The process for NCAA women’s soccer recruiting is very competitive, and many families are unsure how to go about getting recruited. In fact, only about 9.6% of high school women’s soccer players go on to play in college, and only about 2.3% go on to play for a Division 1 school. That’s why, in addition to having athletic talent and good grades, it’s essential to take the soccer recruiting process seriously. In this section, we’ve outlined the major steps involved in the NCAA women’s soccer recruiting process and the general order in which they happen, helping you stay on track.
However, keep in mind that every soccer recruiting journey is a little different from athlete to athlete and from school to school. Athletes need to remember to stay proactive and not wait for coaches to find them. This guide covers all the different milestones potential recruits need to hit to get started on their NCAA women’s soccer recruiting journey.
Women’s soccer is known in the college world as a sport that starts the recruiting process early. For athletes and parents who are unsure about when to get started in the recruiting process, a good rule of thumb is to start it as soon as possible. That’s because many women’s soccer coaches are already evaluating athletes in 9thgrade or earlier. In fact, in NCSA’s survey of D1 women’s soccer coaches, 7% reported that they began evaluating talent before 9th grade, 45% began evaluating talent in 9th grade, and 47% began in 10th grade. Student-athletes looking to play ball in college should be in contact with coaches by sophomore year of high school to make sure available roster spots for their recruiting class are not filled up. By junior year, many women’s soccer coaches will have their rosters filled.
In most cases, the recruiting process starts with research and self-evaluation. In order to reach their goals, athletes and parents need to figure out what’s attainable for them athletically and academically. Here are some questions to ask before embarking on the recruiting process:
Am I ready for the demands of being a college women’s soccer player?
Regardless of division level, playing college sports is a major time commitment—and that’s why college coaches make it a priority to evaluate recruits’ commitment. There will be early practices, training sessions at odd times, and plenty of travel—all in addition to classes and homework. Before student-athletes take the next steps in their recruiting process, they need to be certain that they’re prepared to take their game to the next level and are ready to manage the demanding schedule of a collegiate student-athlete.
Am I good enough to play college women’s soccer?
NCAA women’s soccer recruiting is competitive, and athletes need to evaluate their own skill set while projecting how much they can improve by freshman year of college. To do so, they’ll need to loop in their current coach and have a frank conversation about their skill level and future potential. To get a better idea of where they stand, athletes can also get evaluated by a third party such as NCSA. Our staff of former women’s college coaches and athletes know what it takes to compete in college and can offer invaluable advice for the recruiting process.
What division level(s) am I qualified to play at?
Even though there are thousands of available roster spots across Division 1, Division 2, Division 3, NAIA and junior college levels, earning one of them is no easy task. Potential recruits have to do a fair amount of self-assessment and confer with their current coach to determine the level of competition that’s right for them in college. A third party such as NCSA can also help in setting proper expectations.
Not sure which division level is right for you? Check out the video below to see NCSA Recruiting Coach and former D1 and NAIA college coach Lindsey Boldt break down why women’s soccer recruits should consider all division levels when they start the recruiting process.
Student-athletes need to understand that success in the recruitment process is all about the effort that they put in. Ideally, college coaches will be reaching out to athletes through the NCSA platform or their high school or club coach, but most recruits will not have that luxury. For most athletes, their club or high school coach can serve as an advocate who can get them over the hump in the soccer recruiting process. They can advise athletes on the right level of play in college or talk to college coaches at programs that recruits have been in contact with. Just remember that coaches are busy and have an entire team (or several teams) full of athletes asking for help. Use their time wisely.
The soccer recruiting process can be drawn out and stressful, but the approach is surprisingly simple: Do plenty of research and cast a wide net. Once a student-athlete has determined the division level their skill set is best suited for, it’s time to start putting together a list of target schools. Student-athletes should consider whether they want a big school in a small town, if they’re comfortable attending a school that’s in a different state, how important class size is, and more. Start with a list of 20 to 30 schools and from there start contacting college coaches and whittling the list down to preferred schools. While putting together the list, organize it into the following categories:
The best path forward is to create as many opportunities as possible, which means starting out with more—rather than fewer—schools on the list. As recruits start communicating with coaches and learning more about each school, some might bump up a few spots on the list, and others might drop off entirely. Keep checking back in with the list and keep it updated.
A great recruiting video can be the difference maker in an athlete’s recruiting. While coaches prefer evaluating players in person—often at club tournaments—a well-done video can make athletes stand out among comparable recruits.
In a recruiting video, also referred to as a “highlight” video, coaches want to see match footage with field players making 20-25 plays. For goalies, a mix of match footage and skills footage is best. Here are some other tips for making a top-notch highlight video:
Read more women’s soccer tips about how to make your best recruiting video.
Once recruits have contact information for the coaches on their target list, they should start their outreach. Here is a handy guide for communicating with college women’s soccer coaches. For more information, visit the contacting college coaches page in our college recruiting guide.
Insider tip:Athletes who are having a hard time getting in touch with a college coach can ask their high school or club coach to call the college coach and schedule a phone call for them. College coaches can call club and high school coaches back at any time, which makes it easier for them to get in touch. An added bonus: When the college coach is talking to an athlete’s current coach, they can ask them questions about the athlete to help with their initial evaluation.
In a world where we rely heavily on digital forms of communication like email, text and direct messaging, when a coach receives a phone call from a student-athlete, it stands out positively in their mind. And for student-athletes, it gives them an opportunity to learn about the coach, evaluate their interest and ask direct questions. Check out this video where former NCAA and NAIA coaches Lindsey Boldt and Luis Cortell talk about the value of calling coaches and how recruits should prepare beforehand.
Coaches prefer to evaluate recruits at club tournaments and showcases, so playing for a top-tier club team and attending these events is a great way to get attention from Division 1 schools. However, many Division 2 and NAIA coaches also like to evaluate recruits at ID camps and clinics, so attending these events can also get players on the radar of coaches from many different division levels.
What’s important is finding the right camps, showcases and tournaments to attend. The most effective way for athletes to plan an events schedule is to make sure that coaches from their target list will be in attendance. Before traveling, research which coaches attended the event the previous years and if it has a tradition of good coach attendance. Then, athletes should contact those coaches to double check that they will be there and let them know to keep an eye out for them.
At the end of the day, finding the right events to attend really comes down to being part of the right women’s soccer club. Most events are held by club teams, so athletes really need to do their research and ask the right questions before joining a club team.
Once student-athletes have started the soccer recruiting process, there’s a lot of maintenance work to do in order to keep the process moving forward. At the beginning of the process, recruits will need to spend a few hours a week researching schools, sending introductory emails, making sure their highlight film is complete, and establishing their NCAA and/or NAIA eligibility. After that, recruits might go a couple of weeks without any recruiting activity. For example, if coaches are in the middle of their season, there might not be a whole lot of recruiting going on. Therefore, while managing the recruiting process, recruits are going to have peaks and valleys. Here are a few key things to look out for:
For most athletes, the goal of the women’s soccer recruiting process is to get a scholarship offer. Because women’s soccer is deemed an equivalency sport by the NCAA, coaches are not required to give out full-ride scholarships. They can break up the scholarship money as they see fit, and usually give the most money to their top athletes. Student-athletes can learn more about the different types of offers in our College Recruiting Guide.
Most families want to know recruiting tips for negotiating a scholarship offer. The best bargaining tool you can have is offers from other schools. Coaches do not want to lose recruits to other institutions, especially rival schools. Ideally, you want to have serious recruiting interest from five schools to negotiate your best offer. And always negotiate based on your Expected Family Contribution, or how much money your family will be paying out of pocket after everything’s factored in.
To formalize a scholarship offer and make it legally binding, recruits need to sign with a school. About 650 NCAA DI and DII schools use the National Letter of Intent (NLI) and NAIA schools have their own version of the NLI to sign. The NLI is a legally binding document, so recruits need to double—and triple—check that they know what they’re agreeing to before putting pen to paper. By signing this document, they’re agreeing to compete at the school for one year, and the school is promising to provide them with the agreed-upon scholarship for that one year.
After signing, the recruiting journey is over! Student-athletes should celebrate this important moment as they look ahead to the next chapter of their lives.
Some college soccer coaches across the country have been furloughed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. So, what should a recruit do if a coach they’ve been speaking with has been furloughed?