I Want to Play in College (Part 3)

The following is the third in Tony Earp’s excellent article, (which we’ve brought you in three parts) with tips for getting to and choosing the right college for soccer. If you missed them, you can read Part One and Part Two:

Style of Play:
This is important for a player to understand before committing to a school. If a player feels more comfortable in a certain type of system, role, and style of play, to find a program that fits will make it more likely the player will be successful. Different players thrive in different playing systems, so it is important to discuss this with the coach. What type of system does the team play? Where does the coach see you fitting into that system? In a specific position/role on the team, what is expected?

A coach may see something in a player different than what the player wants to do. A player should be open to playing different positions and roles within a program, but making sure that is understood before accepting a spot on the team will help avoid future frustrations for the player and the coach.

Coach Reputation:
Again, all coaches have different styles and approaches to doing their job. Players want different things from their coaches. With that in mind, players can use the college recruiting process to see if the coach is the type of coach they want to play for over the course of their college career. Often a conflict between a coach and a player is a result in differences from what the player expects from their coach and what the coach expects from the player.

Players should ask coaches about their coaching philosophy and style of instruction. How does the coach manage the program and the players? If you get to visit the campus, ask the players on the team about their experiences with the coach. Whether the experience has been good or bad, there will be indications of the important qualities of the coach that are important to the player.

Impact on Being a College Student:
Playing college soccer is an amazing experience. It is a great privilege and honor to represent your team and school on the playing field. The memories and lessons learned over a college athlete’s career are invaluable to success for the rest of their life.

With that being said, a student athlete has a tremendous amount of responsibility on top of the regular responsibilities of a college student. Although all college students have other responsibilities outside of class (jobs, family, etc..), a college athlete will have many of these same responsibilities and have all the responsibilities of being a college athlete. At all times, the student athlete is expected to perform at a top level both on the field and in the classroom.

With all the team training sessions, lifting, individual training, games, and long road trips, it takes a lot of discipline and time management to keep priorities in line and not fall behind in class. This creates a different experience for college athletes. While other students are participating in fraternities or sororities, going to watch football/basketball games, enjoying their weekends with friends, and joining other student groups/clubs, a college athlete may have limited opportunities to do many of these things as often as a standard student.

In short, there is a sacrifice to being a college student athlete to the regular college experience. I think it is absolutely worth it, but that is a personal decision. Playing college sports is an intense, pressure filled, competitive, time consuming, and rewarding experience. There is not much a college athlete does through the day that somehow is not influenced by their commitment to the program. You must LOVE the game, to be willing to sacrifice and work that much harder, in order to be successful as a college student athlete.

Final Thought…
If you are in the process of looking at colleges and making the decision to play at the next level, seek advice from those who have been through the process, experienced playing collegiate sports, is a big part of the process. Use the resources and people around you to help!

The college recruiting process is a proactive process. Do not sit around and wait for college coaches to contact you. It really does not work that way. You must actively seek out the schools you want to attend and make contact with the coaches of the programs you are interested in attending. If you don’t, you may still get interest from some programs, but will those programs be the right ones for you? Believe it or not, you have A LOT of control in the recruiting process. The players who are actively seeking out college and programs and communicating with coaches, tend to have more, and better options, to choose from when it is time to make a decision.

Tony Earp directs SuperKick/TeamZone Columbus’ Soccer Skills programs. Tony has a Masters in Education from The Ohio State University. Tony was a standout player both academically and athletically at The Ohio State University, earning multiple honors both on the field and in the classroom. He can be reached at tearp@superkickcolumbus.com

I Want to Play in College

By Tony Earp

Great! That is awesome. You have been working your heart out since you were very young and you have got to a point where you are able to consider the option to play college soccer. It is something very special and an amazing experience for those who are lucky enough to get a chance. Now, the next point is deciding where you want to play and how. Unfortunately, this becomes the most difficult part of the process of getting to play soccer in college. There is a lot to consider and a lot of work to do on the athlete’s part OFF the soccer field. So, let’s get started…

Although below is not a comprehensive list of areas that are important for a player to consider, these are some major areas for a player to research when deciding where they want to play college soccer. As it says in the commercials, most college athletes go “pro” in something other than sports, so many of the things that should be considered are NOT soccer related:

Many student athletes want to stay close to home and others want to move far away. College is a great time to live in another part of the country and experience life away from home. With that being said, some kids find comfort with having their home and family close by.

Location is important because a player will actually spend most of their time away from the soccer field. Being home sick or not enjoying the town or city where the school is located can quickly over shadow a great soccer experience.

When researching a school, it is important to look into the community and surrounding areas. Does it seem like a place that would be enjoyable to live for the next four or more years?

Size of School:
A large school and campus with many students can make some kids feel like they are a drop of water in the ocean. A small school can make you feel like you are on a desert island with the same 5 people. The size of a school will impact a college experience. One is not better than the other, but one is definitely better than the other for you.

This is purely a personal preference. I wanted to be a part of a larger university with lots of things to do and different experiences offered. I was not sure what I wanted to major in and the larger schools I looked at had many more options for areas of study. I was not nervous about being in a large classroom or not getting as much personal attention from professors. As a student, I was always more of the person who just wanted to listen to the professor, study and read on my own, and then take the examination/test.

That would not work for everyone and a large university can make a person feel lost among the masses. Smaller universities may help students find an identity inside a smaller community of students and staff. A smaller campus may have better opportunities in a more limited fashion, but fit exactly what the student is looking for during their time in college.

My two favorite options to play college soccer were SMU and The Ohio State University. A big part of my decision to play at OSU was that I wanted to attend a larger university. When I was on SMU’s campus, I felt like I saw everything in a matter of minutes. At OSU, I was there for an entire weekend and felt I had not even scratched the surface of seeing everything. For some reason, that really appealed to me.

This is key. If a player already knows what he or she wants to study in college, soccer is a great way to get into a school that not only offers that major but specializes in that specific degree. As I mentioned before, the vast majority of college athletes, move on to a professional job after they are done playing. Soccer, like other sports, can open the door for players to attend a university that will set them up for what they want to do for the rest of their life.

If you are like me and are not sure what you want to study, it is important to find a school that has strong programs over a greater range of degrees. Ohio State is highly respected school in many areas of study, and this made me feel more confident about attending with not knowing what I was going to major in before I enrolled. Had I been certain about what I wanted to study, my college choice may have been different. Perhaps I would have looked for a school that specialized in that area. (Next: Weighing costs and team roster).

Tony Earp directs SuperKick/TeamZone Columbus’ Soccer Skills programs. Tony has a Masters in Education from The Ohio State University. Tony was a standout player both academically and athletically at The Ohio State University, earning multiple honors both on the field and in the classroom. He can be reached at tearp@superkickcolumbus.com