Editor’s Note: Counting Stars Worldwide, founded by long-time US Club Soccer Board of Directors member and former Chairman Phil Wright, is a new Players First partner. This week, Counting Stars Worldwide is contributing to Player Development week in the countdown towards Players First licensing.
Question: What are some of the critical moments for a high-school aged athlete leading up to a future collegiate opportunity?
Phil Wright: From our prospective, there are not “critical moments,” rather, it is a process. The earlier you start thinking and planning about how to get the opportunity to play in college. Ideally, this starts the summer after 8th grade by learning about your strengths and areas that need to improve as a player, and understanding the process over the next four years.
Question: What are some of the common traits a coach typically looks for in a future college athlete? What are some of the red flags that a scout will look to avoid in a college recruit?
Wright: More and more, I hear college coaches talking about character. Nothing can get a college coach fired faster than an athlete who engages in inappropriate conduct. Be aware that your conduct on and off of the field, before, during and after games is being observed, as well as your social media, are part of the recruitment process. Before that, coaches look for players who are solid in all areas – technical, tactical, physical and mental – and exceptional in at least one area.
Question: How can a player make the best impression during an athletic evaluation?
Wright: Consistent with my last answer, it starts the moment a player arrives at an event. The way you carry yourself, the way you prepare, the way you listen to your coaches, the way you interact with your teammates, the way you deal with the referee, the way you handle adversity – are all being evaluated. As far as the actual playing is concerned, know what your strengths are as a player and look for very opportunity to demonstrate those strengths. Finally, demonstrate leadership, whether it is verbal or by example on the field.
Question: An emphasis on Player Development is part of the Players First philosophy. How valuable is it for a player to personally invest in their own development as an athlete?
Wright: This is critical. It is not enough to just go to training and games and work hard. Players need to understand their strengths and weaknesses as a player, and work hard to improve in all aspects of the game – technical, tactical, physical and mental.
Question: Based on your experience, what other advice could you offer to future college athletes?
Wright: First, I always ask prospective college student-athletes if they love to train. Every player loves to play, but if a player does not love to train in all areas (technical, tactical, physical and mental), college soccer is going to be a challenge. Second, I encourage players to understand the differences between playing college soccer at the Division I, Division II, Division III, NAIA or community college level. While, in my opinion, there are more things in common than different, the differences are important to understand. Finally, it is critical to think about what you want for your college experience, i.e., do you want to play at the highest level you are capable of playing, or do you just want to play from Day 1? There is no right or wrong answer, as long as you are honest with yourself.
Join the conversation on social media by using the Players First-hashtag #P1soccer.
A National Association member of the U.S. Soccer Federation, US Club Soccer fosters the growth and development of soccer clubs in order to create the best possible environment for players of all ages.
Anchored by Players First and its five pillars of Club Development, Coaching Development, Player Development, Parent Engagement & Education and Player Health & Safety, US Club Soccer offers registration, league- and cup-based competition platforms, player identification and a variety of other programming, resources and services.
US Club Soccer is sponsored by Nike and supported by LaLiga through a technical partnership.