates, etc.
3. When editing clips of different games, show the development of the play as well as the end result.
4. Tape games against your best competition (club games, ODP games, or competitive high school games)
5. Use a tri-pod! If a coach receives footage that is shaky, they may not watch it. The footage should be as steady as possible.
6. Try to keep the length to about 5 minutes.
What coaches look for in game footage:
a. Physical Attributes - speed, quickness, agility, strength, power
b. Technical Abilities - dribbling, passing, receiving, heading, shooting, defending. They will also be paying attention to how well this can be done under pressure.
c. Tactical Awareness - decision-making with the ball, finding options, runs without the ball
d. Character Traits - work ethic, reaction to a loss of possession, attitude, leadership abilities and communication with teammates
Skill footage combined with game footage can be helpful to coaches who are evaluating goalkeepers. Video taken from the ground level are best and having some views from behind the goal can also be helpful. The session should cover the following aspects:
o Shot handling - low, medium, and high shots
o Footwork and mobility - getting from post to post
o Crosses from the end line - catching and punches
o Dealing with long services from the middle of the field - timing and quickness off line
o Diving ability - low, medium, and high balls
o Ability to cover shots - underneath, crossbar
o Punts - to show distance
Soccer videos in particular can be challenging to film. Getting the right angle and following the movement of the game can be tricky, but with some practice and use of these guidelines, you should be okay. Every parent would rather watch their child's game without the camera, but it is a necessary piece of the recruiting process that needs to be done.
Why Campus Visits Are So Important
Visits, both unofficial and official, are a very important part of your recruiting process. There is only so much you can tell from a college website or from talking to the coach. In order to get a real sense of the institution you need to see the campus with your own eyes.
First, you need to understand the difference between unofficial and official visits. An official visit will be paid for by the college/university. Typically, covered expenses will include lodging, transportation, meals and entertainment. You are not allowed to take official visits until the first day of classes your senior year and the NCAA allows you to take up to five visits to Division I and II schools combined and you can take an unlimited number of official visits to Division III and NAIA schools. At all levels you can only take one official visit per school and can not exceed 48 hours on campus. Make sure you choose these schools wisely and make the most out of each visit.
When you take unofficial visits you will be responsible for paying for everything that is involved with the visit. If you have to drive to campus you will be paying for gas. If you have to take an airplane there you will be expected to purchase your ticket. The only paid benefit a school may provide are tickets to no more than three sporting events that cost under $100. You are allowed to take an unlimited number of unofficial visits to all divisions, but again, it will be at your expense.
If you are seriously interested in a college/university a campus visit is a critical step. You need to meet the coach face-to-face, meet some of the players, see the facilities and the campus - all of these must be done before you make any final decisions. You are going to be the one living on the campus and playing for the coach for four years so you should make sure that the people and environment are what you are looking for in a school and soccer team.
Before you plan an unofficial visit you must let the coach know you are coming ahead of time. Call the coach and ask if they have some time to meet with you the day of your visit so they can plan accordingly. This will give the coach a chance to arrange a schedule of events for that day such as a tour of campus with a member of the team, interview with an admissions representative or lunch with the team. Take as many unofficial visits as possible to get a solid sense of what you like and dislike in a college/university. The more campuses you visit, the more you will have to compare against!
When you are invited on an official visit the coach is telling you that you are a top recruit and that you are being seriously considered for a roster spot on their team. The official visit is their opportunity to convince you why their school is the best for you.
You should never make a college commitment unless you have stepped foot on campus. Every athlete has a different situation and every family differs financially. You must find a way to make visits happen and you should start by gauging the interest from the coach and then going to your top schools first.
The Right Way to Research Colleges and Universities
Many student-athletes fail to look at the whole picture when they explore colleges and universities. It is fairly common for athletes to have unrealistic expectations about where they can receive an education and play college soccer. They start their research with the top universities and like what they see. It can be very easy to become stuck on the idea of playing Division I soccer, but that may not necessarily be the best path for you. There is nothing wrong in aiming high, as long as you
are open to all opportunities that come your way.
There are 1,471 colleges and universities in the country that have a women's soccer program and 1,361 that have men's soccer. That is a lot of opportunities and most of those are schools you have probably never even heard of. However, just because you haven't heard of the school, does not mean that it won't have a strong soccer team or be strong academically. Be open to any college or university you hear from and don't rule it out until you have done your research!
When you begin your research, you should start with the college's website. Read about the institution and what it can offer you academically. Then, you want to see what it can provide you athletically. Read the player and coach profiles to see what their backgrounds are and to see how you measure up. Also, read about past or current seasons to get an indication of the strength of their program. If you like what you see on their website, try to speak with the coach or a student to get a better idea of the school and team. Whenever possible visit campus so you can see for yourself!
There are a few factors that you should consider about the actual soccer program regardless of division, when you do your research:
• Will you have the opportunity to grow and thrive in their program?
• Are you going to have a role on the team that you desire?
• Is the program going to be challenging enough for you?
• Did there appear to be a good team moral?
• Could you see yourself fitting in with the other players on the team?
• Do you like the coaching style?
• When you watched a game, did you think that you would be able to play at their level?
Then there are things you need to consider outside of soccer:
• Are you going to receive the level of education that you desire?
• Will the average class size work for you?
• Does the school offer degrees that you are interested in?
• Is the size of the campus too big, too small or just right?
• Are there adequate activities you will be able to get involved in other than soccer?
Will you receive the academic support you need?
• Can you really see yourself living in that environment for four years and being happy?
When you research colleges and universities you should always ask yourself these questions. If you answered mostly "yes," you are off to a good start; if you answered "no" to the majority of questions, that program may not be the best fit for you. Good thing you have so many to choose from! Try not to get too caught up in the division or where your friends are going; this is about you and finding the best fit for you! The college decision process is not an easy one, but if you do your research the right way you will have successful results and an enjoyable college experience.
Clearing the Air on the Clearinghouse
If you are a high school soccer player with aspirations of playing at the collegiate level, you have probably heard of the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse. Every day, NCSA Recruiting Coaches answer questions from student-athletes and their parents about what the NCAA Clearinghouse is and how it works.
The NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse is an organization that works with the NCAA to determine a student athlete's eligibility for athletics participation in his or her first year of college enrollment. According to the NCAA Guide for the College-Bound Student Athlete, the clearinghouse evaluates your academic record to determine if you are eligible to participate at a Division I or II college as a freshman student-athlete. Students who want to participate in college sports at the Division I or II level during their first year of enrollment in college must register with the clearinghouse. Even if you do not intend on participating in Division I or II athletics, NCSA recommends you register just in case; it is always better to be safe rather than sorry.
The purpose of the clearinghouse is to evaluate the academic records of college-bound student-athletes, but is not based on athletic talent. Any student may register for the clearinghouse regardless of athletic ability. You do not have to be registered in order to be recruited by college coaches, although, as the NCAA Guide for the College-Bound Student Athlete explains, you must be certified as a qualifier before you can receive an athletics scholarship or practice or compete during your first year of enrollment. You also must register with the clearinghouse in order to take an official visit.
When registering for the NCAA Clearinghouse, prospective student-athletes must also confirm their amateur status by answering some questions about benefits and activities that might impact your status as an amateur. The NCAA Clearinghouse needs to make sure you have not signed any professional contracts, accepted a salary for participating in athletics, received prize money related to your athletic ability, or received other benefits that may affect your amateur status.
The NCAA Clearinghouse and the NCAA Amateurism Certification should be completed during your junior year of high school. If you register at the beginning of junior year you must make sure your high school guidance counselor submits your high school transcript after you have completed six semesters of coursework. To get started, log onto www.ncaaclearinghouse.net and select "prospective student-athletes." Next, click on "domestic student release form." There is a $50 registration fee for domestic students and $75 registration fee for international students.
The NCAA Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete breaks down exactly what grades and test scores are necessary to be a qualifier, and it also expands upon the role of the NCAA Clearinghouse. This guide is available on the NCAA Web site at www.ncaa.org. To ensure you are on the right track, print off your own copy of the NCAA Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete as soon as possible.
Visits Q and A - Part I: Defining and Understand the Rules of Visits
Question: What is the definition of an official visit vs. an unofficial visit?
Answer: By definition an official visit is paid for by the college, an unofficial is paid for by the student-athlete/family. On an official visit the NCAA allows a university to pay for lodging, transportation, meals, and entertainment. This includes airfare, rental car, and three meals a day. The university is NOT allowed to pay for parents. The university may only pay for expenses related to the student-athlete. For example, if you and your parents stay in a hotel the coach is able to pay for it. If you stay overnight with a member of the team on campus, the coach may not pay for your parents' hotel.
A student-athlete can do everything on an unofficial visit that they do on an official visit; the college just cannot pay for it. The only thing a student-athlete can receive on an unofficial visit is three complimentary tickets to a home sporting event.
Question: How many visits can I take?
Answer: Official visits cannot be made until the opening day of class senior year. This that date is different depending on each high school. The NCAA allows five visits to Division I and Division II colleges combined. You are allowed an unlimited number of unofficial visits to all divisions. You may only take ONE official visit per institution. Each official visit may be up to 48 hrs.
Question: Do Division III colleges offer official visits?
Answer: There is a common misconception that Division III institutions do not offer official visits because they do not offer athletic scholarships. Fortunately, that is false! You are allowed an unlimited number of official visits to NAIA & Division III colleges. Unfortunately, Division III colleges tend to have a limited recruiting budget and therefore aren't usually able to offer paid airfare, hotel, etc. Some Division III colleges do not offer official visits at all. It's a case by case basis. You are allowed an unlimited number of official visits to Division III colleges, starting your first day of class senior year.
Question: Are student-athletes allowed to tryout or practice with the team during a visit?
Answer: Division I and Division III colleges/universities do not allow tryouts. But, you may participate in workouts that are not organized or observed by coaching staff at these divisions. Division II colleges/universities are allowed to conduct one tryout in the high school off-season of your sport.
Question: Are their any times when visits are not allowed?
Answer: Yes. There is a Dead Period in which it is not permissible to make in-person recruiting contacts or evaluations on-campus or off-campus or permit official or unofficial visits. For soccer this period falls the week before and around the initial signing day, senior year. This is usually the first week in February.
Through NCSA's partnership with SiSu Systems, we have access to the highest level of nutrition and sports performance training and information. One of the main topics of discussion is ACL injuries. Approximately 100,000 ACL injuries occur each year in the United States and of those, 50% are in the 15-25 year-old age group. Soccer players especially seem more prone to ACL injuries, but 70% of ACL injuries are non-contact-related and can occur even when not playing soccer.
Females are at the highest risk, as they are two to eight times more likely to tear their ACL than their male counterparts. In athletes whose hips are wider than their knees, which is the case for most women, there is a higher risk of ACL injury. The same goes for athletes that are knock kneed. Other risk factors for females are hormonal: ovulatory phases modify hormone levels, and they are muscular: improper muscle patterns as well as stronger muscles getting stronger, while weak muscles get weaker.
The good news is there are exercises both females and males can do to strengthen their ACL's and improve their odds of an injury. Several specific ACL prevention programs focus on the following mechanics: plyometrics, proper running mechanics, proper acceleration and deceleration, functional strengthening and active range of motion development. Here are a few helpful drills:
Plyometrics: Creating muscle impulses and reactions
• Tuck/Scissor Jumps
• Broad Jumps
• Jumping Jacks
• Lateral and Forward Hops
Mechanics: efficient running motions reducing force angles through hips
• High Knees
• Lateral Shuffle
• Diagonal Run
• Crossover Run
• Backward Cycle
Flexibility: Increased range of motion and proper athletic movements
• Glute Stretch
• Groin Stretch
• Quad Stretch
Strength: manage body angles better and absorb forces
• Body Squats
• Calf Raises
• Assisted Glute/Ham Raises
It is a good idea, as a high school student-athlete, to start incorporating these drills into weekly training sessions. It should only take about 30 minutes and that extra time is worth months of rehab. For more information on SiSu Systems you can visit their website, www.sisusystems.com.
Negotiation. It's the one word that financial aid administrators (FAAs) hate to hear. Some of them won't even acknowledge that negotiating an aid package is an option. The truth is that if you truly feel you deserve more than you're getting, and can justify your reasoning, you should seriously consider asking for more assistance.
Some of the reasons for negotiating an aid package include:
• Your financial situation has recently changed (if true, this is the one reason that will almost always get you more aid)
• You do not believe the school has taken all your expenses into account
• The school is using your scholarship money or high-interest, unsubsidized loans to count toward your package
• You simply feel that what you can bring to the school (academic excellence, athletic ability) is worth the school's extra effort
You should never approach an FAA with an attitude that you deserve more than you're getting. Always be friendly and reasonable, and explain your reasoning honestly. If you're a straight-"A" student or a talented athlete, you will, of course, have a better chance of winning the argument. But even an average student can negotiate a better deal in the right situations. Here is an example of a good versus a bad approach:
Bad Approach: "We have too much credit card debt to afford our bills and a college education! Can't you take our financial problems into consideration?" [Financial aid administrators rarely consider bad debt a reason to grant you more funds, except in some cases where unusual hardships are involved.]
Inform your FAA of any changes in your family's circumstances as soon as they occur. Don't wait until it's time to fill out the next year's FAFSA or FAF.
Good Approach: "I've calculated what we truly need to pay for all our college expenses, and the package you have offered does not seem to take all these factors into consideration. Can we realistically address these issues and see if the package can be adjusted?"
Other good arguments include:
• Costs that might not have been considered on the financial aid forms, including medical expenses, tuition for a young child in private school or for an older child in graduate school
• The financial aid determined was based on a year that was unusually profitable; you typically don't earn as much as you did in the year that was reported
Try negotiating with the financial aid administrator at your selected school. Do not approach them aggressively, but rather with reasonable, well thought-out arguments. Make certain to back up your arguments with as much hard evidence as possible.
The FAA is not the only person you can talk to, however. Colleges and universities typically have award committees that determine aid packages. To circumvent the financial aid office, contact the school's admissions office and request the name and address of the chairperson who heads the financial aid committee. Also, find out what day the committee is scheduled to meet next. Then send a letter of appeal to the chairperson before the meeting.
When negotiating or appealing your aid package, it is best to have an adult rather than a college student. If possible, such negotiations should also be done in person. In this way, you are there to counter any arguments the FAA might offer, and it also shows you are able to go the extra mile to get what you want.
The Scoop on Summer Soccer Camps
Now that the State Cup is over and the National Cup is coming to a close, soccer players around the country should start to think about summer plans. Summer means a little time off from organized soccer, but it does not mean that we put the ball down all together. The majority of athletes will have been receiving camp brochures for the last few months. It is strongly recommended that all high school-level athletes consider a soccer camp, which can be very beneficial as long as you are aware of a few key points.
Most camps are used to help raise funds for the organization, whether that be a private company, club team or college team. Coaches and clubs bring in a lot of income through this method. Beware of overpriced camps as they do not necessarily indicate the best training or coaching. Another common misconception is that you will be "discovered" at a camp. Coaches do not normally scout for players at camps. However, if you are attending a college camp, it is best to notify the college coach of your intension to attend the camp and your interest in attending that school for your college career.
After considering the two biggest misconceptions of college camps, you can move on to the factors that really matter. High level training is an obvious benefit to a college run camp. There are few other opportunities for a high school athlete to work with a college level coach. You will run new drills, learn new techniques and get some needed repetition with each skill. Hopefully, you will take away an honest evaluation of your abilities as well because many camps give you a written evaluation form. The college coach will help you see your game from a different perspective - in addition to your high school or club coach. Lastly, camps keep you in shape during the off-season.
There are essentially two ways you may receive camp information. One, you are someone the coach is recruiting. Two (and much more likely), you are in some type of database or list and the coach has absolutely no idea who you are or your talent level. So, based on that information, you will either attend a camp for training purposes or evaluation purposes to assist with your recruiting.
Before you attend a camp for training purposes always do some research on the coaching staff. How much experience do they have? How successful have these coaches been? Do they have a reputation for producing great soccer players? Consider how they actually run the camp as well. Are you with girls or boys your age and ability level? Do they run at a fast pace? Are you getting personal attention? You may want to talk to someone who has attended the camp before signing up.
Alternatively, many college coaches use camps as an opportunity to evaluate your soccer abilities in person. For this reason, you could also choose to go to camp at a college or university where the coach is recruiting you. Find out where you are on the recruiting list and how interested are they in you. Is it a realistic fit? You are not likely the only recruit they are inviting to the camp. Be sure that you KNOW this coach is interested before investing your time and money to go.
Parents and athletes: take the next few months and begin your research. Make an informed and well-thought out decision before you decide on a college camp. Consider the misconceptions, benefits, and reasons for attending your camp of choice. Good luck!
Juniors Aiming for Division I: Avoiding the Gray Area
By spring of junior year soccer players should have a good idea about what division of soccer they may play in college. A player's potential can be gauged from letters, emails, phone calls and current coach relations. While some student-athletes may feel comfortable and satisfied with the recruiting process, many players with Division I aspirations are unsure of where they stand.
In April all Division I coaches will attempt to finalize their 2009 recruiting classes. These coaches identified their top recruits years ago, and their prospects have already visited the college, met with the current team and are considering, or have already accepted, offers. At this point Division I coaches may look for one or two more players to finish their roster, but for the most part they have committed a majority of their scholarship money for 2009. However, since some roster spots are available, emails are still being sent to 2009 grads. Coaches will keep their tier II recruits around until they are positive that they have secured all of their top recruits. Keep in mind that there are many tier II recruits still in contact with coaches, but are considered "tier II" because they have not received an offer yet. If you coaches tell you, "Let's keep in touch," or "Update me on how your season is going," it is time to figure out what the coach really thinks.
Here are some great questions to help you narrow down the most serious coaches:
Are you still recruiting your 2009 class?
Am I still being considered for a roster spot? If so, what do you need from me?
Where am I on your list of 2009 recruits?
How many other players am I competing against?
If a coach has seen you play and evaluated you, they should be able to answer all of these questions. "Where am I on your list of 2009 recruits?" is the most important question to ask to get clarity on how the coach perceives you.
Do not be discouraged if you are not being recruited by a Division I program. Instead, focus on colleges/universities that are interested in you, contacting you frequently, and where you will make the most impact as a freshman. Most importantly, make sure you are upfront and ask questions so you know exactly where you stand in the recruiting proves, and so you don't get lost in a gray area of recruiting.
How to Make a Highlight Video
College coaches want to see prospective student-athletes play, in person, period. The first way to peak a coach's interest, however, is by video. The proper highlight video accompanied with a letter or profile will create more interest in a student-athlete than a coach just happening to see a game on his or her own. The following are general guidelines for how to create a quality highlight video.
Give an introduction:
Include your name, high school graduation year, high school attended, club team name, jersey number, and position played. This section should take no longer than 30 seconds.
- Film from a high perspective (at least several feet from the ground)
- Imagine the field separated into thirds (offensive, middle, defensive). When the ball is in the offensive or defensive third of the field film the entire 18-yard box and beyond. When the ball is in the middle of the field, film the entire middle third. Show enough of the field so that we are able to see the player's vision, runs with and without the ball, use of space, combinations with teammates, etc.
- When editing clips of different games, please show the development of the play as well as the end result.
- Tape games against your best competition (Club Games, ODP Games, or competitive High School Teams).
What coaches look for in game footage:
- Physical Dimensions - speed, quickness, agility, strength, power
- Technical Abilities - dribbling, passing, receiving, heading, shooting, defending (and if this can be done well under pressure from an opponent)
- Tactical Awareness - decision making with the ball, finding options, runs without the ball
- Character Traits- work ethic, reaction to loss of possession (immediate chase)
For Field Players - Show from ground level the following skills: technical skills (juggling - foot, thigh, head; dribbling - perform an activity that demonstrates change of speed and direction); running ability (40 yard dash, 20 yard ladder).
For Goalkeepers - Video from the ground level (views from behind the goal can also be helpful). The session should cover the following aspects: shot handling - low, medium, and high shots - driven; footwork and mobility - getting from post to post; crosses from the end line - catching and boxing; dealing with long services from the middle of the field - timing and quickness off line; diving ability - low, medium, and high balls; ability to cover shots - underneath, crossbar.
Below is one of NCSA's sample videos. NCSA edited this students' highlights and enhanced the video using an orange spot shadow to signify the student athlete:
Scrambling for a Club Team
As the high school season winds down and the club tournament season starts to get into gear, some student-athletes may be reconsidering their current club team. It is a trend that begins when student-athletes get into sophomore or junior year in high school and have to decide if they want to continue to strive to play soccer in college or if they just want to play soccer for recreation. Both boys and girls alike start to think, "Should I be on a more competitive club team?"
At the Youngers level there is a least one team, if not two, for each age group in any club in the state. As athletes move up into the Olders, the number of teams often diminishes and a worst-case scenario leaves several serious players on each disbanded team scrambling for a new club team. In another scenario, Olders teams may decide to stay together but not to play in competitive tournaments, again leaving the college soccer-bound players wondering if they should change teams.
In a perfect world a high school student-athlete looking to play soccer in college should be on a competitive club team, traveling and playing in high profile tournaments. If it is not possible to be on one of these teams the next best thing to do is find out what other teams in the area are looking for players or have roster spots to fill. Team managers usually have this information. If you have a choice, a team that will play a competitive tournament schedule is the best selection.
If finding a club team that can offer a permanent roster spot is not an option, another choice is to guest-play. Sometimes teams need guest-players for tournaments because a player on the 18-man roster cannot attend that tournament for one reason or another. If a team cannot put you on the roster but offers a practice-player position, take them up on it. You are still practicing with the team, thus building and maintaining your skill level, but you would also be first in line if they needed a
guest-player at the next tournament, thus providing exposure.
The club situation always becomes tough as players get older and trying to balance school with soccer is never an easy thing. The added pressure of getting recruited and playing in college only makes matters more complicated, but for those high school student-athletes who can continue to play at the highest club level possible as well as balance academics, the reward is definitely worth it.
Scoring in the Communication Game
At some point during every high school soccer player's career he or she will need to initiate dialogue with their coach. Whether an athlete is concerned about playing time, coaching style or wants to ask some basic questions, it is important to address the high school/club coach in a mature and respectful manner.
Many high school students make the mistake of hiding behind their parents. High school and club coaches prefer to be approached directly by their players rather than a parent, even if the parent has good intentions. College coaches have the same mentality so communication at the high school level is actually practice for the recruiting process. When a student-athlete communicates directly with his or her coach it ensures that the message is not lost in translation and it also shows the coach that the student-athlete is serious and passionate about their athletic career.
Never approach a coach immediately after a game. Whether their team won or lost, coaches and players will have high emotions following a competition and it is always wise to wait twenty four hours before initiating a serious conversation. The coach deserves time to cool down, relax or clear their head, and sometimes players will have a different perspective after removing themselves from an intense situation.
Listen. Any conversation with a coach is an opportunity for a player to learn something about his or herself, their team and sport. Let the coach talk and hear what he or she says. Even if one disagrees, they should try to remain calm and speak rationally. Most coaches want to help their players, although they may not always be able to provide the exact answers the athletes seek. Remember that even the most intimidating of soccer coaches are involved for their love of the game and their desire
to help young soccer players improve. Reasonable, intelligent questions should not go unasked for fear of angering a high school or club coach.