Craig Hughes is a former FirstPoint USA soccer scholarship recipient, former FirstPoint member of staff, and now assistant soccer coach at Midland University, Nebraska. Coach Hughes recently dropped in for a catch up, and to write this blog post about what he looks for in a new recruit, with tips of how to impress and what to avoid when you're being recruited:
There is always a degree of risk when signing an international student athlete. I may get to watch him live once or twice, if I'm lucky, but the majority of the time I am simply forming an opinion based on footage, feedback from FirstPoint staff, and from phone calls/emails with recruits. With American players I can track them for a couple of years before they go into college, watch them several times live and get to know them and their family. When considering an international athlete I really have to think "what can he bring to the team that a local player cannot?' With this in mind it is really important for international players to catch the eye of coaches and make them trust that they will deliver the quality expected.
Aside from just looking at technical ability in things like: first touch, range of passing, positional sense, distribution, end product there are several other factors which for me are so important when thinking about signing a player.
1. Visual displays on emotion
Players sometimes believe that showing they are frustrated by punching the ground or throwing their hands up shows passion, it doesn't, it just shows the coach that you are easily thrown off your game. A player's body language can really give away the type of person/player they are. If the player is not really interested and going through the motions it is easy for everyone to tell.
Fitness is a massive part of things for any American coach. In the States, the level of fitness is generally a lot higher than here in the UK. Speaking from experience, I thought I was pretty fit before I went out to the US, I got a huge wake up call when I got out there! It is vital that a coach sees a player who is committed to his fitness and is in the right shape. Pre-Season at college is only two weeks and you play a very short season. If a player doesn't come in fit they will be playing catch up all season. They will also be having to adjust to things like the climate and living away from home. This can not only lead to you struggling with performances and lasting the full 90 minutes but also can lead to you picking up injuries. As a coach I would be very hesitant to sign a player who didn't take their fitness very seriously.
3. The ability and willingness to play different positions
Every player has their preferred position however a coach may need you to play in a number of positions so versatility is always appealing. It also shows a good attitude, if I see a player who seems just happy to be playing and willing to do any job to help the team then it is straight away appealing.
4. Being respectful towards teammates, opponents,officials and coaches
One huge aspect of a player i would look at is his/her discipline. If a player is constantly arguing with referees, abusing opponents, being negative towards teammates or talking back to their coach then I would definitely not be keen on signing them. If that is how a player behaves when he/she is trying to impress, what will they be like when they get settled in? Aside from the performance of the team, a coach has to really make sure his team represent the school in the right way, players with poor discipline will not only give the team/school a bad reputation it could also put the coaches job in danger.
5. Trying to do too much
Trying to do too much is a common mistake when a player knows he/she is being filmed or watched live. If a player tries to force things, over play and get away from their natural game it more often than not has a negative impact. Even if the standard of the game is pretty low, a player should always remain professional and stick to their game.
6. Not doing enough
Not doing enough can be a negative in the same way as doing too much. If a player doesn't want the ball, doesn't communicate or doesn't really offer anything to the game they will not impress coaches. It is about finding a balance and just playing a natural game.
Professionalism can be identified from the start. If I am trying to sign a player and he is slow to get back to me, doesn't get things sent in on time or he comes across an unprofessional in his emails (poor spelling, using casual text language) then I will assume they are not really interested and I will be reluctant to really pursue him. Also candidates using email addresses that come across as arrogant is pretty off putting, so if you have an email address like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org I would recommend setting up a new one.
8. Manage You social Networking
Social network sites. I will look up any prospective recruit on twitter/Facebook and see how they come across. If everything the player writes is negative or they use bad language I will definitely think twice about pursuing them. Also if a player constantly posts pictures out drinking it will have a negative impact. I don't expect players not to go out and enjoy themselves however by posting it online for everyone to see it really makes a coach question your priorities.
9. Ask the right questions
Asking the right questions. If a potential recruit is asking the right questions then as a coach I know they are interested and they are serious about college. If they ask poor questions or no questions at all, then i get the impression they are not interested or have not bothered to do any kind of homework on our school.
10. Be humble and focused
We have so many players who tell us they want to play professional. It is great to have ambition but for me when a player keeps talking about going professional before even playing a college game it really makes me think they are ahead of themselves and need to focus on the task at hand.
The best bit of advice I can give to a student athlete is to treat everything they do like a job interview and understand that the coach notices a lot more than just the technical aspects of your game. if you are respectful, diligent and committed, that is half the battle towards attracting interest from coaches.
We'd like to thank Craig for taking the time to write this post!
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