The 7 Steps Along the College Recruiting Pathway

The process of getting recruited to play college soccer can be complex and stressful, filled with difficult decisions and uncertainty. However, speaking from experience, playing college soccer can be one of the best experiences of your life, making the recruiting process well worth it.

What does the route to commitment look like? While everyone’s journey is unique, there’s a general outline you should expect to follow. Below, we’ve laid out the seven steps along the college recruiting pathway.

To note, these steps will likely overlap, and you may have to revisit some steps even after you think you’ve completed them. Don’t be deterred if things don’t go as planned! Use this pathway as a resource that you can always fall back on to guide you towards playing college soccer.

Step 1: Decide What You Want Out of Your College Experience

Many young players often overlook this step, which can lead to confusion, the feeling of being overwhelmed, rash decision-making, and even transferring (which means going through the pathway again!). Before diving head-first into the next six steps, really spend some time here on Step 1 (see our blog post, How to Begin, for a thorough breakdown of this process).

By first deciding what you want, you’ll be able to focus your efforts and be more efficient with your time. Also, what you discover during this step will guide the decisions you make in future steps.

Step 2: Make Your List of Schools

Once you decide what you want out of your college experience, put a list together of schools that will give you that experience. The research you do in Step 1 will really frame this list.

People often wonder how long a list they should make. It really depends on how specific an experience you’re looking for. If you’re pretty open-minded and easygoing about what you want, you should have a long list. On the other hand, if you’re looking for very specific things, your list will likely be narrow. That being said, I recommend having at least 15 schools, at the bare minimum, on your initial list.

If you don’t cast a wide net, you could very well end up without any options. Remember, putting a school on your list doesn’t mean you’re committing to going there. Your list will naturally shrink over time, so don’t start too small.

Another important feature of your list should be variety. If you only fill your list with dream schools, you might be setting yourself up for failure. You should have reach, comfortable, and safety schools on your list. That goes for both academics and soccer.

At Contact Coaches, we also recommend tiering your schools. For example, make your favorite schools Tier 1, next options Tier 2, and least desirable choices Tier 3. Doing so will help you prioritize your time. Our Recruiting Dashboard actually comes with a built-in field to include your tier for each school, allowing you to filter based on that scale. Click here to learn more.

As you'll see in later steps, you'll revisit, evaluate, and adjust your list throughout your recruiting pathway.

Step 3: Contact Coaches

Once you know which schools you're interested in, you need to let them know you're interested! There are approximately 450,000 boys and girls playing U15-U19 soccer, and they're playing in countless different leagues, tournaments, etc. The chances of one of the schools on your list stumbling upon you are slim.

In order to increase your chances of being evaluated, you need to contact coaches. The easiest and most efficient way to do so is via email. When you purchase our Recruiting Dashboard, you'll get a free copy of Best Practices for Emailing College Coaches, which includes guidelines, an email template, and an example email.

We highly recommend tracking your communication. Make note of who you've emailed and when, as well as who's responded and what they said. Our Recruiting Dashboard provides fields to do just that. Click here to learn more.

A great way to stand out from other emails college coaches get is by sending a highlight video of yourself. If a coach likes what he/she sees in your video, he/she is significantly more likely to make it to one of your games than if you didn't provide a video.

Step 4: Showcase Yourself

Being seen by the schools on your list is obviously a critical step in the pathway. Every coach will want to see you play, usually multiple times, before seriously recruiting you.

So where should you go to showcase yourself? Let's run through the options.

Showcase Tournaments

College Coaches rely heavily on showcases to evaluate the bulk of their potential recruits. The showcases your club team attends will largely determine which coaches you can get in front of. Try to make sure you apply for events that schools on your list will attend. Most showcase websites will list coaches in attendance this year and past years. Check them out to suggest events that will benefit you.

See our post on Got Soccer & how to get into the best soccer tournaments to get all the details.

If your team doesn't attend the showcases you want, consider guest playing. Most tournaments allow you to register as a guest player, which allows attending teams to contact you if they need extra players. Rather than just waiting, be proactive and contact attending teams to see if they need any guest players.

If you don't play club soccer, we highly recommend the guest-playing route. College coaches attend less and less high school games, but it doesn't hurt to invite them. You'll have more success with lower-tier programs. High school tournaments, playoff games, and all star games give you the best chance to be seen.

ID Camps

While you don't have too much control over which tournaments you attend, you can choose the camps you go to. Over time, camps have become a more important part of the pathway. A lot of coaches now want to see you play with your club team and in a camp setting.

Check out our guide on how to pick the best camp for you.

Whatever showcase events you attend, make sure you contact coaches beforehand! You should cycle through Steps 3 and 4 throughout your recruiting process.

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Step 5: Entertain Interest

After you attend a showcase event and you contacted coaches beforehand, you’ll hopefully receive emails from coaches who saw you play and are interested in recruiting you. Some may be from schools on your list, while others may not be, which is why it’s important to make a list in the first place.

If you get an email from a school that’s not on your list, do a bit of research to see if you should add it. BUT, remember what you want to get out of your college experience, and don’t make concessions just because the school showed interest.

Pay close attention to exactly what the emails say. Oftentimes, coaches use such emails just to promote their camps. For each email, ask yourself if it sounds generic or if it says something along the lines of “we saw you play” or “we watched” your game. Do they give you specific feedback on your play? If you’re unsure, respond and ask for clarification.

Regardless of your level of interest and the school’s level of interest, RESPOND TO EVERY EMAIL WITHIN 48 HOURS. Simply put, it’s the right thing to do. Showing maturity goes a long way in the recruiting process.

Also, be honest with coaches. If you have no interest in their school, let them know and thank them for their interest. If you’re unsure and want to learn more, ask them questions.

With all your communication, keep in mind that coaches have to cast a wide net as well, so the impression you make will differentiate you from other recruits, one way or another.

As I mentioned before, keep track of your communication with coaches, and be sure to note the date of each contact. Using our Recruiting Dashboard makes it easy to do so.

Lastly, as you entertain interest, continually review your list of schools and adjust it as necessary. The more contact you have with certain coaches, the better you’ll understand their schools and programs. Some schools will become more appealing to you, while you’ll lose interest in others. When you feel comfortable doing so, begin ranking your options. Our Recruiting Dashboard provides a filterable field for rankings, which will allow you to better organize your pathway.

Step 6: Go on Visits

Once a coaching staff has enough interest in you, they’ll invite you on a visit. A visit is the single most informative experience you can have. Reading information on a website and communicating with coaches through email and on the phone will only tell you so much. Only once you’re on campus, interacting with the coaching staff and players, living a normal day in the life of a student-athlete, will you understand what to expect out of a school.

While it’d be great to be able to visit every school on your list, it’s likely impossible. Prioritize your time based on your tiers and rankings. After each visit, re-evaluate your list and adjust it if necessary.

Step 7: Commit

After all the uncertainty, stress, and hard work on and off the field, the choice of where to commit is ultimately yours. While it may be a difficult decision, if you stick to this pathway, you’ll build a foundation of knowledge and experience to make the best choice for you. Rely on the research you did in Step 1, communication you had in Step 5, and experiences you had in Step 6.

Remember, the choice is about you! Not your parents or your coach or your teammates or your friends. You’re the one who is going to spend four years living out your decision!

If you find yourself struggling, watch this interesting TED Talk, How to make hard choices by Ruth Chang.

By putting in the time and effort of following this pathway, you’ll make a great decision. So stick with it! Celebrate the fact that you’re going to be a college athlete and get yourself ready to have a tremendous freshman year!

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