By Lisa Lavelle
My 15-year-old son really wants to play college soccer. He doesn't play for a U.S. Development Academy team. He's a good player, but I've got enough of a soccer background to know he's not good enough to play Division I soccer. Should I encourage him to pursue college soccer?
Interesting question. With a soccer background, you know beauty is in the eye of the beholder and playing for the U.S. Development Academy does not guarantee any player will be a Division I recruit either. When it comes to college sports, not just Division I, there are several levels each year -- the final four teams, sweet 16s, the postseason qualifiers, and so on. Each year the group changes based on win-loss and hinges on seniors graduating from the team.
What one coach might see in one player is not always what another coach sees. When it comes to recruiting at any level, college coaches are looking for players who can make a difference. I encourage your son to look at all levels of play and not just NCAA DI. Get to the game early, watch the team warm up, check out the players on the roster and have your son size himself up.
Most kids and families only consider those schools they have heard of and for some strange reason think if it’s not NCAA Division I or II it can’t be good. To illustrate this aspect, when it comes to Academy teams and players being recruited, Portland Timbers noted on their website, that this year  they had 14 players recruited to college, the most they had ever had -- and not all were Division I athletes.
When it comes to collegiate sports and playing professionally look at Redlands, they are NCAA Division III and Ralph Perez along with his staff has done and incredible job and several players were drafted into the pros. Another example University of Maine Fort Kent -- USCAA -- this team reads and plays like a mini-professional team. Bill Ashby has done a heck of a job recruiting, winning championships and I am not sure how many NCAA Division I teams would want to play his team in a match. Remember, where you come from will not define where you are going.
Further Reading: The College Process: Be Prepared, Proactive and Persistent
(Lisa Lavelle is President of The Sport Source, which has been connecting kids to college opportunities since 1989. For more information on The Sport Source’s Official Athletic College Guides, tools, and resources, go to www.TheSportSource.com.)