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Soccer Poet

17 Tips on Scholarships

17 Tips on Scholarships

So the girl and her parents had flown a long way to get to us. She was a late recruit – one of those kids that managed to fly under the radar. I’d stumbled upon her down in Texas and was crazy about her. We offered her a 50% scholarship over the phone. It was a very fair offer, but she hadn’t committed to it. I was expecting that there’d be some haggling during her visit. They would ask for more and I’d tell them we didn’t have any more. Then they’d have to decide on whether or not they wanted to play hardball. That’s just how it goes.

Now here we all sat in the soccer office lobby, shaking hands, smiling, laughing and chatting in a good-to-know-you, welcome to Georgia kinda way. I knew they had intended to visit family in Atlanta at some point (One thing coaching at Georgia taught me was that everyone has family in Atlanta.), so I casually asked the girl, “So what are your plans?” It was just small talk. I was merely inquiring about the family’s travel itinerary. Then she blurted out, “Well I think we’ll just walk around campus and if I like it, I’m ready to commit.”


Do you remember the look on Tom Cruise’s face when Jack Nicholson confesses to ordering the Code Red? That was me. Did that just happen? Her father, on the other hand, well his expression was more like a defeated Al Bundy. He let out an audible gasp then tilted his head back as if to ask the Lord, “Why me?” Then he bowed his head and rubbed his temples. We both knew what had just happened. His daughter had showed me their cards. There’d be no negotiating.

I almost laughed… not in a gloating way… but just because her father’s reaction was so genuinely funny. When your livelihood depends on teenagers, you learn to appreciate these moments.

No two recruiting experiences are ever the same, and from my side of the fence, few went as smoothly as that one. The player loved her visit and committed to us that afternoon. That experience was more the exception than the rule.

For years people have asked me to write a blog on recruiting tips, so this is me obliging. Before I begin, let’s settle on some ground rules. First, these are generalities and cannot be universally applied. The recruiting process cannot be painted with one big, fat brush. As you read through this, you’ll notice some built-in contradictions. That’s because there is no magic bullet. Everything happens on a case by case basis that varies according to each player going through the process and each school she considers during that process. Secondly, this is not an exhaustive list because that would be impossible. Again, everything is on a case by case basis. Thirdly, this won’t be a list about how to get seen, approach coaches or anything to do with the early stages of recruiting. If that’s what you’re looking for, read Soccer iQ and skip to the Recruiting chapter. Fourth, this focuses on scholarship opportunities, and that leaves out a whole bunch of really great schools. Fifth, I’ve only recruited on the women’s side, so I have no idea how things work for the other gender. Sixth, I’m not factoring any other types of financial aid into these guidelines. For example, in-state aid can add up to big bucks, but that’s not factored in here. Finally, some coaches will flat out disagree with me on some points. That’s fine. But if my daughter were going through the process, here’s some of insider info I’d be glad to know.

Club coaches are the overlords of recruiting
By now you probably know that recruiting for women’s soccer has gotten very young. Coaches, particularly ones at the big schools, are looking at and making offers to high school sophomores and freshman. Crazy, right? Well, to save these kids from a phone that never stops ringing, the NCAA has put in place rules that prohibit college coaches from contacting them directly. So how does a college coach let a high school sophomore know he’s really interested? Well, he needs an intermediary. Enter the club coach.

Club coaches have an absurd amount of power because they are the gatekeepers. If a college coach wants to recruit Kelly, he tells Kelly’s club coach. Then it’s up to that club coach to decide whether or not Kelly gets that message. Hopefully he tells Kelly that XYZ University is really interested and that she should give the coach a call (these young recruits can call the college coaches, just not the other way around).

The role of club coach has evolved into something much more than just coaching soccer, particularly at the high-profile clubs. Club coaches are no longer judged solely on player development and wins and losses; now they’re judged by their college placements and scholarship history. Now these coaches spend half their lives on the phone with college coaches who are looking to pick the fruit from their trees. The more quality players a club has, the more time its coach spends on the phone. It’s a tremendous responsibility to shoulder and I don’t envy their workload one bit.

Because he knows his players much better than we do, college coaches depend greatly on the club coach’s insights. When six kids from the same club team are emailing us, the club coach can help us separate the wheat from the chaff. He can tell us who is a great leader, and who has poor training habits. He can tell us who is dedicated to soccer, and who is more interested in the next party. Keep that in mind when you go to training sessions.

Almost every club coach I’ve worked with has been excellent serving as a bridge between recruit and college coach. Almost. For a myriad of reasons, sometimes the message never makes it through. Sometimes it’s just because life gets in the way. And sometimes it’s more personal than that. Occasionally a club coach will want to steer a certain player to his buddy at a certain school; sometimes he’ll want to steer a player away from a certain school. Early recruiting has given him the power to do both of these things. If a club coach starts deciding what messages you do and don’t receive, even if he thinks he’s acting in your best interest, he’s costing you opportunities.

Here’s an example: You’re being recruited by some high profile schools on the west coast when a mid-major from Nashville decides to jump in the game. Your club coach thinks the level of that program is beneath you so, to save you the hassle of one more thing to do, he never passes along the message. What he didn’t know is that your favorite aunt lives in Nashville and that you would love the chance to go to a college near her. The coach thought he was acting in your best interest, but in the end, it cost you a really great opportunity.

With all this in mind, it behooves you to have a strong relationship with your club coach. His role as go-between is critical as you go through this process, so you need him on your side. Additionally, let your club coach know that regardless of who reaches out to you, you want to know about it. Or, if you have absolute faith in his judgment, set out some parameters that give him the freedom to act as a filter on your behalf.

Is the school recruiting you, or are you recruiting the school?
This is where a lot of families lose the plot before the movie ever begins. This is the first thing you need to figure out because it’s the crux of any negotiating power you might have. And as you search for this answer, you need to be very honest with yourself. If a coach responds to your email, that doesn’t automatically mean he’s recruiting you. The same holds true if you receive an invitation to a summer camp or an ID camp or if he answers your phone call. Too often a player will chase her dream school and all the while tell herself that the school is chasing her.

The more a coach wants you, the more valuable you are to his program, and that can translate into scholarship dollars. When a coach sees you as a scholarship candidate, you’ll know. You’ll know because you’ll be a priority and he’ll make sure you know that. If you’re unsure about where you stand, get your club coach involved. Have him ask where you stand on the recruiting ladder. College coaches can be more forthcoming when speaking to an intermediary.

Let me give you an even better reason to find an honest answer to this question: It’s likely going to correlate to the amount of playing time you’re going to see. Coaches recruit players who can help them win. That’s it. If a coach isn’t actively pursuing you, he doesn’t feel you fall into that category, and that’s a pretty good indicator of your playing-time prospects. That might be a tough pill to swallow, but that’s just how the world spins. I always advise players to ask themselves, “Do you want to be on a college soccer team, or do you actually want to play college soccer.” Just because you love a school, that doesn’t mean you’re entitled to play for its soccer team. You’re better off being honest with yourself and finding a school where you’ll get to play college soccer.

Don’t worry about keeping up with the Joneses
Turns out, the Joneses lie. Don’t panic just because eight of your club teammates are talking about all the schools that are recruiting them. Just because you don’t misinterpret the signals, it doesn’t mean they won’t. Additionally, when someone tells you about the huge scholarship offer his daughter just got from Notre Dame, don’t take the bait. Egos run wild during the recruiting process. Why? Because parents have burned through their retirement funds shuttling their children to tournaments across the U.S. and they need everyone to see that it was all worthwhile. It’s not uncommon for parents to inflate a scholarship offer whenever the opportunity presents itself. There have been multiple occasions when I offered a player a book scholarship (or no scholarship) only to hear through the grapevine a week later that we’d offered her a full ride. No joke.

Let’s set the record straight: Only a tiny percentage of college freshmen receive a full athletic scholarship. If you don’t believe me, do the math. A fully-funded Division I program has 14 scholarships. That’s not 14 per year; it’s 14 total. Fourteen scholarships to disperse as the coach sees fit throughout the whole of the team. Rarely do you find a Division I roster with fewer than 20 players on it (most coaches try to carry at least 24 – enough for a full-field scrimmage, with a two-person buffer for injuries) and the big schools typically have rosters of 30 or so, give or take. On none of those teams will you find 14 players on full-rides while everyone else is a walk-on. Those 14 scholarships can get sliced up pretty darn thin when it’s all said and done.

You’ve got to take the water cooler chatter with a grain of salt. Don’t worry about what your teammates are doing. Don’t let them panic you into a rash choice. Stay calm, focus on yourself and find the school that’s the best fit for you.

Be great on your visit
Your campus visit may be the first opportunity a coach has to actually get to know you. And while he’s getting to know you, he’s evaluating you as a person. He’s deciding if you’ll be good or bad for team chemistry. He’s deciding if you’ll be good or bad in the classroom and whether or not you’ll be a social liability. Whatever figure he had in mind before you showed up can change dramatically (or disappear entirely) without you ever knowing. You’ve put yourself in a great position by getting this far; don’t blow it by being a punk. Show your best self and demonstrate why that coach would love to adopt you for four years.

Be Honest…
You’re going to be asked a lot of questions as you go through the process. Don’t lie. It’ll come back to bite you. And once you’re outted, it’s over for you at that school. So always be honest…

… but not transparent
This is where the girl in the opening story went off the beam. Keep in mind that if a coach can get a player for 50%, he doesn’t want to spend 51%. Information is power, and coaches are going to want you to hand over as much of it as possible. You don’t have to answer every question a coach asks you. You can politely decline by saying, “I don’t feel comfortable answering that question.”

You’re going to be asked about the other schools you’re looking at, where you’ve visited, and if anyone has made you an offer.” You may as well answer the first two because it’s pretty easy for a coach to dig up that information anyway, plus it adds to the mystique of your value. You want the coach to know that other schools have an interest in you. As for the third question, you may be better off being a little vague, as in, “Yes, I’ve received a couple of offers.” The follow-up question may be, “Oh… so what did they offer you?” This is where you can politely decline to answer or again, go vague with something like, “I’ve actually gotten a couple of different offers” or “I’ve gotten two very generous offers.” The college coach can find out a lot of things, but he can’t always find out what type of offers you’re sitting on unless your club coach spills the beans. If multiple schools are hot and heavy for you, this is the information you want to keep private until it’s time to play your hand. Often times the scholarship offer is made when you take your visit. Up until that point the coach is thinking, ‘What’s it gonna take to get this kid?’ If you’re truly a priority, he doesn’t want to gamble, so he’ll probably leave a little margin for error and guess higher rather than lower. That’s good news for you.

Also, play it cool. When it comes to scholarship offers, recruiting is a dance. Don’t go flying onto the floor begging for marriage. For example, you can be positive and enthusiastic without saying, “You’re my #1 school. I’ve always dreamed of going here and playing soccer for you and being a part of your business program. My parents went here and their parents went here and this is where I want to go!” Even if all that is true, the coach doesn’t need to know that until the offer’s been made and accepted. The more you value the school, the less the coach may be inclined to offer. Keep your cards close to your vest.

Know what you need before you get an offer
If a school is pursuing you to take an unofficial visit, particularly one that’s out of your region, there’s a reasonable chance that when you take that visit, you’ll receive a scholarship offer. I was always impressed by the families who had the bottom line figured out before they sat down for the big meeting. It helped them take the emotion of their decision. Chances are you’re not getting a full ride, so know how big of a hit your budget can take before you get to campus. If the offer exceeds your needs, fantastic! If it doesn’t meet your needs, you can counter by laying out some figures and explaining to the coach the financial needs of your family. Sometimes the coach’s budget doesn’t have any wiggle room, but sometimes it does. If the offer isn’t what you need, you can explain exactly what it is that you do need. The coach may decide to get you there. Then again, he might not. If he can’t or he won’t, you’ll know to walk away from the offer.

Be prepared to answer a deadline
If you visit a school expecting an offer, you should expect that offer to come with a deadline. Not all coaches insist on a deadline, but many do. The problem is, you don’t know what any given coach is going to do on any given day. Often times that deadline is 2-3 weeks, but sometimes it’s less. And sometimes it’s immediate. This is another great reason to know exactly where your financial floor is. You need to know what you’re going to say if the coach says, “I’m going to offer you a full tuition scholarship; you’ll be responsible for room and board, books and fees. I need an answer before you leave this office.” This isn’t the type of math problem you want to try solving on the fly.

Visit a Rival
Ready to play a little poker?

If you’re flying across the country to visit a college, it makes good financial sense to see more than one school. It’ll save you from buying another plane ticket three weeks later. More importantly, it puts two coaches in a position to compete for you.

It’s one thing to lose a player because your offer was too small. Losing her to your rival, well, that’s another matter all together. There’s a difference between not having you on our roster and having to play against you for the next four years.

As much as coaches want to stay analytical about their spending, they’re still human and emotion can still creep into the equation. That’s good news for you. We hated when a player we were recruiting flew across the country to visit us and South Carolina, or us and Auburn. It sparked a greater sense of urgency to not come in too low with the offer.

This piece of advice is more applicable for the player who is visiting an out-of-region school. It already happens more or less by default for the local players. All the regional colleges know who the best local players are, and those players are going to visit several of those schools anyway, so that just comes with the territory. It’s an entirely different matter when you’ve convinced a player to fly across the country to take a look at you. That’s a player who’ll give you heartburn if she turns up at your rival.

If you’re going to employ this strategy, there are a lot of different ways you can approach it and there are a ton of possible outcomes. My advice is to visit the school you favor first. The two-visit weekend is a double-edged sword because it may generate a bigger offer, but it may also induce an immediate deadline. You want your first choice school to be the one that puts you in that position. Let me put it another way…

School A is your dream school but you decide to visit School B first, and School B exceeds your expectations and you think, ‘Yeah, I really like it here. I think I can be happy here for four years.’ School B makes you a great offer with an immediate deadline. “We’re gonna offer you a full ride, but only if you commit to us right this second.” If you accept, you have to cancel your visit to School A. How would you feel about accepting that offer having never gotten to visit your dream school?

Does the scenario I described happen all the time? Nope. It’s actually pretty rare. Does it happen ever? Yep. It all depends on how much the coach values you and how much money he has in the budget and his personal philosophy on recruiting. Most times the coach in this position will make you an offer without asking for an immediate answer, but there are definitely some moments when a coach will play big-time hardball.

However it plays out, make sure the coach at the first school knows you’re looking forward to seeing the second school; and if and when you get to the second school and that coach asks how you enjoyed your visit to the first school, let him know it was fantastic and that you really loved the coaching staff!

By the way, this whole concept only matters if the schools are genuinely interested in recruiting you. You have to be a serious priority for at least one of the schools. For you to have hand, you need to be valued.

What if there’s no deadline?
Some coaches won’t attach any deadline to a scholarship. They don’t want you to feel pressured and that’s good news for you. It gives you the opportunity to carefully consider your decision. It also lets you use that offer as a bargaining tool as you visit other schools. And sometimes… well sometimes there’s this thing I’ll call a floating deadline. For example…

Let’s say you’re a goalkeeper and I’ve just offered you a 50% scholarship with no deadline. However, I also tell you that I made this same offer to two other goalkeepers and if one of them accepts it, I’ve got to pull your offer. Then it’s a matter of first come, first serve. At that point, you’ve just got to use your best judgment. I’ve seen some heartbroken players who spent too much time hemming and hawing and trying to keep all of their options open until a floating scholarship offer got gobbled up by another player.

If the coach doesn’t give you a deadline, I recommend giving yourself one. Three weeks ought to do it. If you’re still in love with that school after three weeks has passed, then what are you waiting for? Sometimes the bird in the hand really is worth a lot more than the two in the bush.

Pushing back the deadline
Once an offer is on the table, the best tool a coach has at his disposal is urgency. That’s why coaches use deadlines. The scholarship is the carrot; the deadline is the stick. When we give you an offer, we want you to say yes, and the sooner the better. We don’t want you walking around with our scholarship offer in your pocket while you visit three other schools. Our only alternative to preventing that is a deadline.

Another reason coaches issue deadlines is for self-preservation. We all know that there’s a very real possibility that your answer is going to be, “Thanks but no thanks.” Every day you spend sitting on a scholarship offer is another day we can’t offer that money to another player. That turns one problem into a bigger one.

When it comes to deadlines, my advice is to tactfully take the initiative. Early in your visit, let it be known that you’ll be making your decision after your visit to such-and-such a school or on such-and-such a date. Outlining your plan like this establishes you as the one dictating the timetable and implies you won’t be backed into a deadline. This may cause a coach to rethink any hard deadline he had in mind for you. Then again, it might not. It all depends on the coach and the day. Like I said, everything is on a case by case basis and is most directly impacted by your talent and the coach’s needs. The greater your talent, the greater the coach’s need.

Coaches overbook the plane
You probably know that if an airplane has 200 seats available, the airline may sell 275 tickets for that flight. Why? Because they know that not every traveler will actually board the flight. A number of coaches take the same approach with scholarships.

Recruiting in women’s college soccer has gotten so young it’s flat out silly. Offers are routinely made to high school sophomores. If a coach offers a scholarship to a player in 10th grade, that means he has to calculate that offer into the next seven years of his budget. A lot can happen in seven years, and plenty of that will happen before that high school sophomore ever becomes a college freshman. Because the standard coaching kit doesn’t include a crystal ball, coaches have to take some calculated risks with their scholarship budgets. Let’s do a hypothetical using full scholarships to simplify the math…

You’re a college coach with a chance to commit two big-time sophomores that will make a huge impact on your program. These kids are legitimate superstars – national team kids – who can take you to the College Cup. To get them, you’ll need to offer both a full ride. The problem is that you only have one full ride left in your budget for their freshman year. What do you do?

What a coach would do in this situation depends entirely on the coach. Some coaches are like Quakers when it comes to their budget projections. Others aren’t so squeamish about taking a gamble. In this situation, plenty of coaches would offer up two full rides and cross their fingers that some money opens up.

Some coaches regularly overbook their airplanes by offering out more scholarship money than they actually have in a budget that’s two or three years down the road. They have to, because not everyone is going to board the flight. When the tenth grader finally gets to the airplane, the passenger manifest will have changed. Things happen. Life happens. We all know we’re going to lose some players, we just don’t know who or when. Recruits decommit. Players transfer or quit soccer or quit school or sustain career-ending injuries. It happens every year. Every time a scholarship player leaves, money opens up. But since the coach doesn’t know who’s going to leave, he doesn’t know how much money is going to become available. Complicating this from the other end is the scholarship player who gets injured and takes a medical redshirt year. Now money the coach was expecting to become available gets tied up for another year.

There’s no way to predict what’ll happen a few years from now, so the bottom line is that coaches gamble. How much a coach is willing to gamble varies from one coach to the next, but eventually each coach reaches the point where he’s got to shut down the ATM. The reason I tell you this is because when a coach says he’s out of money, he may very well be telling you the truth. He may not only be out of money, he may be overspent by two scholarships. Some parents refuse to believe that the scholarship well ever runs dry, but believe me, it does.

By that same token, when a coach says he’s out of money, he may not actually be out of money, just out of money for you. For example, let’s say you’re a defender and the coach tells you he’s out of money. Then two months later you learn he just committed a different player to a full ride. It happens, usually because a coach has held a scholarship back, not for a certain player, but for a certain position. In your case, he was holding money back for an attacking player. It’s also not uncommon for a coach to hold back a scholarship with hopes of finding a transfer or an international player. And of course there’s the distinct possibility that someone has changed their plans since your visit and money suddenly became available. It happens. All of it.

If you’re planning an unofficial visit to a school – particularly one that’s a few area codes away – try to find out if you’re going to be getting an offer before you buy your plane tickets. Ask your club coach to talk to the college coach. He’ll call the college coach and say, “Kelly likes your school and is thinking about a visit, but money’s real tight for her family right now. If she comes to visit, do you plan on making her a scholarship offer?” The implied message is that if the coach isn’t going to make an offer, you won’t be making the trip.

If the coach says ‘yes,’ then you’re in business. If he says he doesn’t have any money right now, at least you’re not out a thousand dollars in air fare and rental cars. Either way it’s good information to have.

Can she get money (or more money) down the road?
This is a pretty common question from prospects who are invited into the team but are offered little or no scholarship money.

The parents know that this school is their daughter’s number one pick and they were hoping to get a generous scholarship offer, now they’re sitting across from the coach’s desk, scrambling to calculate if it’s financially feasible. So they ask if it’s possible for Kelly to get money somewhere down the road.

I always hated this question because it implied that a family might tie its horse to an imaginary cart and I didn’t want to be the one holding the hitch. The simple (and honest) answer is yes, it is possible. It’s possible the same way that moon landings are possible. It does happen, but it’s not something to pin your financial future on. Very few walk-ons ever evolve into players with significant scholarships. Remember, coaches are already overbooking their airplanes and have money committed to players who haven’t even found a junior prom date. Turning a walk-on into a scholarship player isn’t factored into that budget.

So many players ‘just want a chance.’ They’re convinced that if they get their shot, they’ll prove their worth and parlay that into scholarship money. But when it comes to evaluating their own talent level, so many of those players (and their parents) just don’t live in reality. Neither you, your parents/friends/other coaches are reliable evaluators of how you’ll fit in at any given college soccer program. Only the college coach gets to evaluate your talent level, and the painful truth is that if you aren’t viewed as a scholarship recruit, then you aren’t a priority in the coach’s plans. That means you’ll have your work cut out for you just to get on the field, let alone stay on it long enough to make an impact worthy of a financial commitment.

Unless the coach explicitly says something like, “We don’t have any money for you as a freshman, but we’ll have some money freed up for you as a sophomore,” just assume that there won’t ever be money for you. You’re better off preparing for the worst.

Coaches do their research.
The question “How much do we offer her?” gets bandied about pretty frantically when a top prospect is coming to visit. It’s quickly followed by “How much does she need?”

Part of that speculation is calculating your worth as a player, and part of it is just calculating your family’s net worth. Ever heard of Google Earth? If we’re thinking about offering you a scholarship, we’re taking a look at your house from the sky and checking out your ten-acre estate with the in-ground swimming pool. We’ve talked to your club coach and maybe your high school coach and we’ve asked about your financial situation so we usually have a pretty good idea of your need before we ever talk to you.

Don’t overplay your hand
I’ve seen a parent or two lose their kid’s scholarship offer. It’s typically the parent with an over-sized ego and an inflated misconception of his daughter’s value as a soccer player. We offer the kid room and board because that’s all we have left to offer. The father – a successful businessman who fancies himself as quite the negotiator – thinks we’re bluffing. He’s built his fortune negotiating million dollar mergers so a soccer coach is gonna be a piece of cake. He’s called three more times since the visit, always trying to squeeze more from our offer. We mention something about getting blood from a stone. So he says that Kelly has two more visits to make and then she’ll decide. His tone implies that this is a threat – that we may lose her. Kelly takes another visit and then the dad is back on the phone telling us that University X offered her a full ride and what do we think about that.

Well that’s great but we’re out of money so we can’t match it.

Yeah, you can at least throw in tuition, right?

No we can’t. We are out of money.

Look, you guys are gonna have to do better than that. Let’s work to get to a number that we can agree on.

We don’t have any other numbers. We are out of money.

Kelly really wants to come to you guys but if you can’t cover tuition, she’s just gonna have to go to University X.

Well tell her congratulations on her choice. We’ll consider her offer rescinded. Bye.

Yes, once every blue moon, this actually happens. You’ve gone through the negotiating and you have your offer. Your choice is to accept it or decline it. Don’t hardball it right off the table unless you have a really good back-up plan.

Women’s soccer coaches don’t do a lot of bluffing. We can’t because there just isn’t enough top tier talent out there. Coaches are more likely to overpay than underpay when making an offer because we don’t want to lose a player who can legitimately help us. As much as we’d like to conserve scholarship dollars, supply hasn’t caught up with demand so there’s not a lot of low-balling going around.

From dating to married
When a school is recruiting you, you’re dating. That means you get to see other people without any serious ramifications. The moment you verbally commit – Congratulations! – you’re married. That means you stop seeing other people. Completely. You can call or email the other schools to let them know you’re off the market, but that’s it. After that, you’re in a mutually exclusive relationship. No more recruiting calls, no more visits. Period.

Every once in a while some parent will try to outsmart the system and continue shopping around her daughter because the school she committed to will never find out. Well, I got some news for you: there is, in fact, some honor among thieves. Even though we compete against one another, we’ve also been known to help one another. School A will call School B and ask for a favor. School B will grant the favor because the coach knows that somewhere down the line, the roles are going to be reversed and it’ll be School B that needs the favor. The simplest example I can think of is how we all trade scouting reports each week. We may be competitors, but we also have to co-exist. And not for nothin’, but a lot of coaches are actually very good friends.

Additionally, there’s this code amongst women’s soccer coaches that says when a player verbally commits to a university, everyone else has to back off. And we’re pretty good about obeying that code. A coach who breaks the code is labeled as a cheater. And no one wants to be dragged into a bad reputation by some whacko mom who’s trying to game the system.

Here’s a situation we encountered a few years back: We picked up a sophomore we were really happy about. We offered a full ride and she accepted and all seemed right with the world. But her mom thought she would keep playing the game to see what else was out there for her daughter, so about a week later she reached out to another university saying that her daughter was interested in that school. That coach said that he heard the girl had already committed to us and therefore he couldn’t talk to her. The moment he got off the phone with her, he called to tell us what was going on. We pulled the offer.

Part of the recruiting process is deciding whether or not we want to deal with you (and your parents) for four years. Stunts like this make that decision really easy. Don’t underestimate the coaching network. It’s not as cutthroat as you might imagine.

The Fit
My final piece of advice: Find the school that’s the best fit for you – academically, socially, financially, and of course, athletically. That’s ultimately the objective. Don’t let pride or fanaticism lead you into a choice that you’ll regret for the next four years and beyond. When it comes to soccer, the one thing that 24 years of college coaching has taught me is that you’re going to be much happier playing college soccer than watching it. Game days are no fun when you don’t get on the field. You’ve dedicated your life to becoming a great soccer player. If you genuinely love the game – if soccer is truly your passion – go to a school where you’ll have a realistic chance to play. You’ll be thankful you did.

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