It is tournament time again and I am not talking about March Madness, but soccer recruiting tournaments. With all of those coaches with their profile books and folding chairs, what are they thinking as they watch players from the sidelines? This week’s post begins a multi-part discussion on what an NCAA Division III soccer coach (at least this coach) looks for when watching players at college showcases and tournaments.
The first set of characteristics are your physical traits. These are the easiest for a coach to see. Are you tall or short? Like with most sports, tall is always good- everyone likes size- especially for goalkeepers. It is generally easier for Peter Crouch to win a header over Spud Webb, so having height is good. If you are a goalkeeper and you are over six feet tall (men) or five foot eight inches (women), that is a good start. For women, you have to be able to touch the crossbar to get any high shots; if you can’t, that presents a problem.
In conjunction with that, the next thing to look for is your physical build. Thin, medium or heavy build? Soccer is a game of mobility and fitness. You have to be agile, able to move quickly, and have a high level of fitness in order to be successful. Our first practice in preseason is a timed two mile run. When I look at a player’s build, I think to myself will that player be able to complete that two mile run in the required time?
The next very important aspect is your speed and quickness. Speed is in terms of pure speed- how quickly do you get from point A to point B without the ball; how fast are you. Are you outrunning other people on the field or vice versa? The other aspect is quickness. Quickness is for short distances- how fast are you in those first 3-5 yards? Sometimes that makes the difference in winning a 50-50 ball. You don’t have to have speed to be quick.
Next is strength or power. If you are a forward, can you strike a ball with power on goal or do you float your shots in on goal? As a midfielder, can you change the point of attack and play the ball in the air from one side of the field to the other? As a defender, can you clear a ball from danger inside your own penalty area and get it out to midfield? For goalkeepers, how far are your punts and goal kicks traveling in the air?
Lastly is general overall athleticism. How well do you move? How well do you change direction? How well do you tackle? Do you easily get knocked off the ball? Can you use both feet?
The bottom line is this—do you have the physical tools to play soccer at the next level? Do you look like you could play soccer at a D3 college? Physical traits, however, are only one part of the mix. If you look at Diego Maradona (too short) or the original Ronaldo (from Brazil- stocky, overweight), you would not imagine them as great soccer stars. Despite their physical traits, they could still play the game, so that is not the only thing that we look for in a player. More to come next week.
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