Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Development Academy Winter Showcase in Lakeland, Florida. I was pleased to witness fantastic soccer being played by extremely talented young men and women but, as always, the real action took place among the coaches on the sidelines. With so many families agonizing over the complexity and lack of transparency in the college recruitment process, I thought you might appreciate some insight into the mindset of college coaches when attending a showcase. To that end, here are four crucial recommendations for players wishing to impress college coaches.
1. Take accountability for your performance. Playing college soccer requires a tremendous amount of accountability and coaches need players that are competitive and resilient. I know it may hurt to hear this, but there is no amount of advocating a club coach can do that will overcome an inconsistent showcase performance. Whether you never sit down or you only see a few minutes of action, coaches are impressed by players who can stay focused and give a standout performance despite circumstances. So forget about blaming your teammates or coach for not setting you up for success. It’s up to you to pay attention and seize the opportunities that are presented to you.
2. Don’t worry about the score. College coaches aren’t focused on the score or who wins or loses a showcase match. They’re observing how players navigate the game. If your team is down, how hard are you fighting to recover? What’s your reaction when your coach gives you instructions? How do you interact with your coach and teammates? How does your behavior change when you’re under pressure? I’ve written in detail about what coaches are looking for in recruits and how to stand out at showcases. Ultimately, coaches are evaluating how your personality and style of play might fit into their program. Stay true to yourself and the right program will find you.
3. Be a standout. Sure, college coaches prepare for showcases by planning their schedules around players they’ve already identified. They’re excited to see new developments from players on their wish list and happy to get another look at emerging potential. But just because you’re not already on a coach’s radar doesn’t mean you can’t get their attention. College coaches are on the lookout for talent and are pleasantly surprised to find an athlete who demonstrates hard work, skillful play, good communication – and any other traits they need in their program. When you’re at a showcase, focus on playing great soccer and college coaches – even ones you haven’t reached out to before – will take notice.
4. Take – and apply – feedback. This one may seem obvious, but it’s the #1 complaint I hear from college coaches. When a coach takes the time to provide feedback, it’s not because they enjoy filling out forms or sending emails. They’re telling you exactly how big the gap is between your level of play today and the skillset that’s required to be considered for their program. Take it seriously and work to improve your game. This doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. For example, you may miss that shot on goal but if your timing or technique has improved you’ll still demonstrate that you’ve been working on your game. Your level of effort is on display at a showcase as much as anything else.
Although I was inspired to share this advice after attending the DA showcase, college coaches’ expectations are consistent when attending recruiting events at all levels. Staying in your comfort zone and playing average soccer isn’t going to be enough to get you noticed. Coaches evaluate dozens of players for each available roster spot and are themselves under tremendous pressure to choose players who will make the strongest contribution to their program. To stand out you must separate yourself from all the other players out there. The more you become comfortable with this high level of accountability, the greater your chances of getting identified by a top-notch competitive program and having a successful collegiate soccer career.
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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 email@example.com.