Tag Archives: PG Method

5 Recruiting Resolutions for 2015

30 Dec

2015
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

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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

Soccer Fitness photo

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.

ID Me! (Part II)

13 Mar

images-1In Part I of this series, I talked about how showcase camps can serve as a vehicle for players to gain exposure to multiple schools in one location.  Now let’s turn our attention to the “on campus” ID camp experience.  To be clear, I’m referring to camps that take place on a specific school’s campus.  While there are sometimes several schools represented at an ID camp, more often than not, it is the host school that is the main attraction.

Personally, the ID camp experience was very instrumental to my path to playing college soccer.  I attended the Duke Soccer Camp in the summer after my junior year, fortunately played very well, and on the final day of camp, Assistant Coach Dave Smyth shared that he had serious interest in me as a player. Duke was my dream school so, as you can imagine, I was on top of the world.  I can honestly say that if I never attended the Duke Soccer Camp, I would never have become a Blue Devil.

But that was a few years ago now 🙂 and the landscape has definitely changed.  Now hundreds of schools across all of the divisions offer ID camps. So what’s up with the recruiting scene today?  What is the most important consideration when thinking about an “on campus” ID camp?

Do Your Research

Make sure that the level of play at the camp’s host school is a reality for you.  You should get some third party feedback to help you zero in on what school’s might be good fit for you athletically.* (PG Method helps players with this very question)

At the Division 1 level, it’s typical for only one or two players per season to be identified through the on campus ID camp experience.  Top student-athletes usually attend the school’s camp at the request of the coaching staff because they have previously been spotted playing for their club, academy, or as a part of the ODP or Youth National team program.  It’s fair to say that it’s very rare, that a “diamond in the rough” is discovered at a D1 ID camp.  At the Division 3/NAIA level however, ID camps have become an essential tool for coaches to evaluate talent. Many of these schools lack the recruiting budgets of the big schools, and as a result they rely more heavily on the on campus ID camp.

Keri Sanchez, Head Coach of the Claremont Mudd & Scripps Women’s team was kind enough to give me some cold hard facts with respect to her ID camp.

“Of the 8 ED (Early Decision) applicants admitted this year, 5 of the 8 had attended at least one CMS camp or clinic.  I do find it valuable for both sides – the player and the school.”  Stats like this are common at the D3 level where 50-70% of the team’s roster may have been spotted through the school’s ID camp.

Similarly, you should determine if the school is a good fit for you academically.  Make sure your grades and test scores meet their admission standards.  Keri Sanchez, highlights the importance of finding both an athletic and an academic fit.

“I think ID camps have become an important recruiting tool for coaches and athletes at all colleges, NCAA Division I, II, and III, as well as NAIA.  It allows players to visit campus, take a tour, be evaluated, and meet student-athletes and coaches.  Being on a campus is the best way for someone to get a feel for what college life would be like.  It makes it easier to narrow down schools.  It is not realistic to think that a player can attend all ID camps offered, so the prospective student-athlete needs to do some research beforehand to find a collection of schools that best match them academically first, than athletically.” 

College coaches will often only recruit kids that have actually set foot on their campus and have demonstrated a sincere interest in their school.  So what better way to gain that attention than by attending a camp on the school’s campus.  Furthermore, it will not only give you a feel for the school and campus, it will give you a chance to interact with the coaching staff and get a feel for what it would be like to play there. Even though we are in an age of connecting electronically, when it comes to college recruiting, it’s still about making a personal face-to-face connection.  ID camps provide this opportunity and can be an amazing tool for both the student-athlete and the coach to get to know each other.

But before signing up for every camp under the sun, make sure that the school is a fit for you both athletically and academically. Be very specific about which camps you attend.   Make sure the level of play makes sense for you, and that you have a serious interest in the school from an academic standpoint.  In short, attend the camps where you have a reasonable shot at being recruited not just as a player, but also as a student-athlete.  If these things line up, then like me, it may end up being the most important factor in your college recruitment.

A very special thanks to Joe Clarke, Head Men’s Coach at Washington University and Keri Sanchez, Head Women’s Coach at CMS for their contributions to this series.  Links to the school’s ID camps are below.

Joe Clarke/Wash U Soccer Camps

Claremont Mudd Scripps Girls Soccer Camps/Clinics

ID Me! (Part 1)

20 Feb

SCA phenomenon is sweeping the recruiting landscape; the college “ID camp frenzy.”  Showcase camps are popping up across the nation hosting coaches from several different schools with hundreds of student-athletes vying for their attention.

Individual colleges and universities are in on the game as well.  From D1 to D3, it seems that every school is offering the chance to be “identified;” often on multiple occasions throughout the year.

This proliferation can lead student-athletes to become a tad skeptical.  Is it really worth the time, effort and cost to attend?  Aren’t these camps really just a “money maker” for the coaches?  Are college programs even recruiting kids from these camps?

After connecting with coaches across the country and watching dozens of kids go through the process, I’m confident that these camps are indeed valuable.  That said, there are some important things to consider.

Note:  This blog will be posted as a series of two entries.  The first entry (the one you’re reading now) will be an exploration of showcase camps.  The second entry (coming next week) will be an exploration of the “on campus ID camp” experience, typically tied to one specific institution.

Showcase camps

Showcase camps are attractive because they offer the chance to be seen by multiple coaches at one location.  Camps such as Peak Performance host coaches from various schools at different venues across the country.  Showcases might seem to offer more bang-for-your-buck, but in reality they can be overcrowded given that there isn’t usually a cap on enrollment numbers.

Joe Clarke, Head Men’s Coach at Washington University in St. Louis shared some thoughts on the subject.  “There are several things for the prospects to consider. How many participants; it is easy to get lost in the crowd. Tied to that; how long is the camp (2 or 3 sessions with 300 prospects); surely good players can get overlooked.”  He went on to mention some of the benefits.  “When there are multiple coaches, they usually share insights so that can be good.  Prospects need to do their part so coaches know who is interested in their school.” 

Having watched a number of my student-athletes go through the showcase camp experience, I can tell you that Coach Clarke’s comments definitely resonate with me.  When players have connected with the staff ahead of the showcase, the coaches have then made it a point to seek them out and watch them play.  Furthermore, the schools where contact was made ahead of time are the ones that seem the most interested in continuing the dialogue after camp is over.  It’s only in rare instances, where I have actually seen a player “get discovered” at a showcase camp, meaning that they received real interest from a coach with whom they had previously had no contact.

Showcase camps can also serve as a gateway to an invitation to a particular school’s ID camp.  Many of my student-athletes have received a note from a coach after a showcase camp, stating that they would like to “see more,” and asking if the player would consider attending camp on their campus.  Essentially, the showcase can serve as a catalyst toward future evaluation.  It’s at the school’s ID camp where enrollment is often limited and players receive mor individual attention, that the coach can take a closer look and really evaluate the student-athlete’s potential.

As a summary, here are some important things to consider when thinking about showcase camps:

Do your homework:

Consider how many players will be attending the camp and how many playing opportunities you will have to show your stuff.  If there are a ton of kids and limited sessions, it might be difficult to make an impact.

Connect ahead of time:

Consistent with my  “It’s not random,” post it’s very important to connect with college coaches ahead of the showcase.  Let them know in an email that you will be attending specifically so that they will have the chance to see you play.  Include basic info about your academic profile along with high school and club soccer info.  And as simple as it may seem, let them know what you will be wearing during the showcase, so as to make it easy for them to identify you.  That bright yellow “away” jersey from your favorite team might just come in handy here!

Manage your expectations:

Showcase camps offer you the chance to showcase yourself to multiple college programs.  However, it’s important to recognize that the camps are most likely just an initial step in player identification, and the coach will likely need to see more from you over time. Nevertheless, showcases can be valuable as a tool for players looking to cut through the clutter, and begin the dialogue with a particular school.

Check back next week for part 2 in this series, all about the “On Campus” ID camp experience.

Why play high school soccer?

17 Jan

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With the recent addition of video services to PG Method, I’ve had the opportunity to film dozens of high school matches over the past few weeks.  As someone who has been immersed only in the club and college scenes for 13 years, high school soccer has pretty much been off my radar.  Having the opportunity to take a deeper look at the current state of the high school game has been interesting and for the most part, a pleasant surprise.

It’s clear that we’re in a transitional period.  Many of the most talented soccer players are not playing high school soccer.  These “blue chip” athletes are competing for academy programs and are thus prohibited from suiting up for their school’s team.  When you combine this with the fact that the level of high school play tends to be lower than club, the coaching oftentimes sub par, and the fact that there is little college recruiting done at high school matches, it might pose the question “what’s the point of playing high school soccer at all?”

I’ll take a stab.  Why play high school soccer?

The opportunity to compete every day

Club soccer players often train only twice a week whereas, high school soccer players train or play games Monday through Friday.  While the level of instruction being given may vary, there is always a benefit to getting more and regular touches.  This kind of consistency helps a player to become more “sharp,” especially with their connection to the ball.

The chance to play a different role

Griffin, a talented senior that I’m working with on the recruiting front is the starting left back for his club team. For his high school, he runs the show in the center of the park.  The chance to see the field from a different perspective is undoubtedly good for his development as a player.  I see this across the board, high school players are consistently experiencing the game in a different way than they do on the club side.  As a result their game becomes more well-rounded and versatile.  This is hugely important, especially for those who aspire to play in college, where versatility is a huge asset.

Footage for the recruiting reel

In my last entry I wrote about video highlight reels being a “game changer” in the recruiting process.  High school soccer offers a wonderful opportunity to shoot quality footage for your reel. If you are looking to get recruited, then you will almost certainly be asked for video when you connect with a college coach.  Take advantage of the high school season and “get some film!”

A sense of camaraderie & community

Watching the Crossroads Boys Varsity team play, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my days playing for Catlin Gabel High School in Portland, OR.  The pre-game huddle with the lads getting fired up for the game, and the fans packed into a tight field on a chilly night brought back great memories.  The anticipation of the upcoming playoffs was palatable – will “Roads” be able to win the title again?  There is a sense of community with high school soccer, for both for the players and the fans.  It’s different than club soccer.  The long trek to a club game an hour away doesn’t bring that same kind of energy.  I should mention that Crossroads also has a fantastic coach in Federico Bianchi.  He has his boys playing some wonderful possession soccer and it’s clear it’s a positive experience for all involved.  The players are developing, and perhaps more than anything else, connecting to that all important concept…having fun.

What needs to change?

There is one glaring problem with high school soccer in Southern California.  This has to do with the overlap between the end of the club season and the start of the high school season in the fall.  The demands being put on club players that play high school are nothing short of ridiculous.  These kids, who have been in serious training since late July/early August are forced into a daily-double scenario whereby they train during the day with high school and then stumble on to the club pitch at night.  The players are burned out, overuse injuries are common, and there is little time or energy left to deal with schoolwork.  Midway through a passing exercise last fall, I had a player come to me with a pronounced limp.  When I asked him what was wrong he mentioned the “squats” his high school coach had him doing earlier in the day.  “Squats?” I said.  “We are three months into our season.  If anything you need to be tapering off right now in order to be fresh for the weekend matches!”  He looked at me and threw his hands in the air as if to say that there was nothing he could do about it.  I certainly felt for him as I could tell he was conflicted.  He was doing his best to please both his club and his high school coach.  This is happening all across So Cal where the kids being caught in the middle.

With all of the club coaches who also participate in high school soccer, you would think we could do something about this troubling scenario.  I’m going to be rather blunt in my assessment of what needs to happen:  club players should be allowed to compete exclusively with their club teams until the club season is over. After that, the players would make a clean break and begin training with their high school teams. This change would prevent that unfortunate overlap between the two.  There is a fairly consistent changeover that happens at the end of the high school season where players completely finish their high school responsibilities and then move back to club.  This needs to happen on the front end as well.  Given that I don’t personally answer to a high school Athletic Director, I’m sure this is easier said than done.  But my priority is and always will be the players and the opportunity to create a positive environment for their development.  The current scenario with overlapping team commitments, certainly does not have the players best interest in mind.

The Game Changer

23 Dec

Screen shot 2012-12-23 at 1.12.31 PMWhat’s the most important step in the recruiting process?  There are many, but without a doubt one of most critical is the student-athlete’s recruiting video.

Consider a few quotes from my recent email conversations with college coaches:

“At first glance he seems to be the exact kind of student-athlete we are looking for!  I watched the video and was impressed with his ability…”

“Pete – I watched the video. We would be interested in watching him play and chatting more with him.”

“Pete – I definitely like how he uses the ball.  He collects and distributes easily with a good range of technique on his right foot…I would bring him on the team if he were admitted”

A quality reel is often times the difference maker in the recruiting process.  It can take a player from someone that looks the part on paper, to someone the coach is actually visualizing in their lineup.  While it’s rare that a player will be recruited solely off of video, this certainly can happen.  At minimum, a well made video can be the catalyst that gets the coach to go watch the player live.

Key criteria for the recruiting video:

Quality Footage – Game film shot in HD from an elevated perspective is best.  The player should be easy to identify.  Consult a credible soccer resource to determine if footage showcases the player in a positive light.

Position specific–  Footage should show the player excelling in the part of the pitch where they anticipate being recruited.  Defenders should have footage shutting down their opponents, challenging for the ball in the air, and distributing from the back.  Midfielders should have a combination of plays – defending, distributing & scoring goals.  Forwards should show their attacking skills and of course, plenty of finishing.  Goalkeepers should have a combination of game film and footage from the training ground.

Let it play out- Coaches want to know if the pass, cross or shot hits the mark.  If a player makes a run down the wing, don’t cut right after they hit the ball.  Let the viewer see where the ball ends up.

Front card/end card–  Basic information about the player should appear at the top of the video.  Graduation year, high school/club info, GPA, etc .  End card should contain a player’s email/phone, as well as the contact info of club coach or other references.

Clickable–  As with everything these days, coaches want things made easy for them.  The coach should be able to click a link and watch the video within a matter of moments.  Tedious sign-in processes and password requirements can be a real turn off.

The right length–  Recruiting videos should be 3-6 minutes maximum.  If a coach wants to see more film, they will ask.

Music or no music-  Up for debate- but if a coach watches your video several times (and they often do) then that hip-hop song you love so much might become a tad annoying.

*PG Method offers video services to help student-athletes showcase themselves to collegiate programs.  Most students should have a recruiting video ready at the beginning of their  junior year.  Check out my promo piece here.