Challenges Going from High School/Club Soccer to College Soccer

High school and club soccer are very different from college soccer at the D3 level.  The physicality of the game, the speed of play, and the level of play are greater, faster and higher at the college level than high school or club level soccer.  And another important difference is how much you can practice.

From the NCAA Division III manual, bylaw 17.19 permits 18 weeks combined of spring and fall practices (  This includes pre-season through the NCAA championship final with a maximum of 20 competitions in the fall season.   In the spring or non-traditional season, teams are permitted 15 practices and 1 competition.  This adds up to a total of about 124 practice days per year—a fairly good number.

However, those practice sessions are jammed into only a few, short months.  For the fall, it is a week in August, and the months of September and October.  In the spring, you get a few weeks in March and a few weeks in April.  Why is this a problem?  Because you have two short periods of intense activity (last week of August through October- fall and March and April- spring) followed by long stretches with no supervised activity (November through February and then May through most of August).  As legislated by the NCAA, D3 college coaches are not permitted to train with their college team other than those designated periods listed previously.  Optional or organized workouts of any kind are not permissible.

Most players coming out of high school are used to playing high school and club soccer at least 10 months out of the year with breaks of only 2, 3 or 4 weeks at the most.  They are accustomed to training year round and not having months off at a time.  The problem players face when they jump to the D3 college level is having the relentless discipline to work out on their own to stay fit so when those windows of supervised practices come around, they are ready to go.

This is one of the most difficult adjustments for D3 college players.  Most are accustomed to having frequent contact with their soccer coaches and having frequent supervised workouts.  At the D3 college level, this is just not the case.  Many players do not have that mental toughness or discipline to purposely carve out hours every week that they dedicate to working out.  This is especially true since they may be working out on their own without their teammates and they are preparing for something that seems to be a long time away (either the fall or spring competitions).

These rules make the coaches job equally challenging.  As a coach, you don’t want to spend an exorbitant amount of time on fitness, you would rather spend it on improving technical skills and tactical situations.  However, since many players do not come in physically fit enough, coaches will often wind up spending time working on fitness. 

The bottom line is this—do not expect high school/club soccer to be exactly the same as D3 college soccer, particularly when it comes to practice time.  The restrictions placed by the NCAA require a player to be much more disciplined and self sufficient to stay fit year round.


About d3recruitinghub

Soccer coach, trainer, business analyst, & project manager.
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