This week I had a fantastic hour long conversation with a college women's coach. He's a 15 year college coaching vet in the east & south with assistant/recruiting experience at D2 and D3 and the last decade as head coach at the NAIA level. (Disclaimer: this advice is probably not for players targeting National Team exposure or strictly Power 5 Division 1 starting positions, but rather the other 98% of youth soccer players out there.) Here are the notes I took from him on the recruitment process and women's college soccer in general that were helpful to me and my player: 1. In deciding what level is appropriate for your player to aspire to, remember that the variation in the quality of soccer programs within each division (NCAA D1-D3 & NAIA) can be wildly unpredictable. His quote: "You can find bad soccer at every level of college, and you can find great soccer at every level, too." Don't focus too much on the division, focus on the individual school's program. For example, his NAIA school has better facilities and more resources for athletics than the local directional D1 State school (i.e. South Western Bamasippi State) and can compete with them for recruits. 2. The most commonly successful way to get on a coach's radar is to reach out directly to them. Almost 100% of his current players made the first contact to him, and usually it was via an email introduction. 3. Even at his small school, he gets "hundreds" of emails a day. If you don't personalize the salutation of the email (ie. "Hello Coach Smith" vs. "Hello Coach") he will automatically delete it. Likewise, he will dismiss any email that doesn't include some sort of indication that the player has researched the school and mentioning reasons they are considering the school. With that volume of emails, it just becomes overwhelming otherwise. 4. The second most common way to get on his radar is from club or HS coaches he knows recommending players to him. That being said, such recommendations don't mean much unless the kid expresses a desire to go to his school and demonstrates that by reaching out. 5. Scouting at showcases is the least effective way to be discovered. He told me that at any big showcase there are probably 5-6 girls on every team that could potentially play for him. To maximize his time watching, he needs to focus on kids that are in communication and on his radar already. (note: there is no restriction on communication between NAIA coaches and players before junior year like there is for NCAA D1). He said that ID camps were dependent on the school: "Some run them as money makers, but we did our first one and I got several new recruits out of it that I might not have seen otherwise." 6. Don't put music on your video highlight reel. If you must, make it instrumental. He just had one this week that "had lyrics so vulgar, I was blushing. And I'm not a prude." 7. As a recruit at an NAIA school or D3, you can actually practice with the team on a campus visit. There may be some restrictions on the time of year you can do this, but at his school, it was pretty wide open and according to him, "the best way for me to evaluate the player's fit with our program." 8. He "almost never" gives out a full ride athletic scholarships. Usually it's a 1/3 or 1/4 athletic scholarship, supplemented with academic scholarship money and other financial aid. At his school, he only has about 6 full scholarships available per year (I was shocked), but it varies from school to school at the NAIA level, some having as much as 12. For example: He had a recent commit who is getting a 10k athletic scholarship, 10k academic (3.7 GPA), and 5k in other financial aid packages for a school that runs 31k/year. That means she'll be going to school for about 5-6k in tuition. Not a bad deal. He said that is very typical for his school. 9. As most people on here already know, your player's GPA is a BIG, BIG deal. But besides all the obvious reasons (indicator of success in school, no eligibility question marks) at the NAIA level, kids with GPA's from 3.8 up to 4.0+ do not count against the NAIA athletic scholarship per-school $ limit (3.5-3.8 GPA's counts only 20% against the cap). This means he almost never gives out athletic money to students with grades worse than 3.5. 10. What he looks for in a player: "At our level, we're a top 20 NAIA school, so I always want at least 3-4 players on my roster who could have played D1 ball. This year, I only had two, and it was tough. There are three attributes I tell my coaches to evaluate: Athletic ability, technical skill, and mentality which means soccer IQ. In order to play college soccer at any level, you have to be EXCEPTIONAL at two of those things. If you are exceptional at all 3, you're probably already being recruited to a top D1 soccer program. But I want a player who is exceptional at any two of those things. We can work on the third enough to be competitive." Bonus #11: Every coach in other parts of the country knows how high the quality of soccer is in Southern California and love them when they come calling. When I told him my kids' size, position, GPA, and club team ranking, he said, "If she's on a good team in Southern California with a high GPA, she'll have lots of opportunities out here in NAIA, D3, D2 and even in a lot of D1 programs. Guaranteed. Coaches will take a hard look at her. She just has to be persistent." There were lots of other topics covered specific to her position and tactical soccer philosophy, plus some hilarious criticisms of the club soccer scene in general (which we all know too well) but this is stuff I thought any parent starting the process could benefit from.