There are approximately 1400 colleges and universities with athletic programs. There is are huge differences in talent level ranging from the elite Division 1 schools to small colleges that struggle to recruit enough players each year.
Is it possible to know what kind of colleges you could compete at?
Not every sports program will be a great fit for you. Your goal isn’t to be at the very best program; your goal is to be at the best program for you. A program you will succeed in and love every minute of your college career. Or, almost every minute of it.
The vast majority of players and their parents overestimate their ability and where they will fit in. Many have unrealistic expectations.
To help out, I have taken excerpts from an amazing interview I did with Oregon State Associate Soccer Coach, Ben Stoddard. Click here for the full interview.
I often talk to seniors who tell me they plan on playing Division 1. I ask them if coaches are contacting them. They will say, “No,” but are hoping they will be seen at the winter showcase. They don’t know any better, but the Division 1 train has already passed them by. Division 1 coaches have already narrowed their recruiting pool, offered scholarships, and are just waiting on signing day.
“It might be surprising coming from me, but Division 1 is not the best fit for every kid. The NAIA is a great level with great universities associated with it so there is nothing wrong with going to an NAIA school. As is the case with Division 2 and 3 levels. Each prioritize things a bit differently.” Ben Stoddard
You need to be proactive early in high school, primarily your sophomore and junior year to discover what your realistic options will be. Division 1 may be where you belong, but how can you know?
How can you figure out what level you can play in college?
Understanding the basic differences between the levels
Here Coach Ben Stoddard briefly explains the major differences.
Division 1: level is the highest level competitively so soccer is going to be a lot of work and very time consuming.
Division 2: is a little bit less of a competitive focus than D1 but still a very good level with very good universities.
Division 3: is a lot less sport outside of the regular season and much more academic focused.
NAIA: has a bit less restrictions so it is more dependent on what the individual university’s focus and priorities are. It is also a very high level competitively.
Junior College: route is an excellent option for many prospects. This gives 1-2 years for student-athletes to develop, bring their grades up, find the right 4-year college fit, etc. There are a lot of success stories of kids going the JUCO route then transferring to a 4-year program and doing very well.
The number and amount of scholarships vary in all 5 levels. They can vary from school to school within the same level and even from the same conference.
“The other big differences between all 5 levels is the scholarships. Each Division has a maximum amount of athletic scholarships allowed but not every school has the maximum allotment at their disposal. Division 3 does not have any athletic scholarship available but there are a lot of opportunities to earn academic money.” Ben Stoddard
How does a player know if they are a Division 1 athlete or if they should look toward another level of play?
One way is to ask your club coach, high school coach, or another coach who has watched you play. Ask for an honest opinion and be willing to hear it.
Shortly after The Recruiting Code was published, a brave young lady took my advice and contacted me. I had watched her play over the past couple of years to recruit her. I was honored and was glad to give her my opinions to assist her as she narrowed down her college options.
Be brave and ask a coach from a team you compete against, if you respect them. You might be surprised; most coaches would be glad to take a minute to help you out.
“Be honest with themselves and the feedback given. Go to camps, talk to your coaches, look at the different levels around the country and be honest with the evaluations and feedback given.” Ben Stoddard
Consider Who is Already Contacting You
Have coaches already called you? Consider what type of schools have called, and look for others at the same level. Look carefully at the rosters. What type of high school and club teams do they come from? Are they mainly players from one location or doe the team have more of a national look? What does it tell you if there are few to no players on the team from your area?
Watch College Games
Another way to estimate where you belong is to go watch a few college games. Go watch a Division 1 game and other colleges near you. You will see a stark difference in the level of athletes. Be honest with yourself. Imagine yourself on the field. Would the coach play you? Could you compete if you were out there? How far away are you developmentally? Could you get to that point or is it beyond you?
“Do your research on the programs you are interested in and reach out to those coaches who have similarly skilled (or lesser) players than you. Your chances of getting recruited are much higher when you understand the level of each team and whether you are up to that level.” Coach Vicky Maes, Women’s Tennis University of Arizona
Why Is it so important?
Finding the right fit for you will give you the most satisfaction over your collegiate years. If you aim too high, you will have years of frustration. If you do nothing, you will be throwing yourself into a program like a blind dart thrower.
“Only considering schools based on status, I feel is the biggest mistake, or who has the better facilities or image. I promise you this and have seen it from personal experience. GO WHERE YOU ARE WANTED, and where you know YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Check into the coaches, and see if they can develop you both as a Student Athlete (SA) and as a PLAYER!” Coach Timothy Dixon, Women’s Basketball Missouri Valley College
Parents are also an important part of the process. If you are a parent, be honest with your son or daughter about what you see. Help them find a level at which they will thrive and enjoy their experience as a player.
Next, take a look at Being Recruited: Prospects Vs. Recruits.
How to Get Recruited: Got Talent. Get a Plan. Get Recruited.
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P.S. Come join our Facebook group, The Recruiting Code. This is the place to be for parents and coaches to talk about college recruiting. Come learn from each other, share stories and get information that will help your child become a college athlete.