I was first introduced to the club soccer scene while living in Bowie.
I was playing for the Bowie Boys and Girls Club travel soccer team when the new Bowie Soccer Association started their club team, a year-round, soccer only team that wanted only the best players in the area. I don’t know if I was good enough at the time, I think I was, but I was also a kid who loved to play basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring.
And I really liked my coach for the Boys and Girls Club team, so I stayed where I was.
We weren’t highly recruited players out of high school because back then there wasn’t a whole lot of recruiting going on for any soccer players coming out of high school. The number of colleges offering soccer was roughly equal to the demand for players wanting to play.
So, when my teammate and I received a recruiting letter from Coker College congratulating us for our all-county selection, expressing interest in us in helping to build a new program, and an invitation to a beautiful campus in South Carolina in the middle of winter here, we had no choice but to jump on a plane and see where it took us.
We didn’t play for a club soccer team in high school. There just wasn’t a club team to play for in Carroll County in the late 1970s.
We didn’t attend any college ID camps, because they didn’t exist “back in the day.”
The Coker weekend was a close as things came to an ID camp.
We didn’t attend any college showcases to show off our abilities in front of a slew of college coaches; the closest we came to that was the team camp we did at Elizabethtown College where college coaches were our counselors.
Even in the years that I’ve been coaching in the club game with my own sons, the idea of a college showcase has matured over time. With my oldest, we heard about the showcase tournaments, but they were always for those teams that were the best in the area. They weren’t open to all to apply, just those that were specifically invited.
By the time I’m finishing up with my youngest, college showcases have become a major factor in helping kids that have a desire to play at the next level connect with the coaches of the programs that hold their interest.
Showcases have become big business, making treasures for the host club, a boom for the local economy as attendees hit up the gas stations, restaurants and hotels, and marketing companies flooding your emails with discount codes and friendly reminders to register before it’s too late. There are websites that tell you how you can “show” better at the showcase and companies that promise you the best access to college coaches if you sign up with them and pay them a grand.
My experience has helped me to sift through the large number of potential college showcases and select those to participate in that are economical, meaning in close proximity that our expenses don’t include extensive travel and lodging, the coaches in attendance are numerous, and the competition is equal to our abilities so the games are exciting.
Having just completed our college showcase season, I have a few recommendations to those that may attend in the future.
For parents, your main job on the weekend is to pay your share of the fees, transport your player to and from the tournament (or made other arrangements), and demonstrate great sportsmanship by cheering on the tremendous play of athletes on both teams; not to belittle the opposing team, criticize the referee’s every call, or argue with the other team’s parents.
For coaches, you’ve done pretty much all you can do at this point to prepare your players for “showing” their best in the tournament so just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride and guide them when they need assistance. What I suggest you don’t do is sit in your coach’s chair and scream insults at the opposing team’s style of play if it doesn’t match your own.
Especially when your team is losing to the team whose style of play you abhor.
For both parents and coaches alike, keep the focus of these games about the players, not about you.
The college coaches aren’t looking for coaches or parents to fill out rosters, but the wrong parent or coach can eliminate an opportunity for your kid to make that same roster.
For the players, no smarter words were ever spoken than by the great Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, when he said, “Show class, have pride, and display character. If you do, winning takes care of itself.”