Welcome to Interview #80.
I am pleased to share with you the wisdom of NCAA Division 1 Men’s Soccer Coach of Utah Valley University, Greg Maas.
Coach Maas is a master coach and recruiter. Regardless of your sport, if you have aspirations of playing in college, you need to take his advice and run with it. The Utah Valley Men’s Soccer program has accumulated a 38-17-5 record over his first three seasons. They finished the 2016 season with a WAC Conference Championship and an conference record of 8-1-1. Coach Maas also earned WAC Coach of the Year honors in 2016.
How do you find players for your team? What type of student and athlete do you focus on?
It’s important to have a broad network of resources that can assist in the initial identification and vetting of prospective student-athletes (PSA). Our staff scours the landscape from local soccer matches, national-level tournaments, to premier international events. For those players we can’t observe in person, we spend hours reviewing and categorizing emails that include player bios, video highlights, and full matches.
Identifying the right PSA for our program is vital to both their success and to ours. The PSA must be a good player, and ideally, an even better student. Their playing ability and academic standing are easiest to determine, so we spend the majority of our time making sure that the PSA will be a good ‘fit’ for our program.
Interviewing a player, their coaches, or even their parents, will help to provide invaluable insight to a player’s personality, temperament, and general well being. Open lines of communication, integrity, trust, and respect must by reciprocated by all parties involved.
What effect does social media have on your recruiting? Can you talk about players who you have either stopped recruiting or become more interested in based on their social media use?
The use of social media is a necessity for this generation of PSA’s. It allows for the creating and sharing of information, and importantly, a form of communication and expression.
Every PSA’s social media activities are scrutinized internally and externally. It provides our staff and administration insight to their personality and activities that may potentially be an asset or detriment to our program. The ‘proper’ use of social media is addressed with every PSA, and ongoing education through our compliance department continues once they become a student-athlete on campus.
One of the biggest misconceptions I hear is from parents who believe Division 1 soccer has “full ride” scholarships in abundance. Could you share, in whatever detail you are comfortable, what the athletic scholarship break down looks like on your roster?
NCAA Division I soccer is an equivalency sport and the total number of available athletic scholarships differs greatly between divisions, universities, and men and women’s soccer. Therefore, full-rides are very rare, and it’s important to try and offset remaining expenses through academic aid, financial aid, and accessing other programs like the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE).
On your current roster, you have six players from foreign countries plus the United States. Can you talk about how you recruit international players?
Utah is a very diverse and multi-cultural state, and some of our international players have come from our own backyard. Importantly, we have cultivated trusting relationships with international colleagues that regularly help to place PSA’s throughout the U.S. That said, it’s always best to see a PSA in person, so we travel overseas to recruit whenever possible.
What advice do you have for international players who want to play at a college in the U.S.?
Scholarships are limited, and just because you’re an international player, it doesn’t mean you’ll receive a full-ride (see above). Be willing to pay for your education in the U.S., and importantly, make sure that you are academically sound and understand that you are here to be a student first, and an athlete second.
Before coaching college men, you had a very successful career as a club coach and as the Technical Director of Utah Youth Soccer. Drawing on your years of experience, what advice would you like to communicate directly with club soccer player and their parents?
Academics must be the priority. It’s easy to identify a talented soccer player, but if the academics are not a match, that player may no longer be an option as a PSA. Imagine for a moment you’re the college coach, and the ability of two players are equal, but one has a 3.5 GPA and the other a 2.5 GPA – which would you choose? Academics will both open and close doors. Focus on your academics and you will thank me later.
What are your thoughts about the importance for soccer players to be involved in ODP?
ODP plays an important role in the growth and development of players. It provides players a supplement to their current club system, and exposes them to different coaches and players that will help in their overall understanding and appreciation of the game. If a player is fortunate enough to be identified through the ODP process for region and national events, it will provide them additional opportunities of exposure to collegiate programs throughout the country.
What is college life like for a D1 athlete? What will day-to-day life look like? Can they be involved in activities outside of sports?
College life as a NCAA Division I athlete is a full-time job. Your day-to-day schedule may include, but is not limited to: early morning strength & conditioning, attending classes, pre-training treatment, training, post-training treatment, personal and/or team meetings, study hall, and finding time to eat and sleep. During the season, you will include match-day preparation, fixtures, and travel – which could be 4-5 days out of the week.
That said, there’s plenty of time to be engaged in campus life as an athlete – you just need to be very organized and prioritize your responsibilities and extracurricular activities accordingly.
Can you share a creed, quote or philosophy you try to instill into your athletes?
Be honest to yourself, trust your teammates, and respect the game.
What are some of the things you are currently doing with your program to develop excellence in your players?
Whether it’s on the training grounds or in the classroom, we take tremendous pride and accountability in our collective efforts. We love to share in each others successes, and when one wins, we all win. Everything we do as a team is ‘As One’.
What are the short term and long-term benefits of being on a collegiate athletic team?
The benefits are countless – from earning a degree of higher education to competing for championships with your teammates. Most importantly, it’s about the maturation process and developing relationships that will last a lifetime.
What advice do you have for recruits on how to prepare for their freshmen year in a college soccer program? What are typical things you wish incoming freshmen realized or knew before they arrived on campus?
Remember, you’re starting all-over again as a freshman. The environment and expectations will be much more challenging and difficult than you ever expected. Keep your head down, work hard, listen, be coachable, and earn the respect of your teammates and staff. There are no guarantees – you must earn it.
Bonus Question: Is there anything important that you would like to share directly with high school athletes or soccer players in particular as they navigate the recruiting process?
The science of recruiting is based on one relatively simple formula: identify PSA’s that will excel in the classroom and on the field.
The recruitment process, however, may differ due to an institution’s recruiting budget and available resources. NCAA Division I and II universities often have the resources to travel to various events, tournaments, etc., whereas, NCAA Division III may have limited financial resources for recruiting.
Therefore, start the recruiting process early. Understand, nobody will knock on your door to offer a scholarship; you must self-recruit and promote yourself to institutions of interest.
Start with a personal email of interest to the coaching staff, provide a complete soccer bio with references, attach a short 2-3 minute highlight video, and a full game (if possible), so the coaches can get a feel for you as a player on and off of the ball. Identify areas of academic interests and connect personally with each program of interest. Schedule an unofficial visit to tour the school, facilities, and meet the staff and academic advisors to see if it’s “the right fit.” Narrowing down your choices is never easy. It can be simplified, however, if you connect with the academic interests, the coaching staff, players, facilities, geographic location, and if there’s a network of support in the area of family and friends.
The UVU men’s soccer program has far exceeded expectations under head coach Greg Maas, amassing 38 wins over its first three seasons of existence. Maas has already accumulated a 38-17-5 (.675) record, taken UVU to the NCAA Tournament, and won a WAC regular season title.
At home, UVU averages attendance of 1,750 fans per game.
Prior to coming to Utah Valley University, Maas served as the Technical Director for the Utah Youth Soccer Association (UYSA) and as head coach of the Real Salt Lake Utah U-17 team.
For a full bio go to the Utah Valley Men’s Soccer site.
Next, check out: How to Destroy Your College Athletic Career in 1 Easy Step.
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