Twenty years ago, coaching for the first time, I first understood the painful economic side of the club teams. One of the best coaches in our club was also a father of four. One of his own children was able to play on his team without paying the coaching fee but he could not afford to have his other three children play. He was a man who loved the game of soccer and loved it for his family as well. But three of his children played on the recreational level due to economics.
Over the years I have been on every side of this issue. I have coached at two high schools, 3 clubs (two as the director of coaching) and at three colleges. The club verses high school debate has been going on as long as I have been coaching.
What if You Can’t Afford To Pay Club Fees
My last post revealed the truth that college coaches are not watching high school games. Today, let’s start with a FACT: There are a lot of talented and passionate athletes that are priced out of the club system. The high school athletic program is their only option.
THE PROBLEM: High school athletes that would like to play in college are not being seen by college coaches, but they would desperately like to play at the collegiate level. And this is no small number of players.
Here are a few solutions that I know will work. I want you to jump into the conversation and offer up ideas and solutions that will benefit the players who, because of economic or family reasons, cannot join a travel team.
You will hear me say over and over: being proactive is the single most important thing you can do to play in college. So these tips are for everyone. Outside of the club structure being proactive is twice as important.
Let’s Start at the Beginning
The first thing you need to do is your homework. Research colleges and prioritize which schools you are interested in.
After researching and picking out several schools, contact the coach. You are free to call, text, or email a coach at any time.
An email is an easy way to get started. The email should be short. Make the letter personal to each coach and school. Include details about the school. Spam or mass email to coaches goes straight to the trash.
Don’t Neglect the Communication
Communication should be regular. Failure to hold up your end of the communication will make the coach lose interest. Remember there are a lot of high school players vying for a select number of college roster spots. You are part of a big numbers game. Coaches don’t have time to invest in players who don’t respond.
Several years ago a player who had a distinguished college career for me, including being my captain and goal keeper was not able to play with a club her junior or senior year of high school. She played only high school. I didn’t find her. She found me. She called and scheduled a campus visit. In all she came to campus three times her senior year in high school. After months of demonstrating interest in the school, I watched one of her high school playoff games. Her freshmen year of college she won the starting position between the posts. She was that good. Had she not been determined to seek me out, she never would have stepped foot on a college playing surface.
They Have Got To See You Play!
First research, then contact the coaches. Now you need to get yourself in front of the coaches.
First, make a YouTube account and post video of yourself and your team. You can add a skills video and one of raw game footage. Depending on the sport and the coach, it is good to have a couple of each type available. If you didn’t include this in your first contact with a coach, send a follow up email with links to your YouTube videos. Don’t have a camera? Talk to your high school coach, there are probably other parents who are already filming the games and would be happy to help. Be proactive.
Go To College Camps
Second, sign up for camps at the colleges you are interested in. I would suggest you go to a couple different levels of colleges (D1, D2, D3, NAIA) over your high school years. This will give you a better indication of where you fit. This is a great way to develop a relationship with the coach and have them see you play. Camps can be both a week long summer camp and a one/two day ID camp. If you can’t afford a college camp, try asking the coach for a scholarship. You never know. Be proactive.
Invite Them to Your Games
In my last post I said college coaches DON’T attend high school games, but I didn’t say they WON’T attend high school games. Coaches are looking for two things: talent and interest. Send coaches your schedule and invite them to watch you play, yes, even at the high school. College coaches may not show up at high school games to find players, but many will come to a specific game to watch a specific player. These are the high school games that I attended, and they often cemented a player on my roster. Just don’t expect them to show up uninvited and discover you. Be proactive.
Letter of Recommendation
Fourth, have your coach prepare a letter of recommendation for you. This provides the college coach with the phone number and email of your high school coach. Most coaches want to hear from your current coach anyway. A conversation gives the college coach one more indicator of what type of player you are.
What To Do If You Don’t Know What To Do
Do you feel anxiety building, wondering what you need to do?
If you feel like you have been stumbling along or have not even started the recruiting process, it is time to take action.
Nobody can guarantee you that you will end up on a college roster or that a coach will offer you a scholarship? However, you can greatly increase your chances if you know what to do.
If you are ready for Recruiting to be made easy, you are ready for
How to Get Recruited: Got Talent. Get a Plan. Get Recruited.
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12 thoughts on “What If You Can’t Afford Club Sports?”
I also believe I have a bright future if I can get exposure to the top tier scene, And I love soccer with everything and its all I care about and do. I feel like I need all of that competition and quality coaching to make it but it is way too expensive and far away. I just want to have a happy successful career. Also thanks for the article when I found it it gave me hope that I can make it!
Thanks for your comments. I wish you the best of luck. You can do this. It will just take a lot of extra work on your own to get where you want to go. I read your other comment as well, but figured you would not want it published. Over the years I had several girls play collegiately for me who never played travel. It is possible. Develop your talent. Keep reading the articles and interviews with college coaches they will help you with how to get yourself recruited. Have a great summer! Bryan
Is this a rule of thumb for all sports? My daughter plays 14u softball, when should she start this process
My following comments are a generality. College vary significantly in their time frames (and coaching changes also affect a schools recruiting calendar). Some Division 1 coaches will begin looking at freshmen and sophomores. Division 2 typically sophomores and juniors. A great number of colleges won’t begin until the junior year seriously looking. Personally, I introduce most of our teams to showcases the sophomore year. I would only do the freshmen year if you have a team of incredibly talented players.
College coaches are not looking at 7th and 8th graders for sure.
Hi, I really enjoyed your article. I am 14 and attend high school and I would really like to go pro but the thing is I live in a small town where clubs are almost an hour to two hours away from us and I have my grades to keep up. I feel like I would be good enough but I also feel kind of scared to email a coach because what if I mess up and they don’t want to come back again? I also don’t have the money to attend the school I want to!
You packed several good questions in. Here are my thoughts.
1. Going pro is not something ultimately that can be controlled. It is not quite like, I want to be a doctor. To be a doctor, if you put in the work, you will 99% of the time succeed. To give yourself the best chance of going pro, you need to take it one step at a time and that included setting your sights on college first.
2. High level athletes don’t stop at feelings. High level athletes have focused intensity and pigheaded determination day after day, year after year. They work long hours outside of team training and they work hard. If you love the sport, train on your own. In reality, some of us are limited by money or location. We have to take those things into consideration as to how real a dream is for us. I have worked with several players over the years who drive two hours to a practice. The sacrifice and toll on the family was huge. You and your family would have to be willing to pay that price.
Now we are getting to the more important questions for you.
3. Money for college: There is far more money in academics than in sport available. Keep your grades high, not just up. Study for the ACT/SAT as though it were a job. Scores on those tests make thousands of dollars of difference to most educations.
4. It is okay to be nervous about contacting a coach, but if you live in fear you will be always stuck where you are. The athletes who find roster spots get over there fear and contact coaches. Pretend you are a can of coke and you need to market yourself. In essence what you are doing is advertising. You are getting yourself in front of the eyes of coaches so they take notice of you. If they believe you (the product) is of high enough quality, they will respond and recruit you. The two worst things a coach can do is ignore you or say no. Really, neither is that awful.
College coaches deal with 14-22 year old kids on a daily basis. We know you won’t be perfect. We know you will be nervous. We know your emails won’t be perfect and your voice may shake on the phone. We don’t mind. It is normal.
If you really want to play in college, sit down tonight and begin writing the email. Have your parents read over it and correct grammar, but you write it. Fill out the questionnaire on the athletic programs website. If you want some more information on how to begin, go to the “Research” tab and the “Start Here” tab at http://www.trc.simplethingsbyally.com. Read through those articles. They will help give you some more direction.
Best of luck Olivia!
thanks for this info. I have a daughter playing soccer U13 (NPL league) and i’m weighing whether or not to keep her with the current club team or let her play in a town team currently fielding her age-group at premier level. The cost to play for the club is more than double. I would like to hear your take on this, please.
I would not worry about the implications of college soccer when making this decision. Make the decision based on what is best for your family now. Families almost always spend more money on club soccer than they could recoup in athletic scholarships, which are not a certainty at the end of it all.
I personally would keep my daughter local and with friends (I have a 13 year old girl soccer player as well). The issues for me would be fun, social, financial. Sometimes players do outgrow a team with regards to skill and this also becomes a factor.
Do you sell your book in any other format? I dont have a Kindle. What about an actual paperback or hardcover book?
I only sell the book on Kindle. I am sorry that I don’t have it available for you in a hard copy or other format. If you have specific questions for me, let me know and I would be happy to answer them.
Heyyyyyy ! Thanks for this article.my daughter is a U/14 player going into 8th grade.she loves soccer and has been hounding me to play in a club team.this has helped put some motivation into a different way to get her skills worked on and such..
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