Welcome to Interview #29.
I am pleased to share with you the wisdom of NAIA Women’s Soccer Coach of William Carey University, Danny Owens.
Coach Danny Owens begins his 11th season in charge of William Carey women’s’ soccer. Last season WCU posted an 18-3-1 record and advanced to the NAIA National Tournament for the sixth time in seven years. Twelve Lady Crusaders were named to the SSAC All-Academic team and fiver were named NAIA Daktronics Scholar Athletes.
In ten seasons, Owens has compiled a 142-48-21 record with one SSAC Championship, and three Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) Championship. Owens was also named SSAC Coach of the Year in 2013 and GCAC Coach of the Year in 2007, 2008, and 2009.
Why do you think athletes should consider an NAIA college? What are the benefits of an NAIA school specifically?
I can only speak for us here at William Carey, but choosing a NAIA school like us, we have many benefits to offer athletes. Most NAIA schools are small private schools, so the small school setting appeals to a lot of kids and managing the academic side while being an athlete is very beneficial. The classes are typically smaller and the professors know the athletes and I find are more willing to work with these athletes.
From the athletic side of going to a NAIA school, the opportunity to compete right away and having an impact to a program is appealing to players.
Also, having the opportunity to compete in a Conference or National Championship is there for a lot of athletes in the NAIA. Not everyone has D1 or D2 abilities or wants a larger school setting, so being able to still compete for something that has meaning is a great advantage NAIA schools have.
What can or should high school athletes do from their end to get on your radar screen? If a soccer player personally contacts you by phone or email, what will you do next?
For us, the athletes need to contact us. Let us know of their interest and where can I find them in the next tournament, showcase or game.
If they have film to share (not a 90 minute game) it is helpful.
If someone contacts us, I usually get back with them and find out more about them and what their interests are in the school, major and soccer program. I typically invite them to come in for a training session and/or a game.
During the season it is hard to get out and watch a lot of players. We do not have full time assistants here and our budget restricts the amount of showcases we can get to. So, having them come in is a great way for us to see them play, interact with the players and visit the campus all in one.
If a prospective athlete wants to play in the NAIA, what is the eligibility center? How can they find it? What is the cost? When in the recruiting process should the register?
Our eligibility center is something the NAIA has created a few years ago. Every student wishing to play at a NAIA school must register and submit the information required. Typically, SAT/ACT test scores, high school transcripts and class rank are needed to be determined eligible. You can find it at http://www.playnaia.org/. The cost is $70 for US Students, $90 for transfers and $120 for international students.
Students can begin to register when they have completed their junior year and are going into their senior year. If the student has above an 18 on the ACT (860 on SAT) and a 3.0 GPA or better, they can be given an early determination before they graduate.
Could you share, in whatever detail you are comfortable, what the athletic scholarship break down looks like on your roster?
All of our players are on some sort of scholarship. We cannot stack academic or athletic here at Carey, so the students are on an athletic or academic, usually whichever is higher. We cannot give athletic full scholarships, so most everyone is paying something to attend Carey.
Now, we have a few students who have qualified for full academic scholarships based on their ACT score (29 or higher), so those players are probably on the largest amount of scholarship given by the school, not soccer program.
What is the role of the parent in the recruiting process?
I believe the parent plays a role in the recruiting process. They ultimately have to decide if they can afford the tuition and in most cases want to make sure their daughter is going to be taken care of in all phases of the college experience.
For me, I typically speak to the recruit the majority of the time in the recruiting process. I do speak with the parents on a visit or if we are discussing finances or answering questions, but after that, I will mostly talk with the recruit. I am sure I have lost recruits for not including the parents more in the process, but I want the recruit to feel comfortable with me and the program and I want them to ultimately make the decision to come here. If that decision is made by the recruit, then I feel they have made the right decision and will graduate in their 4 years.
Your teams have maintained a 3.1 gpa over the years and have been successful on the field. What are the keys to being successful in the classroom for a college athlete?
It is something that we discuss all the time here at Carey, but is something I give the players ownership in doing on their own. We are not big into Study Hall. We are big into working hard and sacrificing in order to be successful. Time management, organization and communication with the teachers is something every college athlete needs to be able to succeed in the classroom.
We like to recruit girls that have good character, are hard-working and understand the concept of being a student athlete. If they cannot take care of the “little things” then the big things will not come. So, we have developed a culture of success on the field and off the field as something that is demanded here at Carey.
You have been with William Carey for over a decade. You have had a lot of great athletes come through. How do you see collegiate soccer impacting an athlete’s life?
Man, I think being a collegiate athlete prepares so much for when these players graduate college. Having to balance being away from home, training and competing every day and then having to study in their down time is a lot to handle. The players are not asked to just get by with this effort, but to be the best every time with this effort.
We as coaches put a lot of pressure on our players in having to win the next game or having to pass this class to be eligible. A player has to continue to play at a high level or they might lose their starting spot to the player who is trying to beat them out of that spot. Having to be competitive every day for 4 years really instills a work ethic that no one can learn without it.
This is the same effort and sacrifice it will take to be successful in whatever career they may choose. I think college athletics prepare you for this. There are consequences for losing a game, losing a starting spot or failing a class. So, if you can learn what it takes to be successful as a college athlete, you will apply the same work ethic in getting that job or that promotion.
On your current roster, you have players from 6 countries plus the United States. Could you talk straight to international prospective athletes in the next couple of questions.
How do you find and recruit international players?
There are a lot of agencies out there now that have international players that want to come over to the States to play. These agencies are always contacting us with different players to come over.
The last couple of internationals that we have found, have emailed us directly by doing their own research. Then sometimes, our current internationals have friends or know someone who is looking to come over and play and put us in touch with those players.
What advice do you have for international players who want to play at a college in the U.S.?
Same as a U.S. player. Do your research and make sure the school you choose is a good fit (academically and athletically). Bigger is not always better and getting a full ride does not always mean that it is the best place to be.
What are the three most important steps international student athletes need to accomplish to have a chance to attend college and compete in the U.S.?
- Prepare physically for the demands of college soccer in the U.S. The game is more physical and we put more emphasis in fitness typically.
- Have an open mind for the different style of soccer that is probably going to be asked of them. Again, the college style is results orientated and is probably a different than from wherever they are coming from. Also, they are coming to a different country where the coach may have a different way of doing things. So again, be open minded to the style and enjoy the cultural change.
- This international student athlete has to be “all in”! You are traveling across the world to a different country with a different culture and a different way of doing things. These players are on their own and do not have mom or dad to fall back on and usually cannot see them until Christmas and then the summer. They have to learn how to cope on their own and make their own experience the best they can while learning the culture. I have always said the international student is more apt to surviving the “real world” than an American student because over 4 years they learn how to survive in a different culture on their own (no part time job to get, no car to get to the store, no quick weekend home trip to the parents’ house).
What is it like on your team with young women from all over the world? Do you have any funny or serious stories that have resulted because of your international roster?
Having so many different cultures on the team is a great experience for everyone. From a soccer stand point, it is fun to try and blend so many different styles together and use everyone’s strengths together.
Socially, how great is it to have the American players to be surrounded by so many players from different countries. Some rosters have the majority from one country, but we have 7 different countries represented including America, so every player gets to know a different part of the world.
I am sure there are some funny stories my girls could share, but one thing I think is really neat is Thanksgiving. If we make the National Tournament, that tournament is the week after Thanksgiving. So, during the week of Thanksgiving, I will bring the girls to my house. I will usually provide a Turkey and Ham and have the girls bring something they want to bring as a side dish. I ask it be something that would be a staple at family dinner. So, the Americans bring the typical Thanksgiving dish, but the internationals will bring a dish from home. It really adds a unique twist on American Thanksgiving tradition and is something I look forward to every year, provided we make the National Tournament.
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?
Yes. Do your homework and make sure the school is a good fit. Bigger is not always better and sometimes a smaller school can provide a better experience if given a chance. Sometimes a smaller school can be better academically and athletically. Watching my players thrive in the small school setting here in the classroom and then having a chance to compete on a national scale is something I really enjoy about my job.
Head Coach Danny Owens begins his 11th season in charge of William Carey women’s’ soccer. Last season WCU posted an 18-3-1 record and advanced to the NAIA National Tournament for the sixth time in seven years. The Lady Crusaders spent much of the season ranked in the top three and was ranked Number 1 in the women’s soccer modified RPI rankings. Twelve Lady Crusaders were named to the SSAC All-Academic team and fiver were named NAIA Daktronics Scholar Athletes.
Next, take a look at What is the NAIA?
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