For the last few weeks, my social media feed has been a steady stream of grinning graduates happily celebrating the end of middle school and looking forward to life as high school freshmen. There is much to be excited about. After all, high school presents an opportunity for diverse and enriching new experiences – academic, athletic and social.
With any new beginning, it’s helpful to take stock of where you’ve been and set an intention for where you intend to go next. Perfect timing, then, to assess how you stack up against the soccer development milestones that should have been mastered by freshman year in high school. You can use the following checklist to evaluate whether you’re on track for your age – and just need to maintain the pace – or need to do some catching up before fall club and high school seasons begin.
I have mastered – at minimum – these soccer fundamentals: dribbling, positive first touch, juggling and balancing the ball, using both feet, playing 2-3 different positions, tactical understanding of different formations, running with the ball at speed, advanced passing techniques, turning with the ball, looking over my shoulder, foot skills to change direction, positive decision-making.
I have created a realistic list of colleges that fit my academic and athletic goals and abilities.
I have shared my college list with a guidance counselor, coach and/or recruiting advisor and adjusted as needed.
I know what my chances are – academically and athletically – of attending the schools on my current list.
I can articulate my strengths as a soccer player and what I contribute to my team.
I am aware of the specific weaknesses I must address to become a candidate for recruitment by my target schools.
I am aware of the cost of specific college programs and have confirmed whether the schools on my list are likely to offer me an academic and/or athletic scholarship.
I understand the NCAA recruiting rules and how to follow them.
I am following an athletic development plan that includes – at minimum – soccer, fitness, nutrition, mental coaching and recovery.
I know when and how to contact college coaches to get the best response.
My summer training plan will definitely prepare me for the coming preseason.
I know which college ID camp(s) to attend and when.
I have at least one coach or trainer I can count on to give me realistic feedback on the level of my development.
While this checklist is a good starting point, remember that your soccer career is a marathon, not a sprint. The important thing is to assess yourself against age-specific soccer milestones so you’re not forced to play catch-up in your junior or senior year, when you’re already stressed with team training, a heavy class load, SAT/ACT prep, community service hours, and all the other requirements needed to graduate. Managing your soccer career – especially as a rising freshman – can be confusing and overwhelming. Even if you think you know what to do, it’s a good idea to ask a trusted coach, guidance counselor or recruiting advisor to help guide you through the 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 email@example.com.