BLOG: How Playing College Soccer In The USA Prepares You For Life After Sport
By Joe Cleary (Former NCAA College Coach)
As a former college coach, I had the opportunity to serve as a reference and write many recommendation letters for young men and women that I had the opportunity to coach during their college careers. I have only coached one or two players that have ended up continuing their careers beyond the college game, but I have coached dozens of players who have gone on to be successful outside of soccer. In my conversations with hiring managers, recruiters, and graduate or doctoral school admissions, there was a common refrain of “We love former student-athletes”.
I think it’s important to understand that if you take yourself seriously as a college soccer player, you may have potential to be successful on the field. It’s even more important to understand that if you take yourself seriously as a college soccer player, you will DEFINITELY be successful off the field. So, you may be asking, how does playing college soccer in the USA prepare a student for success?
As a collegiate soccer player you learn to be goal-oriented, competitive, and accountable.
To be a successful collegiate soccer player in the United State, you need to be goal-oriented, competitive, and accountable to your coaches and your teammates. Successful college soccer players are always chasing individual and team goals, and know what it takes to achieve these goals. Successful college soccer players are competitive, they want to win in training, in matches, and in the classroom. Successful college soccer players learn to be accountable for their actions to both their coaches and their teammates. All of these attributes of a successful college soccer player are also attributes of successful working professionals.
Employers want individuals who are competitive and goal-driven, because those types of individuals move businesses and companies forward. Employers want individuals who are accountable, because they know these individuals will show up on time, do what they are asked, and take ownership of their successes and their mistakes. College soccer trains and builds all these attributes.
As a collegiate soccer player you will learn time management.
This is cliche, but the reason it is cliche is because it is true. Whenever I catch up with former players that I coached, I ask them how the “real world” is, and most of the time their response is “easier than college”. As a college soccer player, you will learn to thrive in an environment where you have to make time for practice, weights, film, training room, study table, travel, and meetings. Don’t forget, you also need to eat, sleep, and do homework. Some athletes may even hold part time jobs. You can’t just survive in this environment, you have to thrive if you want to be successful.
All of this time spent is well over the 40 hours of a traditional work week. This makes former college soccer players excellent employees, because working 40 hours a week is easy for them. They have the potential to be more productive and sharper, because their brain and body have been conditioned for much more stress and much more work.
As a collegiate soccer player you will learn communication skills
One of the major things we continue to lose in our society is the ability to properly communicate. I am not talking about face to face communication, I am talking about how to properly communicate over the phone, text, email, etc. As a collegiate soccer player, you will learn all these skills.
Through the recruiting process, you learn to communicate properly and professionally with coaches, as well as with current players if you get the opportunity to meet them on campus. Once on a team and enrolled in school, you learn to communicate with instructors, coaches, trainers, and your teammates. You learn to communicate in different ways, using different words, and in different tones.
The same is true in the professional working world. How you address and interact with your boss is different than how you address and interact with co-workers. How you address and interact with your co-workers is different than how you address and interact with clients, vendors, or any other individuals outside your business.
As a collegiate soccer player you will get practice dealing with adversity
Finally, there are many individuals who are lucky enough that they won’t experience real adversity (loss of a family member, serious medical issues, or loss of a job) until later in life. Collegiate soccer presents individuals with both individual and team adversity, it’s perfect practice for the real world. College soccer players in the USA will face adversity in the form of home-sickness, individual failures, team losses, academic struggles, and injuries. Many collegiate soccer players fight through these adversities ever year, and it prepares them to face more serious adversity upon graduation.
College soccer in the USA is a great pathway to an education, and possibly to the next level as a professional soccer player. However, most importantly it is a great pathway to becoming a better person and a better employee or working professional. As a former college coach and current SRUSA consultant, I highly encourage individuals to consider that when finding their right fit at the collegiate level.