October 19, 2015 - As the Director of College Programming for Next Gen USA, a former Division 1 college coach for both men's and women's teams in the Ivy League, a recruiting consultant to many families and the parent of an 11th grade soccer player, I find myself uniquely immersed in the world of college prep and recruiting.
While I am asked many questions about the recruiting process, scholarships, contacting coaches, making videos and recruiting services as well as please for direction, there are few easy answers and the journey to college athletics is rarely linear.
However, there are some hard and fast, consistent truths that can serve ALL high school student-athletes and their parents. And as the title says: in college soccer recruiting, three things matter: ability, academics and character. Now let's look closer to see what is really the most important factor.
No great secret revealed in that simple list. 1-Coaches want to win and are ultimately judged by their record, so your ability to contribute is the first hurdle in the process. 2-Every coach needs to know you can be admitted to their school and are capable of doing the required academic work. 3-All coaches want committed players accountable to the goals of the team and program.
So, it seems like focusing most of your energy on your sport and studies are paramount for all student-athletes aspiring to play in college. You can hope that your personality will emerge as coaches get to know you during the process.
However, although it is at the end of the list, the greatest factor of these is character.
Character will be revealed in your play: how you win and lose, deal with setbacks or injury; how you treat teammates, officials, opponents; how you train, prepare, walk off the field and what you do when no one is watching.
Character is revealed in your academic narrative. Are you the relentless striver achieving top grades and test scores? The hard working and accountable solid student that never gets below a B? Or are you the inspired student that struggled early in high school but is committed and determined to move forward in an ascent to better and better grades?
Character is revealed in your interaction with college coaches. Do you communicate with them or do your parents? Are you honest and straight forward about your intentions? Can you articulate your unique character strengths on and off the field?
If you are absolutely focused on playing in college, you will eagerly be competing and training as hard as you can and at the highest levels available to you. Likewise, you will be expected to be responsible and committed to your school work if impressing college coaches and admissions officers is your goal.
Clearly, I would not tell you to neglect the first two items on the list; instead, I would remind you that working on your singular character strengths and applying them to the athletic and academic arenas will do more than any other single factor to make you the most desirable possible candidate to college coaches.