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Academic Success is Vital Part of Recruitment

Want to get recruited for college varsity soccer? Think you’ve done everything you can on the field but still looking for an edge? Attack those schoolbooks! Rack up those grades! Go, scholar, go!

Academic success is a vital part of the process, and in far more ways than most players realize.

First and most obvious, the soccer athlete has to get through the admissions process. The varsity coach can help at the more stringent schools, as long as the player is at least academically “on the bubble.”

What does “on the bubble” mean? Once Admissions decides which applicants are academically unquestionable, and which are academically impossible, it is left with a large middle group of applicants that are academically viable if admitted. However, that number usually exceeds the remaining spots available in the entering class.

An additional push from some direction can get the player in. A varsity coach can usually provide that push, but players have to show the grades and test scores that land them on the bubble to begin with. The better the grades, the less capital the coach has to spend on a player with his admissions liaison. Even better are players that require no prodding at all from a coach to get through the admissions process academically.

Getting in is one thing, staying in school is another. Coaches usually get minimal value from most freshmen, and are investing a roster spot based on a four-year projection. It is very annoying to find a player academically ineligible after just one. Again, coaches study academic performance in making decisions, as much as they look at the skills on the field. Solid grades, good work habits, a display of maturity --- all go a long way in convincing a coach he should bring a player on board.

One NCAA DI coach from a mid-level academic school indicated he preferred to see a student who had an uninterrupted string of “C+’s” on his report card, rather than one with nothing but “A’s” and “D’s,” even if they averaged out to the same overall grade. For him, the C+ student was a “plugger,” a student who steadily plugged away at his grades and made sure he got his work done.

The student with big highs and lows was suspect, someone with the ability but not the discipline. Put into a college environment where students have to be ever more self-motivated, the student could easily become an early burn-out. In short, academic consistency is a virtue onto itself, regardless of the level.

Another concern is funding a college education. Few students can afford college today if required to pay the full costs without financial assistance. Athletic scholarship money only goes so far on a roster, if available at the school at all. But there are other possibilities.

Another NCAA DI coach advised that he could find academic scholarship funds for his players if they entered with at least a ‘B’ average and maintained it through college. Coupling a 50 percent academic scholarship with a 30 percent athletic scholarship got a lot of his players over a massive hump. But, again, the student had to perform academically.

There are other considerations as well. Some school and conferences require their athletes to be reasonably representative of the student body as a whole. A couple of high-achievers on a varsity team can help pick up the overall GPA. Sound like a silly way to run a sports program? It’s out there, so take advantage of it if you can!

The NCAA has also started tracking the graduation rate of the athletes at its member schools. If a school lags behind, it can temporarily forfeit the number of athletic scholarships it can offer, obviously weakening it competitively. Again, there is a premium for a coach to fill out his team with academic performers. Given the choice between two equivalent players on the field, the coach certainly has incentive to go with the one with the better academic record.

So get those grades up and keep them up! But if you are reading this too late to change your fate before you graduate, don’t despair, there is always the possibility of that final chance. At one of our MSSL College Showcases, we observed three coaches chatting and increasingly salivating at a New York City prospect playing on the field in front of them. The Patriot League coach finally checked the Player Profile binder provided by the tournament, and looked at the attacking midfielder’s GPA and SAT scores. The Big East coach next to him stated the sad conclusion: “You and I can’t touch this kid.” The junior college coach next to them finally spoke up: “I was wondering why you were wasting your time here. This is MY territory!”

Just remember, it was a junior college transfer who scored the winning goal in the championship game for a recent Big East national champion! So there are ways to get one’s grades straightened out, and move on to the next level. But why wait? There is more than just your soccer game that will benefit!

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