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How to Get Recruited for Women's Soccer

How to get recruited for women's soccer.

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.

When does soccer recruiting start for women?

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.

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Getting started: Setting talent level and expectations

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. Give us a call at 866-495-5172.

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.

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The coach’s role in the recruitment 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.

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Researching schools and creating a target list

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:

  • 5-10 safety schools: These are schools that should be easy get into, athletically and academically. While they may not be top choices, student-athletes would be comfortable going to school there for four years. Having safety schools is all about keeping options open. However, student-athletes need to reach out to these coaches early on in their recruiting process, instead of waiting until they need them.
  • 10-15 target schools: Target schools are top picks, athletically and academically. Student-athletes should have a good shot at getting into these schools and should get excited at the thought of attending them. Ten is the minimum number of schools student-athletes want in this section of their list, as the best way to negotiate scholarship offers is to have interest from multiple schools.
  • 5-10 reach schools: Maybe it’s the price tag or the fact that they’re academically competitive—whatever the reason, these programs might be just out of reach. For most recruits, this list is comprised of Division 1 and academically rigorous colleges. Getting into these schools might be a longshot, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a shot worth taking. 

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.

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Creating an impressive recruiting video

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:

  • Keep the video short and sweet—three to six minutes at the most. Coaches are strapped for time, so don’t lose their attention.
  • Don’t waste time on an intro and music. Coaches don’t care about “cutesy” additions.
  • Stack your best plays in the beginning. Start your video off with a bang to get the coach’s attention.

Read more women’s soccer tips about how to make your best recruiting video.

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Proactively reaching out to coaches from target schools

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.

  • Send an introductory email to each college coach that includes a highlight video and key stats.
  • Follow up with a call to each coach, mentioning the introductory email.
  • If a coach doesn’t answer, leave a voicemail and make sure to tell them when to expect a call next.  
  • Respond to all correspondence from coaches, including letters, emails, social media direct messages and everything else.
  • Continue to follow up with coaches, sending them updated stats and new highlight videos, inviting them to upcoming games and congratulating them on recent wins.

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.

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Competing at events attended by coaches from target schools

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.

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Managing the women’s soccer recruiting process

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:

  • Show off an updated NCSA profile. Add in new stats, a new highlight video, an updated transcript or personal statement. When coaches search for athlete profiles, they want to see an accurate snapshot of who recruits are as student-athletes.
  • Go on unofficial and official college visits. The only way to really know if a school is right fit is to visit the campus. Make sure to schedule a time to meet with the coach, check out the training facilities, see the library, tour the freshman dorms and ultimately ask yourself, “Can I see myself living here for four years?”
  • Know the NCAA and NAIA Eligibility Center deadlines. Student-athletes need to make sure they’ve created their eligibility center profiles and sent in all their documents.
  • Take the SAT or ACT. Student-athletes should give themselves plenty of time to take the test twice in case they’re not satisfied with the first score. We recommend taking the ACT or SAT fall of junior year, so they can take it again in the spring if needed.
  • Send in the FAFSA. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid determines students’ financial eligibility and must be completed each year during college and the senior year leading up to college. The FAFSA can be sent in each year starting Oct. 1 and the federal deadline is always June 30 before the academic school year (state and college deadlines vary). Financial aid is first-come, first-served, so recruits should send in their FAFSA as close to the Oct. 1 date as possible.
  • Continue to be proactive in communicating with college coaches. Recruits don’t necessarily have to reach out to them every week, but it’s smart to keep them updated about upcoming games and progress every month. Here are 25 reasons to contact a college coach.
  • Continue to update the target schools list. Throughout the recruiting process, recruits will inevitably eliminate, or move up or down schools on their target list. Recruits should check back in with target schools every quarter to make sure they’re prioritizing their recruiting appropriately.
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Understanding scholarship offers and how to negotiate them

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.

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Signing with a school

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.

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