Mike Avery | Head Coach | Men’s Soccer | Valparaiso University

Describe the qualities that your program is looking for in a potential student-athlete?

We start every recruiting season with a staff meeting that identifies the general and specific things we want out of our recruiting class. In general, we use the word FIT as an acronym to mean Finding the Ideal Teammate. We want talented kids that have the passion, experience and dedication necessary to compete at this level, but we also need them to fit our specific culture. We want players that not only embrace the core ideals that we try to promote and follow, but players that will also challenge us to grow and change. We look at 4 specific areas with each recruit prospect that we evaluate:

1) Can he play? Bottom line, is he good enough to compete at a Division 1 program that has aspirations of being relevant nationally? This also includes some positional specific needs based on a given year’s graduation.

2) Is he a fit academically? Beyond just being admissions worthy, is he someone we believe can find success in our school?

3) What are the financial parameters? Is he a scholarship candidate – what percentage? Is he an academic or need based financial aid candidate? Does our scholarship picture in a given year fit his needs / wants, and vice-versa?

4) MOST IMPORTANT – is he a character fit for our program?

If a prospect stand up to these four, then we pursue him.


Could you give us an example of a current or former player who exceeded your expectations, highlighting the reasons that player excelled?

We have high expectations for every player, so it is rare when anyone surprises us by exceeding our expectations. Our current captain, though, came in under the radar meaning he was not a highly touted prospect. We identified him at a camp and he flew himself from California to Indiana for an unofficial visit. When we met him, he was smaller physically than we thought, and just looked too young to be a realistic D1 college player. By the end of our first meeting, however, I knew that I had to have him in my team – just because of the person that he was. Not only did his personal values line up with our team ideals, but he had me wanting to revisit our own way of thinking because he challenged me to think outside of my own box. I committed him to coming right on the spot, even though I still had questions about his physical ability. It has turned out to be one of my best decisions. Not only is he a tremendous leader that became captain in his junior year, but he is also a tremendous player that will have the opportunity to play professionally following his senior season. He sold me initially with his personality, but he has backed it up with his self belief and his work ethic.