If there is any common or recurring theme that you will see in this space it is certainly going to be one of honesty and trust. This is especially true when trying to build relationships with college coaches. In today’s post we will discuss how club coaches can build those relationships with college coaches.
First, why do you want to build that relationship? Depending on your program and players you may not want to do this; you may want to seek out D1 and D2 coaches. If that is the case, read no further, have a good weekend, and wait for next week’s post.
For those that do, the benefits are simple. The college recruiting process is difficult at D3 and if you have relationships with college coaches it will help make that process go more smoothly for your players and families. Second, D3 recruiting is more unique that D1 or D2 in that it is about finding the right match between student, school and soccer program. This will depend on things like majors, programs, location (urban, suburban, rural), cost, campus environment and competitiveness of the soccer program to name a few. If you have relationships with D3 coaches, you can steer your players toward schools where you think they will match up well and be successful.
Again the main theme here is honesty from club coaches, and D3 college coaches having trust in you, particularly in your ability to evaluate your players. That is by far the most important quality. Let me give you an example. If you tell me you have the best defender you ever coached and you want me to come see him play, and when I get there all that he does is hit toe balls 30 or 40 yards out of the defensive end of the field to no one in particular… I am going to question your ability to judge players.
You need to be able to judge, evaluate, and compare your players on both a relative scale and an absolute scale. For example you may have a girl that is the fastest or most fit player on YOUR team (relative scale), but how does that player compare to all other D3 recruits (absolute scale)? Of course, you can’t know the abilities of ALL other D3 recruits, but you have to have an idea of the level of play at the D3 level.
On the East Coast, there are many college coaches that also coach club teams at the high school level. Personally, I have developed relationships with some of those college/club coaches as there are players on their club teams that I recruit. Since I know that they are coaching at a collegiate level and they know the demands of the game (on the field and off the field), I feel 100% confident in their evaluations of players- I can trust their opinions.
Most club coaches are not coaching college soccer, so how does a club coach build that relationship and level of trust with D3 coaches to help your players get recruited by them? You have to establish yourself as a credible resource.
There are many ways that this can take place. First, it is good to have experience playing college soccer, that way you have a better grasp of playing the game at that level. If you don’t have that experience, go and watch some D3 college games. Observe the level of play and try and project your players into that game. Ask yourself— can they play at that level?
It also helps to watch other club teams that have players committed to D1, D2, and even D3 schools; you can see their level of play and compare them to your players. Basically you need to understand what it takes to be a player at each level. A good source is the NCSA website which has recruiting guidelines for each level. Check it out at http://www.ncsasports.org/recruiting-tools/College-Soccer-Recruiting/soccer-recruiting-guidelines.
It is very important that you check your emotional baggage at the door when you are giving evaluations of your players to D3 coaches. Don’t get me wrong, you are going to love the players you coach (at least I hope so), but you need to be able to evaluate them critically and impartially because I as a D3 coach need unbiased opinions. If you give reviews that are colored by your emotions, I am going to have a tough time believing any of your future player evaluations. (Just as a precaution, be careful with your parents when giving anything but a stellar reference for their son or daughter—some parents can take offense when they find out that little Suzy or Johnny is not perfect.)
Coaching education is always a good idea. Both the NSCAA (http://www.nscaa.com) and the USSF (http://www.ussoccer.com) offer different levels to help you improve your own qualifications as well build a wider network of fellow coaches. And lastly, take the initiative. Find out what schools your players are interested in and contact those coaches on their behalf. We don’t want it to be a one-way street.
The bottom line is this—building any type of relationship always takes a lot of time and effort. (Husbands just ask your wives.) But once you establish a strong, trusting relationship, there will be many rewards from it. For your players and you as a coach.