“Coach, how many players are you looking to bring in this year?”
This is one of the questions that I always get asked by recruited student athletes or their parents. For a D3 coach, this is a difficult question to really give a good answer to. Since D3 colleges and universities don’t offer scholarships, we have a harder time with determining which incoming freshmen will be coming to our schools.
Looking at it from the D1 or D2 perspective, these coaches can offer players a scholarship to play college soccer— this is basically a “contract” between the player and the institution that in exchange for a certain amount of money they will perform for the athletic team. At D3, these scholarships do not exist; in fact there is very little at all that binds a student to a school.
Let’s look at Susie Soccerplayer. Susie is looking at the (fictitious) D3 school Main Street University (MSU). Susie tells the soccer coach that she is going to MSU. She tells this to the Admissions Office, the President of the University, her family, her friends and everyone she knows on Facebook. Susie puts in her deposit to reserve a spot with MSU’s class of 2011 as well as a deposit for housing to save a spot in campus housing as well.
However, a few weeks later she decides that she really has other plans for her life that don’t include MSU— so she withdraws. Now the best laid plans of the soccer coach at MSU are out the window because he had counted on Susie for the next four years and now he has to start all over again.
Does this type scenario happen at the D3 level? Absolutely! Again there is nothing to bind a student athlete to a D3 school so many coaches take a “wait and see” type attitude as to the actual freshman class that will be coming in for the Fall season. Ideally, a good coach has regular communication with the incoming students and has a good handle on which students are coming and which ones might be on the fence, but we will get the occasional unexpected curveball from student athletes.
My typical answer to the question about the number of players that I look to bring in is between 10 – 12 players per year. In my experience as a coach/recruiter, I generally expect to lose 2 players per year from a freshman class over the course of the next four years. So if the freshman class comes in with 10 players, there will likely be 8 players in their sophomore year, 6 players in their junior year, and 4 in their senior year.
This may seem like a lot of players, but due to the compactness of the college schedule, occurrence of injury, dynamics for practice, academic performance of students, and commitment to playing, this has been a reasonable number. Also of concern for college coaches are budgetary concerns as each player has a dollar figure attached to them that will come of the coach’s budget. In simple terms, a coach may only be able to afford a certain number of players on their team per the direction of their Athletic Director.
What about non-recruited walk ons? Will they be able to make the team? This will be on a case by case basis. Talented players will get a coach’s attention whether they were recruited or not and since the D3 philosophy is more inclusive, I’d like to think that most coaches will give players a shot. Many players are often self-regulating and realize when they are not good enough for the team and step aside once they understand that they are not going to make the cut.
The bottom line is this—When meeting with a college coach, these are all things that you need to consider as part of your information gathering process. How many players do you carry? What would you see as my role on the team? Starter/Reserve? Do you think that I will make the team? What do I need to improve to make the team?
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