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Escola Hawaii

Youth Soccer Club Kailua, Hawaii

News Detail


Feb, 2019

D1 College Coach Guiding Players on Steps to Reach a Collegiate Soccer Career

Why Play Soccer and How to Reach the Next Level
by Alex Souza
(Escola Hawaii Director of Coaching)


Supporting our youth to play sports is no easy job for a parent! It costs money, time off work, various weekends spent on fields and parks, and the list goes on and on...

Have you ever wondered if is this all worth it? Will it ever pay back? Well, the easy answer is hang in there, the results you will get are beyond worth it.

Sports can create many positive habits that our younger generation may carry on all the way through adulthood. Let us take for example the effects of technology in 2019; it is taking more and more time away from our kids being physically active and leaving the comfort of their homes to go play outside. Do you remember that say “your habits will become your actions”? Well, that is what engaging your kids in sports will mostly do. Creating a positive habit where kids will want to go outside and play and not have to be bagged to leave the house.

I truly believe sports are one of the best investments you could make on your kid. That he or she will benefit from it greatly in so many different ways, even financially. How? Simple, look at the scenario I presented bellow and the three outcomes.

Your son “Ronaldo” has played soccer for the past 10 years for a club called Escola Hawaii. You invested an immense amount of hours and about $14,000 (assuming the program cost $1,400 a year). Ronaldo then decides to go to college in the mainland. Wow!! Great news, that makes any parent proud, right? Yes, but the cost is scary!

On average, the cost of attendance (which includes tuition, fees, room and board) in public four-year out-state institutions was $37,430 in academic year 2018/19 ( Now, multiple it by 4 years (average time for a bachelor’s degree) and your kid’s college education will cost you about $150,000.

Adding the prices, 10 years of soccer club plus the cost of 4 years of college, you invested 164,000 in your loved one in the course of 14 years. A lot of money right? Here are the outomes:

  • Outcome 1 - Ronaldo is going to college and making the school’s soccer team. He now has to learn to manage his schedule well (with soccer practices, study halls, gym, travel, team meetings, etc). Wow, busy schedules sounds familiar right? It is also know as “adulthood”. He also has to learn to be disciplined in so many different ways. Disciplined with his diet (staying fit is a requirement), disciplined with his grades (has to keep his GPA high in order to play), and disciplined with his behavior (he needs to stay out of trouble so he doesn’t get kicked out of the team). Doing that for 4 years is sure going to create some habits, don’t you think?
  • Outcome 2 - Ronaldo is going to college and making the soccer team with a small soccer scholarship of 10%. Now he gets all the benefits above plus saves $15,000. That is $1,000 more than it cost you his 10 year’s club career.
  • Outcome 3 - Ronaldo makes the team with a full ride soccer scholarship. Now he gets all the benefits above plus saves $150,000. That is a $136,000 profit when compared to the money you invested on your son’s club cost.

Money is just a small benefit when looking on the long run and all the researches showing the benefits sports brings to one’s life (health, friends, discipline, professional career, achievements, etc…).

In order to help our youth players to find their way to college, I was able to interview Ross Duncan. Ross is a former D-1 college soccer player, former pro player in Australia, and the head coach of University of Central Arkansas for the past 8 years now. During his time, coach Ross was able to turn the program around winning the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) and reaching the NCAA Tournament in 2017 for the first time in school’s history. He didn’t stop there, in 2018 coach Ross lead the Bears to win the MVC again, and went back to the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive year. Please follow the UCA soccer team and help them continue breaking records on the Missouri Valley Conference!

My goal with this interview is to set guidance for players who are driven to achieve the higher levels in soccer, in hope to provide them with better skills to achieve such goals. Bellow, I have a set of questions I asked coach Ross:


1) In other countries, players practice year round. Should players be training and playing club soccer year round here?

Coach Ross: "Absolutely. Soccer is a sport that is really important to have consistent training. It is no problem to mix in other sports to cross-train and stay fit, but if you neglect your technical training and footwork, you will lose important development. Don't forget to give your body and mind some rest. If you try and train every day of the year, you will break your body down and you will lose passion for the sport. But if you are only playing 3-4 months per year, you will never make the progress you need to make in the game to make it where you want to go."


2) In order to prepare for a college soccer career, how many days per week would you advice youth players to practice with their team? What about individual training?

Coach Ross: "This is a great question. Individual training is vital when it comes to your development as a top player. If you go to 100% of your team practices and try your best, you will still not get where you need to be. As good as your coaches may be, they can't devote the individual attention that you need to make the progress you need in your game. This is where individual training comes in. And that's the beauty of our sport. All you need is a ball! You don't even need cleats. You can make progress with your game just juggling in bare feet or kicking a ball against a wall. Of course, there are lots of more intensified individual training options you can learn from your coaches or from simply getting on YouTube. But the most important part is that you are out with a ball by yourself. This time is when you will find the most development. And find something you will enjoy. That will increase the amount of time you spend doing it, and that is the whole point. If you choose to do 100 yard sprints and then kick a ball against a wall and then another 100 yard sprint, you won't come back to it very often. But if you create a game for yourself with a ball and a wall, maybe putting up some targets to challenge yourself, you may come back to it every day after school because you enjoy it."


3) What are the best soccer camps you would advice players who are looking for high development?

Coach Ross: "Camps are a tricky one, because all of them cost money.  If you are in a position to invest in this part of your development, then I do think a camp can be a great experience and good value. But I don't think they are necessary. That being said, there are some great ones. I would think about what your goals are with your soccer career and use that to guide your choices. If you are wanting to be a pro, then look into a camp in a professional environment. Maybe one put on by a professional player (lots of MLS players do camps, for example). If you are interested in the NCAA route, look into a residential camp put on by a school you are interested in attending. "


4) When college coaches are scouting, what are the main points they are looking in a player?

Coach Ross: "Different coaches are going to look for different things because we all come from a different philosophical place. Some coaches look for speed and athleticism first, some look for technical ability first, and some look for size. Personally, I look for the kind of impact a player makes on a game in their position. If he or she is a left back, are they locking their side down defensively? Are they picking good times to get into the attack and, when they do, are they providing good service into dangerous areas? Do they have the fitness base to play the position at a high level for 90 minutes? 


Beyond that, I would also add that character is a major component of the recruiting/scouting process both at the college and professional level. If a player shows strong character (a leader on the field, a consistent performer, someone that listens to their coaches and encourages their teammates) then that is a huge positive for the recruiter/scout. On the flip side, if a player shows weak character (poor body language, issues with teammates/opponents, making selfish decisions with the ball) then that can cross a player off the list, even if they have a lot of talent."


5) What are the best tournaments to be scouted by college coaches?

Coach Ross: "That really depends on what schools you are looking at. The tournaments with the biggest exposure to coaches across the country are probably Dallas Cup and the Disney Showcase.  The US Soccer Development Academy events are even better but you'd have to be part of a US Soccer Development Academy team for those.  I would recommend to any young player looking to get recruiting that they narrow down a region of the country they are interested in attending college in first though. That way they can look into tournaments being held in those regions and be a little bit more calculated with their choices. For example, if a player is interested in going to school on the West Coast, the Surf Cup in San Diego would be a great choice. If a player is interested in going to a school in the mid-Atlantic or Southeast, the CASL Showcase in North Carolina would be a good choice." 


6) What are the best camps for players to be scouted?

Coach Ross: "ID Camps put on by college programs are the best bet here. Coaches use those camps to identify potential players for their teams and it is an excellent opportunity to get a feel for the campus, the players on the roster, the way the coaches operate, the level of the team, and just a general sense of whether that program is a good fit for you. It also gives you a chance to showcase your ability in front of the coaches. Make sure you contact the coach before signing up though. Sometimes the coaches will run a few camps over the summer and you want to be careful not to sign up for one that they don't really use as an ID camp."


7) Is making a DVD recording with your best plays helpful? Will coaches recruit players through them?

Coach Ross: "Video is very helpful. It allows coaches to get a sense of what you're like as a player without having to travel to see you in person. Most coaches won't use JUST video to recruit a player though. Eventually, they are going to want to see you in person to make sure you are the player they are looking for. But video is a great way to gain initial interest from a program. I would definitely recommend putting the video on YouTube though, rather than on a DVD."


8) What would you advice players to add on their recordings that coaches are looking for?

Coach Ross: "The players need to highlight what the strengths are that they will bring to the program. And quality is much more important than quantity. A 10-minute video of a player connecting simple passes will have much less impact than a 2-minute video of a player scoring goals and dribbling past defenders. Make sure that it shows what separates you from other players in your position. For example, if you are a center back, you'll need to show qualities that make you a great center back (being strong in the air, winning tackles, organizing your teammates into a good defensive shape)."


9) If I am trying to be scouted by a college coach, what would be the most efficient way to do it. By sending a video with my highlights, joining camps, playing in tournaments, being recommended by a coach or trying to be a “walk-on”?

Coach Ross: "The best way is to call directly and have a conversation with the coach. Make a personal connection. Don't have your parents call. A coach calling for you could help though. Find out if they are even recruiting players in your position and what roster room they have in your recruiting class. Different programs have much different timelines. Some programs like to finish their recruiting way ahead of time so their team is set. And others like to hold off and complete their classes later in the recruiting cycle. From there, you can find a way to get yourself in front of the coach (showcase schedule, attending an ID camp, etc.) and follow up with an email that includes a video link and a resume of your playing and academic background."


10) What is the average GPA collegiate level soccer requires? How important is your GPA for college coaches?

Coach Ross: "Academics, in general, are massively important. In division 1, we have very strict academic standards for our student-athletes, so having a good high school GPA shows a commitment to academics from the player. There are also initial academic standards that the NCAA requires to become a division 1 qualifier. You'll need to do well both in your high school classes (GPA) and on your standardized testing (ACT or SAT). There are also different admissions standards at each school. You'll limit your options if you have poor grades and test scores. And finally, the GPA is also usually a big factor in any potential academic scholarships that you may earn from the university. So having a big focus on academics from the very start of high school is really important. "


11) If I have a high, 3.8 – 4, GPA, will it help me when applying for scholarships?

Coach Ross: "Absolutely. Athletic scholarships aren't affected by GPA, but each school will have academic scholarships of varying levels for high-achieving students. You can save a LOT of money on tuition with these academic scholarships. "


12) Is it important for a player to play for a big club or will players still get looked at playing for a smaller club? What does a player in a small club need to do to stand out?

Coach Ross: "The size of the club really has no impact on the recruiting process.  The most important part is your exposure to college coaches. Sometimes bigger clubs have more access to the college coaches, so that can make a difference. But as long as the club you are at is committed to getting you the help you need, any size will do. So, if you are at a smaller club and are struggling to make contact with coaches, have a conversation with your club coach to see what kind of help he or she can give you. Do they know any college coaches themselves? Would they be willing to make some calls to generate some interest? What showcase events do they plan to take your team to?"


13) Do college coaches want versitle players or players who specialize in specific positions?

Coach Ross: "Another great question... I'd say both. It definitely helps to have players that are versatile and can play in multiple positions. There are always injuries or dips in performance throughout the season, so to be able to move between positions and keep your level high is really helpful for a coach. But there is also a lot of value in a player who has focused on a specific position and specialized their skills. Take an attacking midfielder, for example. That position requires a very specific skill-set to be able to create the chances the attacking players need to score goals for your team. If this player has trained themselves as a more "versatile" player, they probably will not have the level of talent they need to be effective. But if they have concentrated specifically on their 1v1 dribbling, their final pass, creativity, and shots from the top of the box, they will be much more likely to be an effective player for you. In general, positions that help to have versatility are central midfield, center back, and to some extents outside back. Positions that help to have more specific training focus are goalkeeper, striker, winger, and attacking midfield. "


14) Should players participate in ID camps?

Coach Ross: "Yes, but only after careful consideration for what programs they are actually interested in. Going to an ID camp just for the experience doesn't really do much for a player. But targeting a university that has the academic program you want, has a team that is at a realistic level for you to play at, and a coach that you have talked to about playing for, could really help your chances of getting into that roster. "


15) Do college coaches look at high school soccer performance or is the focus geared more towards club performance?

Coach Ross: "In general, yes. The biggest problem with high school is the lack of opportunity to see you play. The season is relatively short (usually around 2 months) and the games are always on the campus of one of the high school teams.  That means a coach will need to travel to a site and only get to see 1 game. At a showcase event with your club team, a coach can go to a site and watch 20 games in a day. But playing high school soccer certainly won't hurt your chances of being recruited. There are plenty of good coaches in high school and a lot of times they can be one of your biggest advocates (usually they have a job at the school, so they likely know you better off the field than your club coach will).  Just make sure you are getting regular training outside of the high school season. Playing soccer 2-3 months a year will not get you the development you need to make it to the college or professional level."


16) Will coaches look at multi-sport athletes or will they focus on the year round soccer player?

Coach Ross: "Yes. In fact, I like it when a player chooses to be a multi-sport athlete. I think you have to be careful trying to be a "jack-of-all-trades and a master-of-none" though. By this, I mean that if you are average at 4 sports, that doesn't really serve you as well as if you're excellent in 1 sport and use a couple of other sports to fill your time, get some enjoyment, and make you a more well-rounded athlete. Think about the sports you are going to play as well, and whether they actually help you become a better soccer player. Baseball, for example, while being a great sport, doesn't really improve your soccer performance at all. If you choose a sport like wrestling, basketball, surfing, or hockey, you'll get some benefits athletically that will help you with soccer."


I am really thankful to share all this information with our younger generation, and I would like to take the time to thank coach Ross for sharing his expertise and helping our kids to achieve higher goals. We hope the tools provided here can help more and more players to succeed and achieve their goals in life. After all, the development of our kids is in our hands.




















Works Cited:


“Statista.”Average cost to attend university in the U.S., by institution type 2013-2019, Statistics Portal,





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