Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Youth Soccer: What does it take to play D1 college soccer?

What does it take to play D1 college soccer?

  1. Skills - absolutely, D1 college players are among the best of the best.
  2. Speed - yes, soccer is a super fast game especially at the D1 level.
  3. Determination - yes, you've got to want it because there are plenty of players who will try to take it from you.
  4. Perseverance - yes, every career has ups and downs. Only the strong-minded survive.
  5. Toughness - yes you need both mental and physical toughness.
  6. Heart - yes, the desire to play has to run deep.
  7. Support - yes, you need people who believe in you
  8. A chance - yes, you need to get noticed.
  9. Size - no, not necessarily, but toughness is a must.
  10. Playing time in HS - no, apparently not. Some kids are late bloomers.
  11. Success at college showcase club tournaments - no, apparently not.

This story proves that all of the above is correct.
I was the head soccer coach for my older son's team when he was U10 to U13. The team I coached was the B team in a competitive select / travel soccer club. The A team was dominant. Every year, we would have a tryout and the A team coach would take the top 15 players. I took whoever was left.

The club was strong so, we had a few strong players on the B team. We also had kids with potential. Some of the kids had skills but no real burning desire. Some of the kids had loads of desire, but limited skills. Some kids were confident in their abilities and others lacked confidence. It was the job of the coaching staff to inspire and teach each kid and help them advance in the sport.

The coaching staff consisted of 1) a former Brazilian soccer pro who worked with the team on technical skills, 2) a former college coach who worked with the team on the tactical aspects of the game, 3) an affable, assistant coach with a passion for the sport and 4) me, a D licensed coach.

I think that we did a fairly good job. A few of our kids were promoted to the A team and eventually played significant roles on their HS teams. I always felt a sense of pride when the players from our team were highlighted in a HS soccer game recap in the local newspaper.

Brian U10
One of my favorite players from our team was a great kid named Brian, the assistant coach's son. Brian was a skilled player who could play defense or offense. He was small, but what he lacked in size he more than made up for in hustle, heart and determination. Brian's endurance and fearlessness were strengths of his game. He never seemed to tire and he never backed down from bigger players. Regardless, I never saw Brian's name in any HS sports newspaper stories. According to his dad, Brian made his high school team but did not play much.

Brian did not let that deter him.
To keep improving in the sport he loved, he played every Sunday in a local pick up game against some really skilled adult soccer players from the area. The weekly games consisted of US players, who played in college and foreign players, who grew up with the game. With the encouragement of the older players, Brian played and improved his skills.

Brian (in white) playing in pick up games against
bigger and stronger and more experienced players

Well, Brian ended up going to a Big Ten school not to play soccer but to study Biology. He played intramural soccer. After an intramural game the 2nd week of school, a coach from the men's team called him over. He asked Brian if he wanted to train with a team's trainer with the possibility of being a walk on.

Brian, of course, accepted and for the next two months, he trained 4-5 hours a day, 6 days a week. The supervised training and nutritional program with structured meals of almost 5500 calories a day, helped Brian gain 17 pounds. Brian also improved his quickness and endurance (5 min miles).

To keep Brian motivated, the team did a smart thing, they let him sit on the bench during a few games.
He eventually started training with the team and played in a few scrimmages. He even started in a few friendlies over the last few weeks. His efforts on the field resulted in two goals and one assist. He was then offered an official roster spot on the team.

The Main Point

Don't let your kids give up on their sports dreams especially if they are willing to work hard and sacrifice to make them happen. Brian's story is not typical, but it just goes to show you that anything is possible.


  1. Really great story - and it highlights something that a college coach mentioned on an interview on the NSCAA podcast.

    Many players come into college soccer (and I'm sure every sport) with the expectation of immediate gratification. They start at the bottom, and do (briefly) something the coach told them to work on - and then expect to quickly move up to start. They've been conditioned by Mom and Dad that a little bit of work is all that is required, when the truth is it could be a long time before they see the outcome.

    Thanks for the post.

  2. That's a great story. Brian loves the game & is willing to work to be the best that he can be. Also doesn't get deterred easily when things doesn't go his way. Didn't know you coached club soccer. My son (11) is in his first year of club soccer. 'A' team talent who is on the 'B' team. I call him a "B" boy and his teammates the "B" boys. It's been good for him. Gets a ton of playing time & because of his speed was forced to learn a position that I rarely played him at when I coached rec soccer. He's the featured striker. I used to play him primarily in the mid-field & at stopper.

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