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Soccer Success Story: What to do if you start the recruitment process “late”

If you’re nervous that it’s “too late” for you to be recruited to play a college sport, you need to read this soccer Success Story from CaptainU soccer goalkeeper, Anna West. Anna also felt that she started the recruitment process too late, yet here she is, officially committed to a college soccer team.

In her story, she says, “I overcame the obstacle (of starting late) by actively reaching out to college coaches, doing research, digging deeper into college information so I could get more information about their soccer programs to see if that would be a place I would be interested in playing.”

Learn more from Anna from her story below and check out her CaptainU profile to see how she marketed herself to college coaches with pictures, stats and highlight videos and create your free CaptainU profile here to get access to thousands of college coaches and event directors and access tools to help you take your game to the next level!

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Anna West, Goalkeeper

How old were you when you started playing your sport? What made you pick your sport over another?

I started playing soccer when I was five. I started soccer because my dad was a big “soccer guy” but throughout my years of playing soccer I have not just specialized in playing soccer. In high school, I was a three-sport varsity athlete – participating in swim team and track as well as varsity soccer and club soccer.

What do you like most about your sport?

I like the intuitive nature of the game. There is a lot of improvisation, seeing a lot of options on the field, and the fluid game play. I like the larger teams because you get a “family feel” and it’s a way to become close-knit with a group of people, all working together toward a common goal. I like how in order to be more successful, you have to learn more about their game and your own game than you knew before.

What are the biggest obstacles in your sport that you have overcome and how did you overcome them?

When I entered high school during my freshman year tryouts I was competing against a lot of girls who had been playing club soccer from a very young age. My previous experience had been playing on a competitive rec team, but our competition wasn’t the same high quality as club and we didn’t play as many games throughout the year or in any tournaments. I overcame the obstacle by giving 110% at every practice and working to make my game better than the girls I was competing against. I also began playing club soccer my sophomore year of high school and soon earned a starting position. The experience of being on a club team year round outside of high school sports helped me improve tremendously.

What are the biggest obstacles in the recruitment process that you’ve encountered and overcome?

The biggest obstacle was starting the process very late. Because I had not been in a club setting, the idea of playing college soccer had not been emphasized as much so when I realized my dream was to play college soccer, I didn’t really know the steps I needed to take. The only reason I had a CaptainU account was that we were told to make one before we played in a college showcase tournament in my junior year. I overcame the obstacle by actively reaching out to college coaches, doing research, digging deeper into college information so I could get more information about their soccer programs to see if that would be a place I would be interested in playing. I had lots of conversations with my club coach who has been working with his club players for a long time to help them reach their dream of playing club soccer. I knew that I wanted to play at the highest level I possibly could, so I played like I wanted that; I talked to college coaches that could give me that opportunity, so I knew exactly what I needed for my end goal.

How did you balance being a good athlete with being a good student?

Time management is a really critical skill. I still struggle with it but my time management has definitely improved. I was forced to improve because of my tight schedule with three varsity sports. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Don’t overload yourself or you won’t be able to do well at any activities. I picked the things that were really vital to me and focused on them. You need to constantly re-evaluate what it most important to you.

When did you realize you wanted to play college sports?

College sports and being a professional athlete had always been kind of a “side dream.” Something great to do, but I didn’t think I would be able to get that far. But then as I played more and the more I realized my potential as an athlete, the more I realized that dream was actually attainable. So instead of just working for my current team, I worked towards being able to play for a high quality college team in the future. I think I actually realized I could play college soccer during spring season of my junior year. We were doing lots of showcase tournaments so I could compare myself against the other players that were reaching for the same goal as I was. I realized I was at the same level as the other girls and that I could push myself to surpass them.

Where did you first turn for recruitment tools, platforms, etc?

My club coach started asking me about my future plans. I signed up for CaptainU because it was a requirement for everyone on the team. I started asking my coach Jeff Enquist at Portland City United about what I needed to do.

What things have worked and what things didn’t work when trying to get in touch with coaches?

Direct contact, personalized emails, personal phone calls. Individualized emails not just a “mass” message. Treating each coach/situation specifically. Make it seem like you care about that school. What doesn’t work is starting the recruiting process so late so that people have already finalized their recruited player’s list before they’ve even seen you. Start goal setting your sophomore year, reach out to college coaches fall of your junior year – getting them set to see your club showcase tournaments, go to their ID camps, and your senior varsity games at high school.

How was your family involved and how was this helpful?

Instead of having their own dreams for me, they let me decide where I wanted to go with my soccer career. I “directed the show” but my parents helped me with research, they were always available to have conversations and give feedback. They were open to my decisions and they were very supportive of what I wanted to do. The process was about what I needed from them and what I needed from myself to be successful in the path that I chose.

What tools, platforms, strategies did you use throughout the process?

My overall process was a lot shorter because I started late. I began with my CaptainU account, determined what kind/size/location of school I wanted. My list of schools came from the soccer side of things, but I also thought about the aspects of the school that were apart from soccer. Whenever I had questions or was uncertain about the next steps to take, I would reach out to my parents or my Portland City United coaches for advice.

What worked best for you on CaptainU/what was your favorite CaptainU tool?

I really liked the peer evaluation/recommendation tool. When you only play one position on the field makes it hard for you to see the benefits and gaps in your own playing style from the perspectives of other players. Also, as a keeper, it’s very helpful to hear what field players think is useful on the field so you know where to improve.

What would be three recommendations you have for athletes trying to play in college?

a. Figure out what you personally want from your college experience – don’t just rely on other’s expectations or what they think you should do. Evaluate how dedicated you are and how far you are willing to go to pursue your passion
b. Set yourself up for success. Give yourself as many opportunities as you can to improve and always be open to constructive criticism, evaluations from other players and coaches so you can fill in the holes in your athletic profile
c. Rather than thinking about the process of putting yourself out there to be recruited as a “do to” list, think of it as a “want to do” list. Make sure you are always feeling good about the process you’re taking to fulfill your dream. Don’t push yourself in a direction that is not consistent with what you want and need.

What are your goals for the coming year in your sport? How are you currently doing in your sport? Have you been recruited yet?

My major goal for next year as a freshman coming into a Division I soccer program is to make the travel squad for my team. Currently my club team is playing is competing in State Cup and we hope to make it to regionals. I have been recruited and I am committed to St. Mary’s College of California.

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