One of the most frequent questions that soccer recruits (and their parents) ask me at the D3 level is “How many roster spots are you looking to fill next year on your team?” Most of the time the answer to that question surprises them. I am allowed to carry 28 players on my roster, so I am looking to fill 28 roster spots each year.
Why am I looking for that many?
D3 soccer is different than D1 or D2 in a number of ways. First and foremost we don’t have athletic scholarships—-OK I know that is probably obvious. How does that affect the roster of the team? If you are a scholarship player for a D1 or D2 team, you had best be performing your off-season and summer workouts so that when you show up to preseason you are in shape and ready to earn that scholarship- you are getting paid to play. At the D3 level, we have no athletic scholarships so you don’t risk losing a scholarship, just a spot on the team. The motivational forces are different, so you have to be motivated by different factors.
First there are the intrinsic competitive forces of the team- there is another player waiting in the wings to take your spot if you decide to slack off; you are always competing for playing time; teammates are always pushing each other. Second is the individual’s internal desire to be successful- I want to score 10 goals this year; I want to be a starter; I want to make All-Conference; or I want to finish first in fitness testing. And third is the motivational environment that the coach creates- everybody needs to work hard if we want to make the playoffs; win a championship. If these things don’t keep you motivated, it can become harder to keep up training in the off-season.
A D3 coach does not have any monetary sway. As a coach, I don’t know if a player is going to be working out and training over the summer or sitting on the sofa watching TV and eating nachos. If a player does the latter, they are not likely to make the team come August. It is up to the individual to be motivated enough to put in the effort to stay in soccer shape.
Second is the amount of practice time allowed for D3 soccer between players with their coaches. At the D3 level, coaches are permitted to practice with their teams (approximately) from the third week of August through the NCAA Division 3 championship game. In addition, in the “non-traditional” season teams are permitted up to 15 practices. In total, this adds up to about 3 months of total practice time. Now most players coming out of high school and club environments are used to playing soccer 10 months out of the year and getting about 2 months off! Having long periods of time where they don’t have scheduled training is completely foreign to them. This is a BIG adjustment and they need to have a lot of self discipline to work out on their own to stay in shape.
The bottom line is this— since D3 colleges don’t have the financial attachment to players that D1 and D2 schools have they CAN experience greater turnover on their rosters from year to year if players are not motivated to perform in the off-season. In reality, most returning players do enough working out in the off-season to keep themselves in good enough shape to earn their roster spots—but not always. Since there are no tangible benefits (i.e. monetary), the motivation can be more challenging! (And D3 coaches are always looking to upgrade.)
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