How To Land Your Dream Soccer Scholarship: The Complete Guide
Has playing soccer at the collegiate level always been a dream of yours?
But you have no idea what to do now?
This guide will ease your concerns and teach you everything you need to know about the recruiting process.
Here, you will find:
- How to Outline Your Goals
- What are the Three Collegiate Leagues?
- Important Soccer Skills
- How to Create a Highlight Video
- How to Use Social Media
- Why Academic Success is Important, and
- What Outreach can do for You
Let’s start by talking about you and your goals.
How to Outline Your Goals:
You’ve decided that you want to play soccer in college.
But, although soccer may become a large part of your time at college,
It isn’t the only part of a collegiate experience.
Location, school size, academic focus, and so many other factors are just as important when determining which program is the right fit for you.
Defining your goals will make it easier to decide on a school and ensure your happiness in the long run.
Ask yourself about the things you value in a college experience.
Would you prefer to go to a school where you focus primarily on soccer?
Or do you want to focus more on your academic experience?
Researching, comparing, and contrasting the opportunities available to you...
...will help you make an informed decision about your future.
What are the Three Collegiate Leagues:
Colleges and universities are governed by three defining organizations: NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA.
What are the differences between the three?
The National Collegiate Athletic Association, NCAA, is the largest and most competitive league for soccer.
Over a thousand schools and more than 460,000 student-athletes make up this organization.
Schools in the NCAA are divided into three divisions based on how they fund and dedicate resources to their athletics programs.
NCAA Soccer Programs
|Men’s Soccer Programs||Women’s Soccer Programs|
Division I devotes the most amount of resources to their soccer programs, while also generating the largest fanbase.
What does this mean for your scholarship opportunities?
Schools in Division I are able to give away the largest number of scholarships, both partial and full-ride, however:
Not all schools choose to give away athletic scholarships.
For example, Ivy League schools are classified under NCAA Division I, however they choose not to give away athletic scholarships.
What about Division II and Division III?
Division II and Division III dedicate fewer resources to their athletic programs with schools in Division III dedicating the fewest.
Very few schools in Division II offer full-ride scholarships - the majority offer partial scholarships.
Division III does not offer athletic scholarships at all,
But it provides other forms of financial aid, such as academic scholarships or grants.
Division II and III allow their student-athletes to dedicate more time towards their academic and extracurricular experiences than Division I.
This is great because it gives you the opportunity to join extracurriculars, connect with professors, have an internship, or even study abroad --
Experiences that you are unlikely to be able to participate in if you play for a Division I program.
The NAIA, or the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, is a smaller governing body of collegiate athletics, with almost 300 member schools.
The level of competition in the NAIA resembles that of schools in NCAA Division II.
The NAIA is divided into two divisions and offers athletic scholarships that come predominantly in the form of partial scholarships.
What’s the last governing body of college athletics?
The National Junior College Athletic Association, NJCAA, is the third governing organization which is composed of smaller 2-year colleges.
Schools in the NJCAA offer both full-ride and partial scholarships.
Why should you choose a school in the NJCAA?
If you do not have a strong academic record, you may want to consider colleges in the NJCAA.
The NJCAA will help you get noticed by coaches at 4-year universities and then allow you the opportunity to transfer after two years.
Each of these three organizations harbor an unique athletic and academic experience.
By learning more about them, you will be able to choose a program that more closely aligns with your own aspirations.
Important Soccer Skills:
As an aspiring collegiate soccer player, it is important to practice and perfect skills that are going to prove to coaches that you will be a valuable player.
But what skills should you focus on improving?
Perfect the fundamentals.
What does this include?
Make sure you are able to dribble and pass.
As well as trap the ball.
These skills will be vital come game time.
A strong player who is skilled at shooting goals will also be considered a valuable asset.
Lastly, speed, endurance, and agility are great assets to have if you would like to play in college
Because soccer at the college-level is more intense and more demanding.
These skills will highlight your athleticism.
But how should you practice these skills?
Setting aside time each day to practice footwork will surely improve your abilities.
It is also extremely helpful to sign up for soccer camps and clinics.
These will work on skill development and improving your technique.
Camps and clinics will also giving you the advantage of connecting with college coaches.
These will help you get your name out there and market yourself.
How to Create a Highlight Video:
Once you have mastered the fundamentals, it is time to prove to coaches that you have the necessary skills to play soccer in college.
A highlight video is extremely important in the recruiting process.
Highlight videos allow college coaches to see how you play and assess your abilities in just a few short minutes.
How do you make a highlight video?
Film yourself clearly and distinguishably.
Try to use a tripod when filming to eliminate any unnecessary movement.
Hence the name, you want to be sure that the video shows off your highlights or most notable plays.
Combine a series of clips that showcase your abilities, but be sure to…
...keep the video as short and precise as possible.
Once the video is created, share it to a public platform, such as RecruitRef.
This will allow coaches to search and find your video at a later time.
Dedicating a little extra effort and time to creating a quality highlight video could improve your chances of grabbing coaches’ attention.
How to Use Social Media:
With growing technology, it is likely that college coaches will search for you on social media platforms.
So what should you do?
Be aware of the content you are posting and the message you are sending about yourself.
It’s a small world and your reputation is important.
Coaches take into consideration the character of their potential student-athletes.
They want to determine who will be a good fit and a good representation of their program.
You do not want coaches to leave with a negative impression of you,
Because it could ruin your chances of earning scholarship opportunities.
Platforms, such as RecruitRef, allow coaches to get an idea as to what you are doing both on and off the field.
By sharing positive content or examples of you contributing to your community and acting in leadership roles, you can prove to coaches that you will be a valuable asset
And bring more than just skill to their program.
Why Academic Success is Important:
In addition to talent and skill, colleges are searching for recruits who are not only exceptional athletes, but also exceptional students.
Each school sets certain standards that they expect incoming students to uphold.
Student-athletes additionally have to prove their eligibility by registering for an eligibility center,
Unless you are playing for a school in the NJCAA or NCAA Division III.
The NCAA and NAIA both have eligibility centers that they require student-athletes to register with before committing to a program.
Eligibility centers provide a quick way to measure students’ academic successes.
The NCAA Eligibility Center differs slightly from the NAIA Eligibility Center in terms of requirements.
More specifically, the NCAA Eligibility Center requires that student-athletes have a minimum GPA and minimum SAT or ACT score.
The minimums are determined by a sliding scale.
What does this mean?
If you have a low GPA, you are expected to earn a higher SAT or ACT score. And vice versa.
The NAIA expects their student-athletes to uphold two out of the following three requirements:
- Minimum ACT score of 18 or a minimum SAT score of 859.9
- Minimum overall high school GPA of 2.0
- Top 50% of your graduating class
You can make it easier for coaches to find out if you are eligible by creating a RecruitRef profile.
RecruitRef allows you to create a streamlined profile that lets coaches easily access all the information they are looking for.
When they see your profile, they will be able to find your highlight video, stats, eligibility status, academic profile, as well as insight to your character.
Academic success is extremely important in order to play soccer at the next level and will in turn affect your opportunities.
By preparing early on, you will have the ability to earn a high GPA and high test scores.
Your GPA is harder to change later in your high school career, so make sure you are performing well from the beginning.
What Outreach can do for You:
Did you know that only a small percentage of student-athletes actually get discovered by college coaches?
What does this mean for you?
If you want to get noticed by coaches, you must contact them and market yourself.
Send emails to the coaches of programs that interest you.
Tell them a little about yourself and your accomplishments, and why you would like to play for their program.
In order for your emails to be effective, you need to be sure that they don’t sound like they are being sent out to a mass email list.
Personalize your email.
Make sure your email to each school conveys how interested you are in that specific program.
And don’t forget:
Include a link to your RecruitRef profile, where coaches will find your highlight video.
Here is a good template email you can follow:
Coach [insert coach’s last name],
My name is [insert name]. I am a [insert year in school] on the soccer team at [insert school name] and I am [insert height]. I am a dedicated, hard working student-athlete interested in playing soccer at [insert college name]. Based on my consistent outstanding performance on and off the field, I was recognized as [insert award or milestone (i.e. First Team All-State)] this past season. In addition, I have lead my team to [insert accomplishment (i.e. two state titles)].
It is because of my love for this game that I would like to play for your team and program. [insert college name] is so appealing to me because of it’s long-standing emphasis not only on the sport, but also on character-building. I would love the opportunity to support [insert mascot name] as a student-athlete.
Attached you will find my highlight video and statistics.
I look forward to hearing back,
[insert your name]
In your email, be sure to “sell” yourself and explain what qualifies you to play for their program.
You should also include any upcoming tournaments you plan to play in where they can watch you in person.
When you contact coaches, it saves them the time and effort of searching through thousands of student-athletes who are in the same position as you and it puts you on their radar.
If you do not hear back right away, feel free to contact them again.
If a coach does reply, respond promptly and respectfully.
Because the coaching world is small…
...demonstrating character in every interaction could be advantageous for your opportunities in the future.
All in all, outreach will give you a leg up against your competition and put you that much closer to landing your dream soccer scholarship.