In his 11 seasons as their head coach, Trevor Adair has led Clemson's men's soccer teams to seven top 15 national rankings. Last year, the squad had one of their best seasons ever, appearing in the Final Four and finishing third. Even more impressive than the Tigers' reign at the top are the 55 players who have gone on to play professional socceran average of five per season. As one of the best in evaluating and developing collegiate level soccer players, Adair answers our questions about soccer recruiting.
What do you look for in recruits that might differ from other coaches?
Adair: Everyone is looking for the blue chip athletes with national team experience, but we also look for athletes who haven't reached their potential. We've got to find out the work ethic of an athlete. Is he willing to stay after practice for extra work? How does he handle adversity? Character is a huge part of an athlete's development. It makes a big difference in matches. A hot head who acts wildly if he gets penalized can negatively affect himself and the team. Work rate, body frame, how much he likes to work in the weight roomthose things matter too.
Speaking of frame, is height a big deal?
Adair: You can't have all 5'6" guys, but really it's hard to have all 6'5" guys. You need the right balance of size and technical abilityespecially for the midfielders.
Any positions where you look for a minimum or maximum height?
Adair: Not reallywe don't have set height or size parameters. Obviously, we'd like a goalkeeper who's pushing six feet to deal with crosses. But we've got one right now who plays very well, and he's not six feet. It all depends on the athlete and his strengths. A goalkeeper who's 5'11" has to be very agile with good leaping ability. We have one centerback who's 6'4" and another who's 5'11". It's about finding a balance of players who work well with each other and are looking to get better.
Do you ever find an athlete who plays a position that's not best suited for his abilities?
Adair: That happens quite a lot. You look at someone who's playing a certain position, and you get the idea that he may be a better right back than a right-side forward, or he may be a better defensive midfielder than central defender. We look for players with the basic parameters in terms of speed, athleticism and decision-making, plus technical abilities. Once you evaluate a player's athleticism, you evaluate the level of competition he plays against. Then you start seeing where he will fit in your program and what position he'd be best for.
When do you start letting athletes know you're interested in them?
Adair: Generally, when they're in the 10th grade. That's when we start identifying and establishing communications with athletes, according to NCAA rules. At the first availability, we'll write and invite them to our camp and see them at tournaments. It's different for all people, though. Sometimes we see a guy for the first time after his sophomore year, and we'll still try to recruit him.
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