It was another pre-summer weekend and D3 college coaches across the country (including myself) were hitting the recruiting trail to catch players at tournaments. In Southeastern Pennsylvania, there were three different tourneys going on plus NCS state cup games and a Region 1 competiton. With situations like this, which events do coaches choose to attend?
One of the great tools that I use is www.GotSoccer.com. As a college coach, I can register for events as well as track specific players on teams—all for FREE. If a player that I am tracking is playing in a tournament, it shows up in my GotSoccer calendar. I can see how many players I have playing at a given tournament on a given weekend. It shows State Cup competitions as well.
Now what does this mean in terms of our original question—if I have two tournaments that I was planning on attending, and I look at my GotSoccer calendar and there are only 5 players at the first and 10 players at the second, I am going to the second tourney with all other things being equal. Of course, all things are never equal so there are other factors that have to be considered.
First, what is the quality of the teams that are attending the tourney? Being in D3, there is a fine line that we often traverse because we can’t reward strong players with scholarships like D1 or D2 schools can. At the same time, D3 coaches want to bring in strong players to make our programs better. There are certain club teams, however, that have expectations that D3 programs cannot meet and for that reason I usually do not recruit from nor go to see play because my mentality is that they want that almighty athletic scholarship. It is not good or bad— it just is what it is.
Another important factor that influences where I go to recruit is travel time. Choosing between two tournaments, more than likely I will choose the one that is closer. Also, my decision will depend upon prior success that I have had at a tournament. I track which tournaments I attend and which players that I saw at each. So when looking to attend, I look at which recruits matriculated to (or applied to or at least showed interest in) my school and which tournaments I had seen them at previously.
Other minor factors that influence coaches— the FOOD! I enjoy going to Fort Dix, NJ because I can always get a great gyro there! Other tourneys have free food for coaches (breakfast and lunch) which is always an attaction. Parking can be an issue and I appreciate having a designated lot for college recruiters. Yes it is somewhat of a caste system at work, but I as a recruiter appreciate that treatment. Last is the field layout. The best tournaments are the ones where I can park my car and leave it for the day. If I have get in and out of my car driving to different venues, that winds up taking too much of my time when I want to be watching players play.
The single biggest influence on where I go however is the players. The more players that contact me directly and say that they are attending a given tourney, the greater the likelihood that I or one of my assistant coaches will be attending. If I have a lot of players inviting me to watch them play at one tourney and very few at a second tourney, most likely I am going to the first tourney. Going back to the GotSoccer idea, I generally register for more tournaments than I know that I can or will attend. My thought is that having players see my name and institution on the attending list, they are more likely to send me their schedules for the tournament. (Go back to our post How to Write a Good Email to a College Coach for details.) I am much more likely to go to a tournament knowing that players contacted me and said that they would be playing and want me to come see them play. That by far is the single biggest draw—forget food and parking— having interested players usurps them all.
For you as a player, the best thing to do is look at the list of college coaches that attended the tournament the LAST YEAR, rather than who is scheduled to attend this year. Often times coaches do not register until the last minute, but they do tend to go to the same events year after year.
The bottom line is this—you as a player can and will influence the tournaments that college coaches attend. If we know you are going to be there and you let us know that you are interested in our school, there is a much greater chance that the coaches will be showing up for your event. Good luck at your tourneys!