Do they like me?

15 Jun

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Common questions I get from student-athletes…

  • “Pete, I got an email from (insert school name) inviting me to their ID camp. Does this mean they want me?”
  • “(School name) showed up at one of my college showcase games! This means they are interested right?”
  • “Mr. Gail, a coach looked at my (online recruiting site) profile. This means they are recruiting me right?”

Unfortunately, the answer to these questions is often, “no.” While an invite to a camp or a coach watching your team play may be a step in the right direction, the above scenarios don’t provide any reliable indication a coach is interested. A coach has looked at your online profile…? Um, forgive me for being blunt, but so what? That is a marketing ploy designed to make you think something is happening, not a barometer of interest.

So what does genuine interest from a coach look like? How do you know if they like you? The answer is pretty straightforward. If a coach is interested, they will tell you. The more personalized their communication, the more weight you can give it.

Here is an example of a coach expressing real interest, adapted from a recent email one of my clients received.

“I saw you play last weekend and was very impressed. Your ability to get behind the defense was excellent and your decision-making was consistent and effective. You are the type of player we look for at (school name)… I would love to speak with you further regarding your college search and our program. ”

There are a number of things to note in this email. First off, the coach has seen the player in action and watched them closely. In order to get recruited, a coach seeing you play live is often a prerequisite. Secondly, the coach mentions specifics about the athlete’s abilities and seems genuinely impressed. Finally, the coach expresses an interest in continuing the conversation. There is no guessing here. The coach wants to get to know the prospect.

So what about freshman and sophomores where coaches can’t reach out directly, due to NCAA regulations? How do those athletes know if a coach is interested if the coach can’t tell them? Again, common sense applies. If a coach is interested, they will simply contact a third party to pass along the message that they like the athlete. While D1/D2 college coaches can’t email or call freshman or sophomores directly, there is nothing that prohibits them from letting athletes know of their interest via a trusted third party, such as PG Method. Coaches can relay detailed messages, encouraging the student to research the school, attend an ID camp, or even call the coach directly. Remember that if a freshman or sophomore calls a college coach and they pick up the phone, they are permitted to have a conversation.

In summary, if a coach is interested in you, there won’t be much speculation. You will be given clear indication. How you generate this type of genuine interest, that’s the real question, and where PG Method comes in.  I have a proven track record of helping student-athletes develop meaningful relationships with college coaches. Give me a call and let’s put a plan together to help you drum up some interest that actually means something!

5 Recruiting Resolutions for 2015

30 Dec

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Having trouble coming up with your 2015 New Years resolutions? If you are looking to get recruited, it’s important to have a game plan.

5 Recruiting Resolutions for 2015.

1. Research colleges and universities. To have success in recruiting you’ve got to know what you want. That starts by creating a list of schools that might be a fit for you both on and off the field. Consider different criteria like the division of play (D1, D2, D3 etc), school size and the academic programs offered.

2. Up your game. Work hard on the areas of your game that need improvement and become even stronger in the areas where you already excel. At the end of the day, it’s your ability on the pitch that will get you recruited. Being disciplined and training hard will absolutely give you the best chance at attracting the eyes of a college coach.

3. Focus on the books. Your grades are an essential piece in the recruiting puzzle. In many cases, before a coach ever looks at your ability on the field, they look at your grades. Coaches are looking for student-athletes who excel both on and off the field.

4. Connect with college coaches. Like many things in life, the recruiting process is all about relationships. In order to develop relationships, you have to be proactive in your efforts to connect. If you’re waiting for coaches to find you, you probably won’t get very far.

5. Plan for video. At some point in the recruiting process a college coach will request video in order to get a better feel for you as an athlete. You should plan to film several games this winter and spring so you can be ready when the request is made.

 If you need help working on your New Year’s resolutions, give me a shout. I’ve helped dozens of student-athletes get recruited to some of the top schools in the country and I’d love to hear your story.

Each student-athlete is unique and that’s why I take a personal, customized approach to the recruiting process. You’ve got one shot to get into college, let me help you turn your dreams into a reality.  -PG

Back to School 2014 – 5 Tips for Soccer Recruiting Success

18 Aug

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You’re a year older, wiser and no doubt fired up for the fall soccer season.  Here are five tips to help you tackle college soccer recruiting in 2014.

Watch College Soccer

Wherever you live, you’re probably not far from a college soccer team.  Make it a point to check out some local games this fall.  For me, the dream of playing in college started when I watched the University of Portland play. Which team will that be for you?

Hit the Books

Your grades are an essential piece to recruiting success.  The better they are (along with your test scores), the more options you will have.  A 3.5 is a solid benchmark, although a higher GPA is often required for consideration by more “selective schools”. Good grades may also help you qualify for an academic scholarship.

Be Proactive, not Reactive

It’s incredibly important to reach out and connect with college coaches.  If you’re waiting for them to come to you, you will more than likely miss the boat.  When preparing to communicate with them it’s important to remember a few key questions coaches want to know, such as… When do you graduate? What are your grades?  Who do you play for? Why are you interested in their school?

Got film?

A video highlight piece with your best moments can make all of the difference when you’re trying to get on a coach’s radar.  Whether you’re playing high school or club this fall, have a plan to get some film.  It can absolutely be a “Game Changer” in the recruiting process.

Not Too Early, Not Too Late

Whether you’re an ambitious freshman looking to hit the ground running, or a rising senior with seemingly no options on the table, it’s always a good time to put some effort into the recruiting process.  While it’s true that starting early in your high school career is smart, I’ve helped seniors land a spot with college teams simply because they finally put a plan in place and started taking their recruiting process seriously.

Wherever you are in your high school career, I’m here for you.  It’s my passion to help athletes find an amazing place to get an education and realize their dream of playing in college.  I’d love to hear your story!

-Pete Gail

pete@pgmethod.com

What position do you play?

16 Jul

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After a recent college ID camp, a student-athlete came to me perplexed…

“The coaches kept asking me what position I played and I wasn’t sure what to say.”  

This question comes up a lot during the recruiting process.  One of the first things that a coach wants to know about a player is their primary spot on the field.

For some kids, the answer is simple, but for others it can be a real challenge.  This particular athlete might play striker in one half and outside back in the next.  She is incredibly versatile and can literally play anywhere on the field.  The ability to help her team wherever she is needed is celebrated by her club coach and teammates.  However, when a college coach asked her about her position she wasn’t quite sure how to respond and replied, “I can play anywhere you need me.”

A very honest and straightforward answer, that’s for sure.  But with respect to college recruiting, was this actually a smart answer to the coach’s question?

First, a little context with respect to the recruiting process…

College coaches often recruit by position.  It’s not rocket science, if they have a talented player in a certain position and that player will be graduating, then they place a priority on recruiting a player to backfill that position.  Coaches also often have a style of play in mind when they recruit, and look for kids who will be a good fit for that particular style of play.

So, in these instances, it’s important to specialize and to have a real command of a specific position on the field.  That way, if a coach is looking to fill a certain need, well you just might be the player they are looking for.

At the same time, we often hear about the importance of “versatility”. We hear that college coaches want versatile players capable of playing in multiple positions.

Wait, I’m confused…should high school age players specialize in one position or should they look to play in a variety of spots in order to become more versatile?

The answer is BOTH.

I can tell you from experience that versatility was incredibly important during my college career. In my freshman season at Duke, after a few players went down with injury, I got my first start on the team as an outside back and stayed there for six games.  In my sophomore year, I came off the bench as a forward and also got some time as an outside midfielder.  During junior year, I settled in as the starting right midfielder, where I continued to play for my final two seasons.  All of this was possible because as a youth player, I had experienced playing many different positions. The ability to play in multiple spots meant that I was top of mind when there was a need on the field.

Perhaps the reason I settled in as an outside midfielder is because during my club career, that’s the spot where I played the most, and where I was most effective at the highest levels.  Weather it was the Oregon ODP team or my club team (3x state champs!), I was a starting outside midfielder.  So if you pressed me on where I was best on the field, “outside mid” would have been my answer.

So what does all of this mean for you; the youth player with aspirations of playing in college?

  1. Become an expert in one position.  Know yourself as a player, your strengths, and become so good in that spot that you might be the player a college coach recruits to fill their specific need.  When a coach asks you the question,  “what position do you play”, be able to answer them by letting them know where you are strongest on the field.  Even if you are one of those special utility players that fills multiple roles for your team, it’s important that you understand where you are the strongest.  If you need guidance in this, ask one of your coaches whose opinion you trust.
  1. Experience multiple positions.  Weather it’s in training, a friendly scrimmage, or with your high school team…sink your teeth into a position on the field that isn’t necessarily your primary spot. Understand how that position works both offensively and defensively.  This will help to add dimension to your game and bring out a certain amount of versatility.  Just as it did for me, this may prove incredibly helpful for you when you get to the college level.

When a coach asks you the question, “where do you play”, you should have an answer ready for them.

“My best position is (primary position).  I also have some experience playing (other position(s).”  

This suggests you are a well-rounded and experienced player. Hopefully during the recruiting process (maybe at an ID camp) you will have the chance to demonstrate your abilities, initially in your best position and perhaps in some other spots as well.

Tryout Season: Time to Jump Ship?

28 May

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It’s tryout season across the USA and if you’re a top player you may be thinking about making a jump to a new team, perhaps to the Development Academy (DA) on the boys side or to the ECNL on the girls side.  Maybe you’re looking for higher-level competition, a new voice on the sideline, or maybe just a cool new uniform. 🙂

You might also be thinking that if you make the switch to one of these teams you will gain more “exposure” to college coaches and be better prepared in general for the college game.

So is it time for you to make the jump?  Does a DA or ECNL team make sense for you?

Let’s start by asking a key question:  Do DA & ECNL teams experience more “exposure” to college coaches?  The answer for the most part, is YES.  College coaches want to see players compete against other strong players, and it’s at DA & ECNL games where they know they will see excellent competition.  Yes, there are some very competitive club events out there, but the playing standard at DA and ECNL is typically a bit higher.  DA and ECNL games have proven to be fruitful ground for college coaches scouting talent.

However, this does not mean that you should jump at the first DA or ECNL offer that comes your way…

Here are 3 important items you should consider before making a move:

1.   What are your personal goals as a player?

Do you want to play high-level Division 1 soccer and perhaps professionally someday?  If the answer is yes, and you have the talent, then either the DA or ECNL will definitely line up with your goals.  These leagues pride themselves on featuring the elite players in the country and developing those athletes to compete at the highest levels of American soccer.  Coaches from D1 schools and pro ranks also regularly attend and scout events.    If you’re thinking that playing at the D3 level may be a better fit, then playing on a competitive club team may actually provide the perfect training environment, while also affording you the time to focus on other pursuits.

2.  What does the commitment look like?

If you answered yes to the D1/Pro question above, switching to DA or ECNL will still require further consideration.  Do you take your academics just as seriously as your athletics?  It should come at no surprise that DA and ECNL will require a much bigger time commitment.  DA teams often train 4-5 times/week with games on the weekends.  ECNL teams are more likely to train 3-4 nights/week.  Either commitment is likely to be a step up from the typical 2 nights/week schedule of your current club.  What about the proximity to home?  Playing for the DA/ECNL team may require you to drive significant distances to get to practice and games.  Will you be able to balance your schoolwork?  What about your other interests, social calendar, friends, etc.  In short, is this the kind of sacrifice that you want to make during your high school years?

 3.  What is your projected role on the team?

This question is vital.  Many players have been swept up by the idea of playing for a DA/ECNL team only to find themselves disenchanted because they have been relegated to the bench.  No coach should promise you playing time and wherever you go you will have to earn your stripes.  But in my opinion, it’s better to be a key player on a club team, than to sit the bench in the DA or ECNL.  Players develop by playing in games, by being out on the pitch, and by doing everything they can to help their team.  Yes, you need great training during the week, but you must also have the opportunity to compete on the weekends.  If it looks like making the switch may result in you “riding the pine”, that can have a negative affect on your development as a player.  Sticking with your current club team may indeed be the best option for your overall game and you will certainly have a lot more fun.

Reviewing your personal goals as a player, assessing the time commitment, and understanding your role on the team are important items to consider before making a jump to an elite team.  This decision is not easy.  You might have a tremendous sense of loyalty with your current club team and often times staying the course is actually in your best interest.  If your club team is competitive, the coaching is solid, and you have a good plan to gain college exposure, perhaps you are already experiencing the perfect “balance” between your academic and athletic interests.  I’ve worked with student-athletes where the jump made sense, and with others where staying the course was the better call.  I’ve also seen players go and come back. As with the process of finding a college that’s a great fit for you, selecting the right club team requires careful analysis and thinking.

If you need help answering this question or have other questions, please feel free to give me a call.  I specialize in helping high school players navigate all aspects of the recruiting process and finding the right collegiate fit.

-Pete Gail

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Are college recruiting sites worth it?

25 Aug

soccerI recently gave a presentation at the boys Region IV ODP camp and during the Q&A with college coaches, one of the players brought up college recruiting websites asking flat out, “Are they worth it?”  The coaches looked at each other before one of them responded with an emphatic, ”No.”

College coaches want to interact directly with you and not with an online database.  Often when they receive information about prospective players from recruiting sites they dismiss them.  As one coach confirmed, “Those emails just end up in my trash.”

What’s alarming is that these services have done a good job of convincing you that just by signing up, you will have done all that you need to do in terms of recruiting.  Create your profile, pay a monthly fee, and presto, coaches are sure to come calling.  It’s not that simple.  To be successful in the recruiting process, like anything else, you need to put in some real effort to highlight your talent.

I’m actually less dismissive of these services than some other coaches.  What I like about them is that they allow you to research various schools and they will get you thinking about playing soccer in college.  What I don’t like about them is that when it comes to really connecting with coaches and presenting yourself as a unique individual, they fall short.  It’s a bit like applying for a job using monster.com. You send your resume into the abyss and hope that it gets picked.  I’m sure these recruiting sites have some success or else they wouldn’t be around, but it’s a gamble to rely on them when you’re planning something as important as your future.

Look, it’s not going to hurt you to sign up for a free profile and if you can find some good info on the site, great.  Just don’t hand over your future to a black hole and hope that it’s going to help you shine.

If you’re serious about making the most of your college search  process, I’m here to help.  As an “A” Licensed coach with 12 years experience, I understand the ins and outs of the recruiting game.  I’m certainly not a database and with me, you’re definitely not a number. I’ll work one one-on-one with you to help you maximize your recruiting potential, and find a school where you will thrive.

The Off-Season – 3 training essentials to prep for college soccer

8 Jul

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It’s the off-season here in So Cal and many student-athletes are enjoying a little R & R.  No doubt it’s a good time of year to be kicking back and enjoying the beach after a long 10-month season.  However, it can also be a great time to improve your skills if you want to take your game to the next level.

So whether you’re taking a break from the pitch for a few weeks or using this time to develop your game, I have a few thoughts for you if you’re hoping to play at a collegiate level someday.

The First Touch
As one of my favorite youth coaches once said, “the first touch is the most important.” If your first touch is good, then typically what follows will be good as well – the pass/shot/cross/etc.  Your first touch is especially important in the college game where the play is extremely fast paced and players are constantly under pressure.  Your first touch must be good in order to deal with the hectic nature of the game.

Fortunately, working on your first touch can be easy.  A ball and a wall are all you need. Strike the ball against the wall, wait for it to bounce back, move the ball into space, and then strike it again.  If you are working with a trainer, encourage them to put you into game-like scenarios.  For instance, a wide player might work on opening up and receiving the ball down the line.  Central players can work on receiving the ball into space, followed by crisp, clean passes with both feet.  Forwards should work on receiving the ball with their back to the goal, as well as basic receiving and turning exercises.   Bottom line- work on passing/receiving exercises that mimic the situations that might arise for you in a game.

Endurance
Back in my Duke days, I always made it a point to come into pre-season in excellent shape.  I fixated on winning the pre-season “cooper test” (2 mile run as fast as you can) because I’m competitive, but more importantly because I knew it would set me apart from the other players.  My work rate was my greatest strength. Some of my teammates were faster, some were more technical, but I’m proud to say that nobody was fitter than Pete Gail.

This mentality was encouraged by my college coach John Rennie, who would say “Don’t wait for pre-season to get into shape.  You should come to pre-season ready to go!” So I encourage to use the 3 weeks leading into your pre-season to build a solid cardiovascular base.  Go on some long runs (30 mins +), ride a bike, or swim.  Perform exercises that elevate your heart rate for longer periods of time.

A high level player might run 5-7 miles in a 90-minute match.  You need a strong engine to make that happen. Challenge yourself to be in good condition when your team returns to regular training and competition.  I can tell say from my own experience that it makes a huge difference.

Speed, Agility & Quickness
Whether you are an attacking player looking to blow by opponents in the final third or a defensive player who wants to shut down speedy attackers, working on your speed, agility, and quickness is essential.  And make no mistake, it is always possible to become faster and more explosive. Sports scientists agree that an athlete can improve by as much as 10% in their overall speed and quickness.

Agility and quickness exercises (if done properly) also have the added benefit of helping to prevent injuries.  The Santa Monica Orthopedic group’s PEP Program is widely used by both college and professional teams as a way to improve performance and prevent injuries.  So get a jump on the gun and work on these exercises now.  You will have a better (and more healthy) season as a result.

In summary:
The competition for college roster spots is incredibly stiff.  The players who are willing to put in the extra work are the ones who will get recruited and grab those roster spots.  If you are a motivated player, make sure you are training smartly.  Work on your first touch, basic cardiovascular fitness, and speed and agility.  Those efforts will absolutely serve you well in your mission to get to the next level.

Train hard.  Train smart.  Sheer Power.