Welcome to Interview #2.
I am pleased to share with you the insights of highly successful NCAA Division 3 Women’s Soccer Coach, Marcus Wood of Hardin-Simmons University. Coach Wood has compiled a 268-32-22 overall record, including the 2010 NCAA Division 3 National Championship.
I consider Marcus a friend and had the pleasure of going 0-7 against him from 2008-2014. His attention to detail is what I believe makes him so successful. Whatever sport or level you are hoping to play, pay attention to what Coach Wood has to say about the recruiting process.
Where do D3 soccer coaches most often find players for their teams?
I attend 7-8 showcase tournaments per year. Most D3 coaches recruit regionally. At HSU, all the showcases I attend are in Texas and we primarily recruit Texas. When we have players interested from outside of Texas they often send us video.
Division 3 does not offer athletic scholarships. Why do you think athletes should consider D3? What are the benefits of D3 specifically?
You want to be in a nurturing, uplifting environment. You want to be a part of a soccer program that will make you a better person. You want to see values in action that will stick with you for the rest of your life. I will give 3 examples of student-athletes who chose HSU over a D1 university. Carlyn Powers wanted a small Christian college. That was important to her. She chose HSU over several D1 scholarship offers. Brittany Vacca wanted to go to a top Physical Therapy school. She was starting at a top D1 and was on scholarship. She transferred to HSU to get the grades she needed to get into Physical Therapy school and still have the opportunity to play soccer at a high level. Amy Kuykendall had many full ride scholarship offers. She got an accounting degree and was quickly able to pay off any loans. When she visited HSU she could see that our team could play at a very high level, had a culture that she would fit and she would get a great education. Carlyn, Brittany, Amy and many others had to see tremendous value in Hardin-Simmons University because they paid much more to attend HSU than they would have elsewhere. Cost is only one factor in the decision.
We also have a number of student-athletes who are not heavily recruited but end up working harder and having more successful collegiate careers than some of their peers who received scholarships. If you are motivated and have a vision for what you want to achieve, you can maximize your opportunity.
What can or should high school athletes do from their end to get on your radar screen?
Email the coach. Tell the coach why you fit our university. Send your resume with academic and athletic accomplishments. Send a highlight video or game film that is well marked so we can identify you. If the coach feels that you have the talent to play at that university, then a campus visit is in order.
What are the important steps for an athlete to get noticed by you?
First the student-athlete wants to get on the radar of the college coach. Then we watch a showcase. Once we know the student-athlete is a good fit academically, socially and athletically we arrange a campus visit. We love for student-athletes to attend our College Prep Camp if it works into their calendar.
How important are 3rd party recruiting companies such as CaptainU and BeRecruited for you in finding athletes?
We have never found a student-athlete that is a perfect fit for Hardin-Simmons University through a recruiting service.
Are they a benefit to the high school athletes?
I do not recommend recruiting services. They are expensive and do not do more than you could do on your own. It seems like a student-athlete would do better to find several universities at each level that are a good fit academically. Then begin working on the soccer part of the equation. I would hope every student-athlete would get to choose between 2 or 3 very good options by doing their own homework. If you write several NCAA D1, D2 and D3 universities, see who responds. The Coach who really wants you will be pursuing you. I recommend choosing a university that really wants you opposed to one where you have to beg them for a tryout.
If an athlete personally contacts you by phone or email, what will you do next?
Google them. Do they have any soccer awards? Do they have video? We have a standard email for student-athletes who have the quality to play at HSU. If their resume is impressive, we send the standard email right away. If they do not have awards, we will try to watch them at a showcase tournament. At a showcase we get to see a fraction of the student-athletes who wrote to us. We prioritize student-athletes who have shown a real interest in HSU and have some proven history of success.
What is the role of the parent in the recruiting process?
Mom & Dad are very important. Mom & Dad offer great advice, wisdom and experience. On the recruiting visit I often have parents ask the probing questions. Parents are more assertive on the visit than most 17 year olds would be.
What should recruits and their parents keep their eyes open for when they are on a campus visit?
I would want the opportunity to meet with current student-athletes without the coach present to ask all the important question. What is it really like? What are the positives and negatives?
What does the offseason, spring season and summer look like for a D3 soccer player?
January – March we ask the girls to lift twice a week for 1 hour. Total time commitment is 2 hours per week. March – April we take 5 ½ hours per week for 5 weeks. In the summer they are on their own. We ask them to play as much as possible and to get into excellent physical condition. As a conditioning test we use the Beep test.
NCAA D3 allows 15 practices and one date of competition in the spring. We do not practice until after spring break. After spring break we practice three days a week for 5 weeks. We always try to play top D2 & D1 competition in our spring game.
D3 student-athletes have more free time than D2 & D1 student-athletes in the spring semester, as legislated by the NCAA. As the coach, I am not allowed to coach my team very much in the spring semester.
How do academics and athletics fit together?
For us it is primary. We only recruit very high end students. High end students get academic scholarships. Those academic scholarships make private education more affordable. We have to narrow down our candidate pool into student-athletes who fit every way.
The fall is the most challenging time of the year for the student-athlete. Self-discipline and time management are important skill sets.
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?
Look for a home that fits you academically, athletically, socially and financially. Do your research and find out everything you can about each potential option. College soccer can be an awesome experience when you find the right fit!
Profile: Marcus Wood – 15 years (2000-Present)…Head Coach, Hardin-Simmons University- 268-32-22 (.865) overall record as head coach…NCAA record 15 year, 171 game conference unbeaten streak… 2010 NSCAA and D3 Soccer National Coach of the Year…4 time NSCAA Region Coach of the Year…15 ASC Regular Season Championships and 13 ASC Tournament Championships…13 NCAA Tournament appearances…6 NCAA Sweet 16 Appearances…2010 NCAA National Champions.
Next, check out: Great Athletes Avoid Division 3 Schools. True or False?
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