In our previous posts, we discussed many of the soccer-related aspects that student-athletes when transitioning from high school soccer to NCAA Division III college soccer. This week we will look at even more of those aspects that can affect student-athletes as they go from high school to NCAA Division III college soccer.
NCAA Division III college soccer is a more physical game then soccer at the high school level due to the speed of the game and physical strength of the players. For this reason, there is the opportunity for more injuries. Players that go for four years in high school without ever getting hurt suddenly find themselves in the training room; a very unfamiliar place for them and they don’t know what to do with themselves or how to handle it. What will you do if you get hurt?
Being a freshmen at college, means that you are low man/woman on the proverbial totem pole. In the pecking order of the team, freshmen are last on the list and the upperclassmen (since they went through this themselves) are more than happy to remind the freshmen of their stature. It doesn’t matter that you are starting every game, or the leading goal scorer or a key contributor as a freshman; the fact of the matter is that you are a freshman and you have to pay your dues to earn the respect of your teammates. That may mean getting the equipment for practice, bringing out the water jugs or some other menial tasks that need to be done. This is a paramount shift from being the top-dog as a high school senior. How do you handle that?
The level of competition in the collegiate ranks (even at NCAA Division III) is getting better all the time. You will find it very unlikely that you will be playing any bad teams in college. How are you going to adjust to playing difficult games all the time? Not getting a break with a weaker team here and there? Always having to be playing at your best level for the entire season for every game?
Why is that? With vast numbers of kids playing soccer across the United States, college coaches at all levels (NCAA Division I, II and III) have far more players to choose from when players become high seniors and matriculate on to college. As a result, the level of competition becomes better at the college level because naturally those college coaches are taking the best players from the high school ranks. However, when you take it down a level to the high school level, you will find that the competition level can be a little bit more diluted. Not everyone that is playing high school soccer now is going to play soccer in college—some will find that they just are not good enough.
Lastly, what kind of field does your team play on? Are you used to playing on a grass field? Maybe one that resembles a cow pasture with more ruts, divots, and dirt than actual grass? One of the growing trends at colleges in cooler climates (especially the Northeast part of the United States) is to put in artificial turf for soccer. We won’t go into the rationale for this, but suffice to say playing soccer on turf (despite the improvements that have been made) is still not the same as playing soccer on grass. Can you adjust your game to it? Playing on turf creates a faster game in soccer. As a player you must be technically faster and more precise as well as mentally and physically quicker. If you are used to playing on turf, it won’t be an adjustment, but if not it will.
Next time we will discuss some of the non-soccer related aspects of going from high school to college and how that can have a huge impact on players. As always, thanks for reading!
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