Welcome to Interview #91
I am pleased to share with you the wisdom of NCAA Division 1 Men’s Soccer Coach of Xavier University, Andy Fleming.
Coach Fleming has compiled a career record of 73-34-18 (.656), making him the winningest coach in Xavier history based on winning percentage. His .656 mark ranks among the nation’s top-20 for active Div. I coaches with at least five years of experience.
Since 2012, he has led Xavier to three top-10 national rankings, two top-25 MLS SuperDraft selections, four NCAA Tournaments, an NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, six straight 10-plus win seasons in addition to leading the nation in fewest yellow cards and a top-10 team GPA.
Has coached 11 All-Americans, nine Conference Players of the Year and nine MLS Draft picks.
Fleming guided Xavier to NCAA Tournament appearances in four of the past six seasons, including a trip to the program’s first-ever Sweet 16 in 2014.
What are some ways that recruits can get you to take an interest in them?
I always notice and am impressed with kids who are diligent with their emails, calls, etc… Often you can sense when a parent does this for them or when a parent is more excited than the kid. I also notice when kids have a genuine enthusiasm for our program and seem to follow us and have an idea of what’s been going on with us as of late.
How early do athletes need to be noticed to have a chance to play at a major Division 1 school? When is it too late?
I have a list of fifty 2019 sophomores right now and a list of about eight 2020 freshmen. We don’t actively seek them, instead we watch U16 games and find kids we like. It does start early but we just had a senior who was a basketball player slip thru the cracks and commit last week.
The better the school, the tighter the admissions office and most likely to be done with a class by the Holidays. However, most schools take players into the middle of spring and some even in summer (Internationals especially). Seeing someone become proactive or all the sudden serious about schoolwork as a senior always irks me.
How does a player know if they are a Division 1 athlete or if they should look toward another level of play?
If you have been to a few camps at Division I schools, sent out your video, and been to a handful of tournaments and not yet heard from Division I schools, then you might look at another level. I often joke that I’ve yet to see a girl reject a dance from a guy at a wedding because he played Division III…and that when you are a grown adult living life, the Division you played in doesn’t matter. Too much emphasis is put onto this by teenage kids.
What are a few of the most common mistakes that prospective-student athletes make in the college recruiting process?
The biggest mistake is the expectation of a return on an investment. Camps, clubs, personal lessons, or college visits don’t promise anything in return.
I feel like some families that don’t need to chase money, chase offers rather than a good fit.
I’m continually disappointed by the lack of education that clubs provide. Families pay a lot to be in the clubs mainly to use soccer as a path to college…. and the clubs don’t prepare families for the process.
What are some things that would keep you from recruiting a player?
Parents can scare coaches. Parents who treat their sons like a client and recruiting like a business transaction scare me. I also refuse to use admissions favors and won’t pursue kids who aren’t serious and capable students.
When people say “we are after the best possible offer” or are vague when I try and work with them to get a dollar amount they can afford (worried that they might tip their hand so to speak), then I stop the process due to a lack of transparency.
Lastly, kids who take their foot off the pedal once they have committed are likely to be shown the door. Not responding to correspondence is a sure way for things to end as well.
There is a misconception about how “athletic scholarships” are the golden ticket to pay for college, especially at the Division 1 level. Could you share, in whatever detail you are comfortable, what the athletic scholarship break down looks like on your roster and what is allowed by the NCAA Division 1?
Players and parents always talk about “a scholarship” and are always either very educated and in tune with a soccer scholarship or way out in left field. Basketball, football and volleyball players either get a full ride or nothing, whereas in soccer we are able to divide up the dollar value of 9.9 full scholarships amongst our team. Most of our players are on 25-60% scholarships. Three are on full scholarships. My team has over $300,000 in academic merit aid on our roster. The biggest ticket most players have into a school and into affordability is a strong transcript.
What else is important to affording college besides the “athletic scholarship”?
Families need to plan in advance for school; too many don’t. Refinancing mortgages, planning for multiple kids in college at same time, etc. all have to be on the radar. FAFSA and need based aid is an unexplainable phenomena that no one can predict. This is why commuting to school, summer classes, merit based aid, possibly doing a semester at a community college, etc. are all reasonable ingredients for affording school.
You have assembled 13-straight top-40 recruiting classes, signing an NSCAA High School Player of the Year, a Parade All-American and five Gatorade State Players of the Year. These recruits hail from 33 different states and 13 unique countries. You have had 9 MLS draft picks and three who have made U.S. National Team appearances.
You are recruiting the highest level of players coming out of high school. Can you share some advice directed to these athletes and parents who have many schools that will be recruiting them?
When the wave of interest begins, prepare in advance and have an idea of what you’re looking for: size, location, conference, cost. Be ready to tier the schools you hear from and arrive at a top 8-10 to start with.
Be proactive and get on campus as a junior or even as a sophomore to quickly get a feel for things. This will enable you to select a top 5 list; you can then attend camp, visit again or compare offers. It’s important to tell a coach when you aren’t interested, which although sometimes tough to do, is often appreciated by coaches as it’s one step closer to us knowing who will tell us yes.
What is the role of the parent in the recruiting process?
Parents needs to advise and not sell their kids. I think it’s vital to get a feel for a school and the program/staff, listen to what they have to say first. Next, let the finances come up or let the coach get to that. Our offer will be based on how the visit flows, how well you fit and if we like you. Rarely is an offer set before a visit unfolds. When money does come up, discuss and work it out rather than wheeling and dealing or making money the very first thing that you ask about.
A visit is the coach’s time and the recruit’s time. Don’t make it about you and don’t talk more than your son or come across as wanting it more than your son. Lastly, any husband who runs the whole show or belittles his wife or any couple who doesn’t come across as a trusting, together, united front will usually throw red flags.
You have been coaching Division 1 soccer for over 20 years. How do you see collegiate athletics impacting young men after they have graduated from college?
While I’m careful to never call myself a boss or to say that it’s a job, in many regards it is. Everyone on our roster is paid by Xavier. They have demands to meet, they have personal and team bottom lines. There are travel, deadlines, standards, accountability, competitors, feedback, bosses and coworkers to deal with.
Out of the office there are spouses, relationships, finances, lack of sleep, problems at home, time management and a public image that reflects the company they work for. I think the transition from a teenager at home with parents (in a bit of a bubble) into an independent adult in an environment of competition, failure, temptations…is an arena where just 3% of club players make it.
I liken this to the real world and think that college athletics teach many skills and lessons that make athletes more readily employable than the average student. Ironically most of the growth stems from responding to failure, working with others and taking criticism.
Can you take a moment and share about the work you do with Down Syndrome Awareness and why it is so important to you?
*Life is about far more than sport. To see the special connection between Xavier Athletics and Down Syndrome Awareness click here.
As a parent of a daughter with Down syndrome I can tell you that those who mention her (Devin) and some of the work our team does always will get my ear. A few of our players have decided to attend Xavier because of the work we do off the field. I will always at least take a closer look at anyone who does community service and puts it on a profile. On the other hand I’ve heard kids use upsetting words and have unfortunate things to say at camps and in hotels, etc. when they have no idea they are being listened to.
Everything matters in this never ending job interview. A one sentence problem can sometimes be a big one.
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?
In closing I would suggest a few things.
First find a well-rounded camp, one with a few schools to look at you and one that might have some human development arms to it. Our CollegeSoccer101 camp at Xavier (www.andyflemingsoccercamps.com) has daily workshops on goal setting, self-branding and developing a road map for the next 6, 12 and 18 months. I think it’s important to have an academic and social road map and let’s even add a recruiting map. Knowing what your WHY is, with regards to playing in college and picking a school is a good starting point.
Since 2012, has led Xavier to three top-10 national rankings, two top-25 MLS SuperDraft selections, four NCAA Tournaments, an NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, six straight 10-plus win seasons in addition to leading the nation in fewest yellow cards and a top-10 team GPA.
Has coached 11 All-Americans, nine Conference Players of the Year and nine MLS Draft picks.
Has compiled a career record of 73-34-18 (.656), making him the winningest coach in Xavier history based on winning percentage. His .656 mark ranks among the nation’s top-20 for active Div. I coaches with at least five years of experience.
An advocate for Down’s Syndrome awareness, Andy and his wife, Amy, created “Devin’s Team” to raise awareness and as a fundraiser in the Cincinnati-area. The team has grown into one of the largest and top-earning in the Midwest.
For Coach Fleming’s full Bio go to: Xavier Men’s Soccer.
Next, check out: No Fear of the Recruiting Process: 2 Tips.
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