Written by: Geoff Raives, CFF Director of Partnerships, and beNOTICED
The transition from high school to college, whether in Canada or in the US, can be a major adjustment for a student-athlete, or any student for that matter. You are now moving away from home and learn how to live on your own. It’s your sole responsibility to go to class, study for tests, eat right, and do your own laundry. Mom and Dad aren't there. Make sure you know how to use an alarm clock!
For student-athletes, the jump can be even more overwhelming. To help you prepare for what’s to come, we outlined three major differences between high school and college soccer.
Being a college soccer athlete is like having two full-time jobs.
In-season NCAA D1 or U Sports (in Canada) athletes often devote 75-80 hours per week to athletics and academics. Between early-morning performance training sessions, classes, practice, study halls, and games, the weekly schedule of an athlete is jam-packed from dawn until dusk. Student-athletes will understand what it’s like to balance the time commitment of college soccer with the duties of being a full-time student. To survive, soccer athletes need to be incredibly passionate about their sport and develop strong time-management skills. Keep in mind that athletes who compete at the NCAA D2, D3 or NAIA level tend to have less demanding schedules and a little more free time.
College practices can be more intense than high school games.
The leap from high school to college soccer can be massive. Instead of competing against 17 and 18-year-olds, they square off against muscular 21 and 22-year-olds. Athletes are bigger, faster, stronger, and more skilled. Some athletes respond to the college soccer atmosphere with nerves, while others rise to the challenge and up their level of intensity. It’s all about how you adapt.
In high school soccer, mistakes are part of the game and practices sometimes lack intensity. In college soccer, mistakes and lack of concentration during practice can lead you straight to a spot on the bench for the next game. Athletes fight tooth-and-nail during every drill, and walk-ons play their hearts out for a chance to earn athletic scholarships. Everyone on the team is there because they’ve invested a ton of time and energy into the sport, and it's their passion. No one is going to hand you a starting spot as an incoming freshman—you’ll have to fight for it and earn it.
There are rules. Not just from your new school, coach, and professors. But from the NCAA as well.
Being a college soccer athlete in U Sports in Canada or at the D1, D2 or D3 level means being aware of the NCAA’s multitude of strict rules and regulations. Note - each division have their own set of regulations as well as NAIA.
Qualifying Academically: Obviously you gotta make the team, but that's not what we're talking about here. There are certain courses you must complete in high school to become eligible to compete at the NCAA level. It's a good idea to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center sooner than later to make sure you're on the right track.
Amateur Status: You can't compete if you're a Pro. A paid one, that is. We assume you're really good if you've made it this far in recruiting.
Academics are Important!: They were in high school, and they still are in college. Why? You need to be enrolled full time and maintain a certain GPA. Not only could you lose your spot on the team without it, but any scholarship dollars as well.
There's More!: Make sure to research more specifics so you're familiar with the rules at the level you choose to play.