How to Pick a College? Its Not All About Soccer

SYA Holds College Preparation Seminar for High School Players

             It is a truth universally acknowledged that all girls who play soccer plan to play for the University of North Carolina … on a full scholarship! For boys, there has not been one powerhouse team since the years when Virginia reigned supreme under Bruce Arena, but they too are expect to receive a full scholarship, or several to choose from. “Of course,” they think, “the college coaches will be tracking me down.” 

           But in the real world of college sports, very few players receive any money at all for athletics, and full scholarships are like hen’s teeth and hokies – rumored to exist but very hard to find. Paul Ellis, who has experienced the college soccer process from both sides of the equation, broke some shocking news to SYA high school players and their parents: picking a college is not all about soccer.

            What many players don’t realize, and many parents may not want to hear, is that the social setting and other non-soccer factors, are key to picking the right college, one that will work for each student. If that part doesn’t work, and the student is unhappy, it affects everything else, Ellis said. He is the former assistant coach of George Mason under Jac Cicala, and longtime head of Soccer Academy.

Speaking at SYA’s college preparation seminar Jan. 26 Ellis urged players to think through a variety of factors in picking a college: urban or rural; big or small; North, South, East Coast or West Coast (do you like shoveling snow of the field before games?); and of course, academics!

            “Ask yourself, if you got injured in your very first practice and could never play soccer again, would you choose this school,” Ellis said. “If the answer is no, that’s not the right place for you.”

            Once the player has narrowed down the choices, then comes the soccer. Ellis, who made sure the players attending the seminar stayed alert by peppering them with questions on NCAA rules and inside information on the college game, and by telling stories about his experiences as well as some from sister Jillian Ellis, UCLA head coach.

He gave them tips on how and when to contact coaches, how to prepare soccer resumes and highlight videos, things to look for and questions to ask, for example, how much playing time are you likely to get? Is the coach who is recruiting you going to be there when you get there or will he be looking to move on to a bigger school?

And he warned them not to slack off on their studies. The biggest tragedy is a good player who gets an offer from the college of her dreams but can’t get in to the school because of her grades. In addition, many schools will find academic scholarship money for their college soccer players.

            There were also a few more surprises. Like, if you want to play for Penn State because you really like football too, you may find yourself very disappointed: soccer players will almost never see a home game since they will be traveling to away games those weekends.

            And even if you get an offer from the Tarheels, is that the right place for you? Do you want to be like the woman Ellis described who was on the team for four years and got four championship rings, but played only played 12 minutes – six of them in her final game?

            Picking the right college and right soccer program is a big decision, and players and parents must do their homework, and legwork, to find the right fit.