The college recruiting timeline is a subject of great confusion. Rumors spread like wildfire, people make uninformed decisions, and it often results in frustration and disappointment. The rumor mill spawns myths like, “If it’s the spring of your junior year and you haven’t been contacted by any coaches, you have no chance of playing soccer in college.” That’s just wrong. If you are a second-semester junior, you should definitely get moving, and even if you’re a first-semester senior, there’s still time to make an effective recruiting pitch. Some doors will have closed by now, but there is still plenty of opportunities out there.
So when should you start?
For most players, the best time to start the recruiting process is during their sophomore or junior year. If you start when you’re a sophomore, you simplify the process by giving yourself more time to learn about college teams, communicate with the coaches, and visit campuses. If you start when you’re a junior, you have to be focused and make sure to get in the spotlight quickly. Once you start communicating with college coaches, make sure to have regular contact with them until you decide which college you will attend. This actually isn’t that difficult. It just requires a little work each month.
A great time to start preparing for the recruiting process is when you’re not in the middle of a season. This allows you to devote some of the time you normally would spend at practice to setting up and utilizing your CaptainU Recruiting profile. While many coaches don’t finalize their recruiting classes until the winter or spring of the recruits’ senior year in high school, it’s better to get a head start and prepare yourself for the process of applying, being accepted, and offer letters being sent from the college.
From the coach’s end, recruiting is a long, tiring process. With CaptainU, you will make it easier for coaches! This really works in your favor because, generally speaking, people like you when you make their lives easier.
We see lots of athletes who start writing coaches while they’re still freshmen. If this is your style, go for it. To win the college recruiting game, you have to keep up the pace over the course of the next few years. If you do start early and then proceed to fall off the face of the earth until your senior year, you haven’t helped yourself. If you do start recruiting as a freshman, in addition to maintaining regular contact with your candidate coaches, you should send an updated Profile every year. The bottom line for freshmen: start recruiting only when you’re ready to spend a little time each month on recruiting. To get in the spotlight, you have to communicate with college coaches regularly—not just when the spirit moves you.
Early starts for premier players
The recruiting timeline is accelerated for the top prospects in the country—those who have regional and national team experience, or are the key players on high-profile club teams. These players usually get a lot of attention from college coaches and if this is the case for you, don’t make the coach do all the work. Active recruiting thrills college coaches. Show the coach—who’s clearly enthusiastic about you—that you’re just as excited about playing for him.
Elite girls: Start spring of sophomore year
In recent years, the top handful of Division I women’s programs in the country have accelerated recruiting by a year. Recruiting is sometimes finished as early as the fall of a recruiting class’s junior year in high school—which is to say that by the spring, coaches of some elite women’s teams are looking almost exclusively at sophomores. Admissions departments do an “early read” of a recruit’s credentials and report to the coach whether the player will likely be accepted. If everyone agrees that it’s a good fit, the coach will ask for a verbal commitment from the athlete.
Elite boys: Start summer before junior year
The timeline is also accelerated for elite college men’s teams—though not to the extent of women’s recruiting. One possible explanation is that boys physically develop later in
high school. A sophomore boy who’s the biggest, baddest player on his team will not necessarily be the big dog in two years.No less, the top few Division I men’s programs solidify their recruiting classes relatively early—often when athletes are still juniors.
All is not lost for those—including yours truly—who decide to pursue college sports during their senior year of high school. Some opportunities may have already passed, but there still is hope. The most important thing is to move quickly yet carefully to find colleges you like and then correspond with the coaches at those schools.
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