Carlos Somoano, men’s soccer assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at the University of North Carolina, offers up some tips to help you improve your chances of playing at the collegiate level.
Join a club
Making the best club team in your area is the best way to gain the attention of college coaches. Playing with the best means playing against the best, and that makes it easier to evaluate your talent level—which is more difficult when you play against lesser skilled teams. Even if you seem to be playing well, we might only compare you against that level of play, and then wonder if you have the ability to step it up against better teams.
Get on tape
Game film can stimulate interest from a coach. It’s hard for us to see or know much about a player in California. But if he sends us game film and we like what we see, we’ll consider making a follow-up trip we wouldn’t have made without the video. At the same time, I don’t know too many coaches who take players solely based on a video.
Make yourself visible
Making yourself visible to soccer coaches is crucial. Sports like basketball and football have more recruiting eyes and funds to visit players. So making contacts—emailing, calling and promoting yourself—is very important in soccer, especially for players who aren’t near a good club team or college program. Players in that situation really have to hustle to gain collegiate attention. Go to major tournaments and guest play. Or, find a high school or club coach who knows a college coach.
The Tar Heel Way
Like all colleges across the nation, UNC has limited funds for soccer recruiting. To counter this, the coaches have developed their own way of finding talent. Here’s an inside look.
Most of our athletes are North Carolina kids. The state is not that big, so we can see a lot of players and get familiar with them. Our out-of-state players typically come through a recruiting network of coaches we know and trust. They recommend players they’ve coached or coached against.
You can find some talented players by watching high school games—players who could get lost in the shuffle because they’re not on a top club team. Such players are harder to find, and we don’t have unlimited funds to spend looking for that one guy. We may go watch a local high school game, but we wouldn’t travel for one.
NCAA limitations prohibit us from emailing or calling sophomores. We’re allowed to receive emails and take calls from sophomores, but we can’t call or initiate the process with them. Once athletes are juniors, and especially with seniors, we definitely start recruiting.
Grab Collegiate Attention
Take a look at the defining characteristics of a collegiate soccer player.
Grades and test scores tremendously impact the recruiting process. Without question, we look for student-athletes, not just athletes. Everyone who comes here should be a serious student who wants an education. AttitudeCompetitiveness is one characteristic that can’t be compromised. We want players with a very strong will; players who are strong mental competitors; players who don’t give up, but instead compete and fight throughout the game. We want players who don’t let external controversy or adversity affect them.
A terrible attitude on the field—someone who gives up in a game, who doesn’t have the drive, who complains about the officiating, who lets external things affect him—is definitely the first turnoff.
Selfish players don’t succeed in soccer, because soccer is too much of a team sport. And I’m not talking about individuality. Individuality is good if it works within the team’s framework. But selfish players are detrimental to the team. And they aren’t fun to coach, either. We want to enjoy our experience, not deal with someone who detracts from it.
Take the initiative to market yourself to a broad range of schools as soon as you can. Have a top-end school as a dream school, three others that are more realistic and then one or two back-up schools. But don’t call them that, because no one wants to hear they are a back-up. Select schools in your geographic area or ones your club or high school coach recommends. Consider the academic and social settings of all your choices, and pick schools you would attend even if you weren’t going to play soccer. Finally, note how much attention each school gives you. That can help you determine your chances of playing.