This week at the Hub we will begin to analyze the results of our survey of D3 head coaches (see Survey Results) and explain how this impacts soccer players and parents looking to play soccer at the D3 level. From a statistical perspective, most of these responses came from head coaches in states in the Mid West and on the East Coast (85.6%) with the majority (62.9%) coaching Women’s teams. However, I think that you will find that the challenges that D3 programs face across the country are well represented in this survey.
First and foremost, it is always good to talk to the person in charge. And at D3 schools, the head coach is most likely the person who oversees the recruiting program; for 79.7% of our responses that was the case. You may meet with and speak to an assistant coach or a graduate assistant about what their needs are for next year or how many players they are looking to bring in, but the person that really is in charge (nearly 8 out of 10 times) is the head coach. The head coach is deciding what events to attend, which players to follow up with, and making a list of the top players for each class. While it is great to talk with the assistant coach to learn about the program, the head coach is the person you really want meet with and speak to. And when you do, you need to be asking lots of questions. (If you need questions to ask, see the 2/3/11 post The More You Know… for lots of questions to ask.)
Those questions are to help you determine where you stand in that coach’s mind. First, have you seen me play? Does s/he think you are good enough to make the team? Does s/he think you could be a starter? Again, you are looking for honesty here and the truth might not be the answer you had wanted to hear. A coach may tell you that you are too slow, your fitness needs to get better, technically you need to improve and so on. However it is better to know that up front rather than the first day of preseason. The reality may be that the head coach and none of the rest of the coaching staff, have seen you play, so they really don’t know where you rank among their incoming class.
This brings us to our next important point. From our survey, 71.1% of responders attended 5 or more high school soccer games per year (41.1% went to 10 or more) and 75.2% attended 5 or more college showcases per year (23.7% went to 10 or more). Coaches are attending a lot of events, with nearly three-quarters going to 10 or more high school games/college showcases combined. For a college showcase a coach can be driving anywhere from one hour to six hours, staying overnight in a hotel, and spending their entire Saturday and Sunday (8 AM to 6 PM) at the showcase. And they may be doing this ten times or more per year; plus there are often multiple showcases now scheduled on the same weekend so you may start at one on Saturday and drive to another on Sunday. High school games are usually closer and not as much of a time drain (but the drawback there is usually there are fewer players to see than a college showcase).
The point is that watching/scouting players takes a great deal of time. Fortunately from our survey, the vast majority of head coaches (80.0%) have help in attending these events from assistant coaches, volunteer coaches, graduate assistants or alumni. But keep in mind 1 out of 5 do not have any help and are doing it all themselves. So don’t be surprised when you contact a coach inviting them to watch you play and they don’t make it— there simply isn’t enough time.
For example, I have two tournaments to attend this Friday and Saturday (which is why this week’s post is coming out Thursday instead of the usual Friday). One is a recruiting tourney for players for my university and the other is for the U17 boys team that I coach- and they are playing at different venues in different states. My list of recruits to watch for this tournament is 27 players. Based on the U17 boys schedule, I have a time window on Friday from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM to try and see as many of the recruits as I can (Saturday is out of the question based on the U17 boys schedule and both of my assistant coaches are unavailable for the recruiting tournament). Doing the math, that comes down to trying to evaluate each player in less than 9 minutes or being selective and seeing fewer players for longer. My choice is the latter.
The reality is that I will not get to see all of the players that contacted me for this tourney. Does that impact the players— no doubt! But it is the reality of the situation— it is a constant juggling act to try to get head coaches or assistant coaches out to see players. Often times we cannot and so we need to rely on other sources for information.
The bottom line is this—D3 programs have very limited resources in terms of time, people and, of course, money. Most of the head coaches that are overseeing the recruiting are trying to manage all these limited resources as efficiently and effectively as possible to maximize their return on investment.
Happy Easter and Happy Passover to all.