Want To Play Sports In College?

“Be bold and walk the path that is best for you.”

If you’re in highschool and starting to think about playing sports in college, you want to gather as much information as you can.  Here’s an interview with a head coach of a women’s college soccer team that gives you insight to a coach’s perspective. (Special thanks to Coach Isaac Brooks, head coach at Union University, where they play NCAA D2 soccer.)

At what age do you start recruiting players? When should players start their college search if they want to play at a collegiate level?
We can’t recruit players until June 15th before their junior year, but we start identifying players as early as their freshmen year. Girls should really get going on the recruiting process between their sophomore and junior years.

What kind of player do you look for when recruiting? (In terms of soccer, academics and character/personality). How important are each of those aspects in relation to each other?
We look for girls that are high level players, with strong academic markers, and the ability to fit in with the Christian culture of our university. All three are exceedingly important; a player doesn’t fit our culture if she is lacking in any area.

Do you use any recruiting websites?
NCSA (Next College Student Athlete) and NSR (National Scouting Report) have proven to be the most productive for us.

Could you rate how important each of the following is in the recruiting process?

  1. Watching a player play with their club or HS team
    Watching a girl with her club team is extremely important. Rarely will we watch a HS game
  2. Watching video of the player
    I will watch film, but it is just a starting point.
  3. Seeing a player at an ID camp
    This is one of the best ways to see a player. Make sure that you go to a small ID Camp, not a camp with 200+ players.
  4. Soccer references
    This depends on my relationship with the reference.

How do you personally usually find the players that you end up recruiting? (ID camps, college showcases, etc.)
We see girls at Showcases, ID Camp, and then a large percentage actually reach out to us first.

One of the main ways players get in touch with college coaches is through email. Do you have anything you would suggest and/or discourage when it comes to this?
Send us an email! This is extremely important. Also, don’t stop emailing us if you don’t hear back right away. We are extremely busy and we can’t always get back with you right away.

How much does it help to have different references and connections in club soccer and/or college level?
We definitely check references. I also like to contact professors, pastors, or bosses that know a girl off of the field. They can usually give me a better idea of her character.

What advice do you have for soccer players when making their college decision?
This is your college choice. Not your coaches’, your teammates, or your friends. I have seen way too many players make the wrong decision because it was what somebody else wanted them to do. They were influenced by outside pressures. Be bold and walk the path that is best for you.

The Power of Positivity

positivity-smallFun.  We all need a little bit of it in our lives.  We also need encouragement; you can build it into your practices.  Bringing encouragement and fun to practice helps yourself while helping your kids.

Consider this: 1 in 65,000 children ages 10 to 14 commit suicide each year.

Why share this on a post on positivity?  Because we as coaches make a difference!  Some kids may be dealing with an alcoholic father or mother , some form of abuse, or other hardships.  We just don’t know.  Sometimes it’s a coach that changes a kid’s personal attitude and outlook.  This has been true for many kids.

So how do we create positivity for our kids in our practices Here’s what sets the great coaches apart from the average.  Here are a few ideas.

  1. Enthusiasm makes a difference.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson once said,

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.’

Chances are you have had a coach or a teacher who made a difference in your life.  You probably remember his upbeat attitude, hearty laugh, or huge smile.  Maybe the coach was downright goofy, but had a way to get you excited about the sport.

Where’s your smile?  Do you laugh often in practice?  And do you illustrate a positive, enthusiastic attitude?  Or would your kids say that you are too serious?  And by the way, when it seems the kids aren’t quite getting it, it’s important to take the long view of their development. When you do, it’s easier to keep that enthusiasm high.

2.  Play upbeat energetic music.
Why not?  Find out what they like and play it during drills to keep the energy high.  And this doesn’t mean playing your favorite 80’s music just because you think they need to appreciate ‘your’ music because it’s the best!

Here’s what Xavier Rico, 2015 US Youth Soccer Coach of the Year – Boys Competitive has to say on this: 

I play music. That’s coming from my background growing up — someone always played music. So, I always play music. Hispanic music or Latin music — anything that has rhythm. I feel like it helped me when I was a kid to not be stressed about the game or just for the rhythm. I feel like dancing is so close to what we do with the ball on the field, so I play music. 

Xavier won the award.  So maybe you should just play some salsa music!

3.  Fun Awards and Competitions
Find ways to add fun awards.  One coach who had never coached soccer took a cue from a lady coach who did what she called the “Bubblegum Award’’.   He instituted it as well with his recreational soccer team. Participation was key and every single girl won that award.  Each week, he would have a theme such as who hustled the most or who had the most progress in foot skills or passing.  The kids looked forward to that award and many of the parents commented on how much they enjoyed seeing the girls talk about that.

Of course, the Bubblegum Award might not be appreciated by 15 year old boys playing at an elite level.  Make your fun award or competition appropriate for your team.

Positivity changes our outlook and it helps us to deal with our own personal adversities.  Remember that kids are learning how to look at life and YOU are the one person who might help them deal with challenges, both on and off the field.  Keep it Positive!

Why Can’t He Get it?


child-613199_1280-smallIt’s fun to work with kids that pick up the skills almost naturally, isn’t it?  But what about the kids who don’t quite pick it up so easily?  How do we help them? Remember that a team is only as strong as its weakest link, so our job as coaches is to remember to be patient and work with each kid as an individual.

Sometimes it’s hard for kids to retain certain skills and techniques.  Every kid is different and it helps to consider that not every high level player started out ‘getting it.’  Here are a few things to remember when dealing with your players.

  1. Every kid is different. Some focus better than others and no doubt some of you have kids who have ADD or ADHD.  Is the child paying attention or is it hard to keep their attention?  Remember to keep practices moving so there is not an inordinate amount of time just standing around – particularly for those kids diagnosed.
  2. Motor skills are often not fully developed in each child at the same time. One child who isn’t getting it age 7 might be crushing it by the time they are 12.  Our advice here is to be patient.  You might even see if you can do some one-on-one work with him.  But above all, keep it fun
  3. Vary how you teach a skill.

Every kid is different
First, the ability to focus varies in each child.  As mentioned in prior posts, it’s important to keep the practice moving – for ALL kids.  But for kids with ADD or ADHD, this is critical.  If you see a child having a hard time paying attention it may be because they have difficulty focusing.  Find out how best to help them.  Often parents notice this and may be able to help you with this.

Sometimes if you have to talk (and it’s important not to do too much of this) you can pull that child out to help demonstrate. Don’t do it to embarrass them, but to engage them.

Motor skills are often not fully developed in all kids at the same time
Amanda Morin wrote a great post about How Kids Develop Thinking and Learning Skills (http://u.org/1OVtzgc).  Her major point is that kids do develop differently.  She iterates that there are different instructional strategies that can make a difference in teaching kids to learn a skill.

A couple of points to help in this are:

  1. Make sure and REVIEW skills from prior sessions. Remember that repetition is the mother of learning.
  2. Present new skills in small steps. Great teachers break things down and make them simple.

Again, patience is a key here.

Vary how you teach a skill
Different people learn differently.  Some are kinesthetic learners and learn by doing.  There are visual learners. These kids can watch it and get it.   And then there are the kids who are more auditory learners who might hear things and understand it better.

One point on this last issue is to consider saying things in different ways to help the child understand things better.  A dance instructor once explained that she will vary things by explaining how to dance on rhythm in several ways.  For example, she will count it out and say “and 1-2-3…”   However, she will also say it this way, “and quick, quick, slow…”  We need to consider our language skills to help kids get it. And that coaches, is on us to make our communication that much better.

So, maybe the question isn’t ‘why can’t my kid get it?’ but ‘how can improve my skill in communicating so each child gets it?’

Want to Advance out of Pool Play? Win your Opener

We are in soccer tournament season, and with the World Cup approaching and the United States firmly seated in this year’s Group of Death for pool play, I found myself thinking about their odds of advancement. For that matter, what are any given team’s odds of advancement out of pool play if they don’t win their first game? Let’s get some facts and data behind that question with data from HTGSports.

Anyone who has been around youth soccer tournaments knows that there are a few possible group formats based on the number of teams who apply and are accepted. It doesn’t often end up that the format has a perfect eight teams: two pools of four teams, three pool games, a semi-final and final. In fact that’s a rarity. Sometimes there are six teams, or four, even 10 or 12. One thing that they all have in common is an important first game. From the vast data in HTGSports’ coffers here are some of the odds:

  • Of those who advanced out of pool 71% won their first game, 20% tied and 8% lost.
  • Of the winners of tournaments of any format, 74.5% won their opening game, 14.1% tied and 9.1% lost.
  • 79% of girls champions won their first game while only 71% of boys won their first game.  However, 12% of boys champions lost their first game while only 4% of girls champions lost their first game of pool play.

The graph below compares the results of game one between teams that advanced out of the group and teams that won the tournament.


The second graph shows the results of game one of pool play for the eventual tournament champions.

pie graph 2

So as the US goes up against Ghana in the opener on June 16 and the odds of advancing out of group or winning the tournament are firmly against us, one thing is clear. Want better odds? Treat that first game as if it is a final.

Cissell Says: Expert Knowledge and Advice for Running Tryouts

Tryouts are here and for a young coach this can be a stressful time. So we decided to pick a coach’s brain on the ins and outs of running tryouts to get a better sense of what goes into it. What better coach to talk to than Chris Cissell?

Do you know who Chris Cissell is? Well you probably do if you are from Kansas City. Cissell has been coaching youth soccer in Kansas City for 20 years. He started coaching in 1993 while playing at William Jewell and is currently coaching U14 and U17 boys club teams while he is also at the helm of the University of Missouri Kansas-City women’s soccer program. If there was a Mr. Kansas City Soccer Award, Coach Cissell would most likely be a finalist every year. Read on to see what Cissell says about running tryouts and get his expert advice for young coaches…and boy does he have a lot of advice for you.

How do you get players comfortable at tryouts?

You have to understand when kids hear the word tryout they come in very scared and nervous. So you have to make them feel comfortable and at ease otherwise you won’t be able to see what kind of players you have because both the players and their parents are so freaked out by the word tryout.

Coach’s tip on having a relaxing atmosphere…
This is just a little thing but I don’t refer to it as tryouts when I’m out there. I refer to it as a training session or I call it a practice. Even though everyone knows it’s a tryout, I try to use a different word than that just to try to get people to relax a little bit.

How long should a tryout be?

It depends on the age group but I usually hold a tryout session for either an hour or an hour and a half. That’s plenty of time to see what you need to see from each player. With the younger ages you really shouldn’t go longer than that because they’re going to lose focus and lose interest.

What are you looking for when you evaluate a player?

Touch, skill, and vision. I like to see their passion for the game and get a feel for how hard they’re going to work. I want to see how versatile they are; are they a one-dimensional player or can they play both offensive and defensive positions. I also like to see if this player can combine and work with others. Can they play in a 2v2 or 3v3 situation where they have to do a lot of quick passes and a lot of give and goes with a lot of off ball movement? Are they the kind of player who gets the ball and dribbles till they lose it every time and continues to take people on instead of trying to get their teammates involved? There’s a lot of different things you’re looking at based on age and the level of your team.

What are the best drills to do at a tryout?

I like to do a lot of 2v2 and 3v3 so you can see kids in tight space and see their decision making skills. You can see their offensive and defensive qualities and it they can combine with people. I prefer small-sided games instead of big scrimmages. Instead of 8v8 or 11v11 scrimmages I push them into 2v2, 3v3, or 4v4 situations and see how they can handle that. The kids will get a ton of touches on the ball and are always involved in the game. You can really evaluate them in that situation.

Coach’s advice on a quality tryout drill…
It depends on age groups, but I like to do 1v1 to goal. You see if a player has the ability to not only beat a defender 1v1 but can also score. If someone is a really good defender this can show how well they defend. If you have goalkeepers that are trying out then that’s a good drill to watch them too. One on one to goal can get everyone in every position involved and shows you a lot: who has the offensive ability, who can take people on 1v1, who can finish, how players defend, and how the goalkeepers play.

What goes into Coach Cissell’s tryout plan?

I like to start off doing skill work. Individual ball work can show you who has the touch and skill. I look to see who can juggle-depending on the age-because I feel like if someone can juggle than they’ve probably been around the ball a lot and play a lot of soccer. Then I like to go into 2v2, 3v3, 4v4, and play some quick transition games. After that, a couple of shooting drills with 1v1 to goal. Depending on the age group there’s a lot of different things you do in tryouts.

Coach’s advice on doing full field scrimmages at tryouts…
Depending on the age and how many players you have maybe a scrimmage at the end, but I don’t even think that that’s necessary unless you feel like you have a lot of players and you want to get them in a game setting. Every tryout is different. If you have players that are coming into a team that is already kind of established and you want to see how they play with your current players and team than a scrimmage could be a good thing to do.

Should a player’s attitude factor into their evaluation at tryouts?

I think attitude is very, very important. It’s especially important to see what their coach-ability is like and what they are like in practice. If you bring all the players together to explain a drill and you talk to them about what you’re expecting and what you want and then a player is not paying attention or is not listening, it’s a big red flag. You have to think, if you put them on your team are they going to be coachable, to learn, and understand what you are trying to accomplish or are they going to be a distraction?

Should conditioning or fitness tests be involved at tryouts?

There’s not a lot of need in tryouts to go on a mile run and time the kids to gage their fitness level. I think you can see that through playing and those small-sided games reveal what a player’s fitness level is like.

Is it hard on a coach to cut players?

I absolutely hate cutting players. That’s the thing I absolutely hate about my job and hate about soccer. I hate having to cut players and go to the kid and the parents and tell them that they didn’t make the team. This time of year is very, very stressful. It’s awful for the kids that don’t make it and get cut, but it’s also awful on the coaches. I don’t know too many coaches that like it.

Is it more important to pick up the best players or piece together the best team?

That’s a great question and I think every coach probably looks at that differently. I like to go back to something that Sir Alex Ferguson said, “I don’t put out my 11 best players. I put out my best 11.” I always thought that was an interesting quote and he said that was one of the best ways to describe his coaching philosophy. Obviously you are always looking for the best players you can get and you’re looking for game changers but if they don’t fit in well with your team, they’ve got a bad attitude, they aren’t coachable, and if they’re not going to work for the team, then I think you would rather have someone that is not as good of a player but a great team player and always puts the team first instead. It’s all about what you are trying to accomplish within your team.

What is one trend you’ve seen over recent years with tryouts?

The game is changing all the time. People are looking for the biggest, fastest, strongest players now, which is not necessarily what I do, but I’ve seen a lot of clubs and teams do that. I‘ve seen other tryouts where they just have the kids race 20-40 yards and it seems like if you are the fastest kid out there you’re going to make the team whether you have any technical ability or not-I don’t agree with that but it seems like that’s how a lot of teams do it these days, just looking for the biggest fastest strongest kid.

Do you have any advice for young coaches going through tryouts for the first time?

Try to have fun with it. Try not to get too stressed out. It is a stressful time, but understand that kids and parents are stressed out too and that sometimes emotions get the best of people. Relax and try to make the tryout fun. The parents are sitting there watching and the kids are playing and they are all stressed out, nervous, and scared-especially younger ages that have never been through tryouts. As a coach try to make it fun and get the kids to relax as much as possible because you only get to see what the players are really like and how good they are if they are relaxed and having fun. If they are scared, tense, and worried thinking, “If I have a bad touch right now, I’m going to get cut.” Then you aren’t going to get to see what they are like. The coach has to set the tone for the tryouts.

Thanks for the advice Coach!