Archive | October, 2012

What do college coaches look for in a player? (part 3)

4 Oct

What makes a player “special?”

Adam Cooper, Head Coach of the Men’s D1 powerhouse Saint Mary’s said something particularly insightful when I asked him what he looks for when scouting talent, “There are tons of good players out there, guys that can play one and two touch, simple.  I’m looking for special players.  Kids that stand out from the crowd.”

So what makes a player “special?”  What are the qualities that go into earning this type of praise? Todd Yeagley, Head Coach at Indiana put it this way, “Special players are capable of changing the game with their special tools and gifts.”  They have a  “special Soccer IQ, that makes others better.”  Let’s take a closer look at these qualities, position by position.


A center back becomes special when they not only dominate opposing forwards in their 1v1 battles on the ground and in the air, but also have the ability to connect good passes.  They become special when it’s clear they have such a command of their team’s defensive system, that they not only understand how to adjust to their opponents, but they can also communicate this information to the group.  Outside backs become special when they can shut down opposing strikers, and can also get forward into the attack.


A central midfielder must have tremendous vision and ability to possess the ball.  Yeagley added that the best center mids “can cover ground and provide a dominant physical edge to the team.”   They must possess a superb cardiovascular engine –- the ability to play “box to box” for 90 minutes.  College soccer is extremely fast paced and fitness is of utmost importance.  Wingers separate themselves with their ability to beat their opponents in 1v1 situations and serve dynamic crosses into dangerous areas.  Yeagley summarizes that the best attacking players have “superior technical abilities that can unbalance off the dribble or the pass.”  College coaches love dynamic, attacking players that can get up and down the field.  I know, I was one of them. 🙂


For strikers, it’s pretty straightforward.  You become special when you prove you can put the ball in the back of the net, against quality opponents.  There are very few natural goal scorers out there. A player like Chris Wondolowski of the San Jose Earthquakes is a great example.  He has such a knack for being in the right place at the right time and he makes scoring goals look effortless.  If you are calm and cool under pressure and have developed a reputation for being a finisher, you can be assured that coaches will take notice.  These are the players that will help them win games.

It’s pretty simple really.  If you are competing at a top-level tournament like Surf Cup and you play your position better than anyone else on the field, you stand a good chance of earning the label of being “special.”  As Paul Krumpe, Head Coach of the Men at Loyola Marymount put it, “I look for the best player on the field.  Then I look to see if that kid has expressed interest in LMU.  If those two things line up, then I know we really have something.”

I can’t really think of a better way of summing up this three part series.  It’s about reaching out to college programs, letting them know who you are and letting your special qualities shine on gameday. I hope you find these insights helpful as you get set for your next big tournament.  Surf College Cup & Nomads are just around the corner!