This month’s blog is a Q&A with Katie Giberson, former professional player and current head of recruiting at CBW Soccer Elite.
Q: How did you meet Coach Chris?
A: I met Chris when I joined the Boston Breakers reserve squad, the SoccerPlus Reds, the summer before my junior year in college. I actually vividly remember the conversation on the phone I had before even meeting him. He asked his new players to call and introduce themselves and during the conversation he had asked about my experience on my college team. It was a question I had been dreading since my career up to then was largely negative and saw me riding the bench. I was honest and he was quick to tell me that it was fine, but I felt like he had probably written me off as a contributing player. As a coach, I know that’s what I would have been thinking. So I made it my goal to challenge that perspective and make a difference at every practice and match. Although I came in expecting to have something to prove, Chris never treated me any differently than my teammates who were the starters from Division I programs. In fact, he held all of us to the highest standards, which helped us to believe we could reach that high, too.
Q: What was your college recruiting process like?
A: I had a much different recruiting experience than most. I knew that I wanted a life balance; I wanted at least a portion of my academic year to be free from official sports commitments so that I could experience life as a “normal” college student. Academics were also supremely important to me and that, coupled with my dislike of large lectures, ruled out a lot of the major soccer programs at that time. I was a late bloomer athletically and was not interested in committing to a school years out. It was difficult when teammates of mine began committing, as I felt left out and questioned if my path was the right one. I also was concerned that there would be no spot at any program by the time I was ready to commit. Ultimately, I ended up focusing on the Ivy League and was really close to committing to Columbia. At the last minute I found out that the school had hired an assistant that had coached me on one of my club teams; our relationship was strained and I knew I didn’t want to enter into a program with negativity. Without a backup plan and weighed down by the pressure that goes along with committing — wanting to keep up with everyone else, feeling pressure from the coach, eager to be done with the process already — I decided against going to Columbia. It was October of my senior year and I was totally at a loss. I ended up mass emailing every small-sized liberal arts college with a decent soccer program and had official visits at Davidson, Hamilton, Central Connecticut State University, Amherst and Manhattan College. My visit at Amherst and the feel of the campus convinced me that it was the right place for me.
Q: What was your collegiate soccer experience like?
A: My collegiate soccer experience was again different than almost anyone I know. After two years of riding the bench at Amherst, I decided that I either had to hang up my cleats or transfer elsewhere. I went to visit Middlebury and Trinity, two “little Ivies” in the same conference as Amherst with incredible language programs. I chose Trinity and it is without a doubt one of the best decisions I ever made. My soccer experience there was so different, and I attribute a significant portion of that to Chris. The summer before my first season at Trinity was my first with the SoccerPlus Reds; we trained 4 days a week and had games every few weeks as well. Chris pushed me to address my weaknesses and develop my strengths even further. This was challenging physically and mentally, especially considering I had an hour and a half drive to think about what I did wrong! But it certainly paid off as I entered Trinity fit, confident, and with a mentor just a phone call away. I earned a starting spot at Trinity and became the team’s leading scorer my senior year. I felt valued and had true friendships with my teammates. While nobody wants to have to transfer and redo the college recruiting process, it was without a doubt the right choice for me and I’m so happy I did it.
Q: How did you move on to play professionally?
A: After my senior season, I felt overwhelmed with the enormity of leaving college and entering the “real world.” Out of the blue, Chris called and asked if I had ever given thought to playing after college; I told him that I had but wasn’t sure I was good enough. He let me know that he believed in me and then trained me to get there. Mornings before class and weekends, I drove 40 minutes and trained with Chris to further develop my game and improve my weaknesses. I went to an open tryout for the Boston Breakers in late winter, but I was counted out before I even got there because I went to a Div. III college. It didn’t matter that my teams made it to the NCAA tournament and lost in the Elite Eight, or that we beat Dartmouth in pre-season scrimmages; I never even got a look. Despite everything, I was excited to play on a 3v3 team with Cat Whitehill, and I saw that my game could — and did — elevate towards hers. I left the tryout fired up and ready to fight to continue playing. Chris and I found a professional team in Scotland that I flew out to join the summer after I graduated. Unfortunately, it wasn’t what I had hoped and I returned to the U.S. soon after. I continued training, working out in the morning before my job as a graduate assistant at Trinity, and sneaking out of work early in the afternoon to drive an hour to Quinnipiac to train with Chris. I also contacted some former teammates from my high school club who helped me find the distribution list of every Swedish professional team and I annoyed them all with countless emails and highlight reels until I finally had two offers.
Q: What advice would you give players who are in the recruiting process?
A: My advice would be to take your time and make sure that the college and program you’re joining is the best for you. It’s so easy to want to commit when you see that all your teammates have, or because a coach really wants you. But just because it’s easy does not mean it is right. College is an incredible experience and you want to be sure that your choice is perfect for you, even (and especially) outside of the soccer program. I would also recommend surrounding yourself with people — your parents, coaches, trainers and other professionals — that you know are looking out for your best interests. Having a strong support system will help get you through all of the stress, emotional ups and downs, and uncertainty that go along with this process.
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Chris Bart-Williams is the founder and owner of CBW Soccer Elite. After an extensive career in the English Premier League, Chris now uses his vast soccer knowledge to assist families throughout the college recruiting process and prepare players for the mental and physical challenges of collegiate soccer. You can reach Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.