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Sep, 2018

College Night Review: What does it take? by John Pardini, Girls Director of Soccer

The NC Fusion Triad Girls program operates at around 65% of players playing soccer in college.  Only 7% of high school players wind up playing soccer in college.

For players in our program, the question is not whether a player will be on a college soccer roster, but rather what level is most appropriate and provides a rewarding experience.

One of the main designs of the NC Fusion College Nights is for players to see what the "playing level" is at each of the local universities in the Triad Area.  So far, the NC Fusion Triad girls program has reviewed four Division I programs, watching UNC Charlotte take on Elon University and Wake Forest draw Tennessee University.

In terms of soccer, some schools are too challenging or not challenging enough for a player and they do not have a great experience.  Finding the right balance of "being challenged, but having a rewarding experience" is the most difficult part.  

Using our College Nights as the baseline, we will look at what the top soccer characteristics are of Division 1 players.

·       Competitiveness: With many college rosters having upwards of 30 players, being a competitive player is arguably the most important character trait a player can possess. For most programs, what “year” you are has no bearing on your playing time as we saw many freshman and sophomores playing significant minutes in both games. However, with rosters being so large, players are constantly competing for starting positions and playing time

·       Fitness and Athleticism: Fitness refers to the ability of a player to continue to perform positive soccer actions (Ex. passing, receiving, transitioning to defend/attack, overlapping, 1v1 defending, tackling, crossing, etc.) for 90 minutes. A player's level of fitness is determined by the moment that they can no longer perform positive soccer actions and must come off the field to recover.  Athleticism refers to the mobility and muscular strength of a player. The pace of the game at the Division 1 level is incredibly fast. As well, much of the game is played in transition. Players are expected to be able to cover ground continuously. Being “unfit” is simply not an option for these programs. As well, players spend significant time in the weight room. At the Division 1 level, you simply do not see players that are “unfit” or physically weak.

·       Ball Striking and Receiving: One of the most obvious components of each of the players in both games was the ability of a player to strike a ball with power and accuracy over large distances. Players must be able to drive a ball 40 to 50 yards in order to switch the point of attack, play behind their opponent, or clear the ball out of their defensive third. As well, the ability of a player to receive the ball under pressure is key to their success and coaches trust in them, whether it be passed softly, lofted, or driven at them on the ground or in the air.

·       Positional Flexibility: With large roster sizes, highly competitive players, and multiple age levels of players on college soccer teams, playing time is very hard to come by. A player may find that several players on their team play the same position as them. Therefore, a player must be comfortable playing multiple positions to give themselves the best possible opportunity to receive playing time. Since the college soccer season plays a large number of games in such a short period, injuries occur frequently and players can miss multiple games. Therefore, a player that is versatile and can play multiple positions is highly valued by coaches over players that can only play 1 position.

Obviously, there are multiple reasons why players attend certain schools over others, but for players that have an interest in playing at the Division 1 level, they must be focused on building the attributes described. If players aren’t able to possess or develop these traits, they will most likely not see the field or have a rewarding experience.

In North Carolina, there is sixteen Division I programs, but there are also fourteen Division II and seven Division III programs.  It is important for players and families to find the appropriate level that both challenges, yet provides a rewarding experience. 

As a club, we are committed to challenging and developing our players, but also educating them and their families as to what it takes to play at the highest level possible. The College Nights are one avenue for our players and families to see in-person what it takes to play soccer at the highest level.