Your Master Plan for Playing Soccer

by  Roby Stahl

You have decided to play soccer at the college of your choice. It’s good to aim high. If you aim for heaven and you miss, you’ll still hit the stars or at least the tree tops).
You must have a master plan to enable you to head toward your goals. The mistake most players make is making athletics their number one priority. Without hitting the books, you probably won’t get into the school of your dreams.
Academic requirements of admission get tougher each year. Contact the NCAA for a free copy of the latest “College Bound Student Athlete Guide” (Tele: 913-339-1906) to make sure you are well informed. The guide details the courses you must complete and the GPA you must attain to be eligible for collegiate athletes at NCAA Division I, II and III colleges. Honors courses help. The guide also defines the rules of conduct during recruiting.
You should take the SAT or ACT exams early and often. You may submit your highest scores. Coaches will often ask your SAT score, generally expressed as the sum of your math and reading scores. A 500 in reading and a 600 in math will create an 1100 SAT score; pretty average scores for soccer players today.

Participation in extracurricular activities is important. Volunteering for key clubs and charity events helps build character and shows college admissions officers that you are well rounded. Why not get involved in your community as a volunteer assistant coach with a lower age group team. It will look good on your resume and might actually help you develop into a better player!

College coaches look for serious players. This doesn’t mean you have to be the best player on the team. Now is the time to get serious. This entails taking care of your body, i.e. making sure you maintain a balanced diet, undertaking a strength and fitness program (including sprint training and plyometrics) and getting the proper amount of sleep.
Show the proper respect for yourself, your teammates, referees, fans, and most important, the game…especially when you are in the public’s eye. A coach watching you perform will give you negative points in his book if you look sloppy or act like a bum on the field. This means: tuck in your shirt, walk with an air of confidence, no weird haircuts, and watch your mouth. First impressions are lasting impressions. Last impressions are equally important. Don’t throw away all you hard work in the last 10 minutes of a game by doing something stupid.
Recently I asked several major college coaches what they thought of one of the top senior players in a high school tournament. All said they liked his playing ability, but all had crossed him off their lists because of his poor attitude. First and last impressions…
Seek out a good learning environment. Find clubs with experienced coaches who will help you develop, not coaches that just want to win games. My own definition of a good coach is that individual who develops you to be successful at the next level of your career. Good competition during leagues and tournaments is a must. It is vital that you train and play year round. Ask your high school coach and club coaches to constantly evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Continue to develop your strengths and ask them for a program to eliminate your weaknesses. Remember that even the professional players in every sport seek advice and spend lots of time relearning the fundamentals. Also play in good club tournaments; if your team doesn’t go often, try to be a guest player on a good team.
Participate in ODP if you can. It is a good program and should provide you with good competition, an honest evaluation, and if you progress, a chance to be seen by an enormous amount of college coaches. Take the case of Danielle Bordman of Cincinnati. She never was involved in ODP because she heard negative things about how political it is (it usually is only if you aren’t selected). She finally tried out her sophomore year in school and progressed from district, to state, to regional, all the way to the U-16 National Team. She has been a constant fixture at the last two U-20 national team camps and will be attending perennial national champions University of North Carolina. All because she took a chance! A great example of my motto – HIGH RISK, HIGH REWARD. Of the 85 players currently on our U-23, U-21, U-18, and U-17 men’ s national team squads, 78 came through the state ODP program”’
During the summer, find a good training center to attend. Do your homework and find an environment that challenges you mentally, physically, technically and tactically. Not just one that plays a lot of games (see the article: Selecting a Soccer Camp). This is a good time to develop your master plan. Your staff coach will love to help you with it.
Far too many players and parents think that being a good player is enough. IT’S NOT! Start today developing your master plan, a road map to take you where you want to go.
THEN CLOSE YOUR EYES.
FEEL IT, SMELL IT, HEAR IT.
YOUR MIND IS LIKE A GUIDED MISSLE.
WHEN YOU PROPERLY PROGRAM IT,
YOU CAN’T HELP BUT HIT THE TARGET!
Roby Stahl
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