Describe the qualities that your program is looking for in a potential student-athlete?
The first quality is the student component of the equation. We won’t recruit a student that does not have the academic potential to succeed in our environment. This is inviolate to us. Once we have determined an academic fit, especially one that also matches our Institutional Strengths in the majors we offer, we look at several other factors.
Fit with the team. Although talent is a base line, the ability to fit within the team personality weighs heavily in our recruiting activity. Bringing recruits onto campus and also allowing for an overnight experience allows us to see first hand how chemistry will be affected.
Moving on from talent, we also look for competitiveness. Does our recruit enjoy that aspect. Do they put themselves in a position to compete at a high level. Do they hate to lose as much or more than they like to win.
We also look at work rate. We gauge does the player like to play when the ball finds them or do they do the hard work it takes to impact the game with or without a soccer ball. This translates into the ability to make the players around them better. They communicate, they cajole, they lead. This is the athlete we take into our program, and many times they are not the most skillful player but given our belief in our system and how we train, if they are competitive with a propensity to lead, they will succeed.
Could you give us an example of a current or former player who exceeded your expectations, highlighting the reasons that player excelled?
If you think about the players we recruit, (see above) we always believe that our players can and will exceed our expectation. Our current center back came to us with great soccer instincts. She wasn’t and isn’t extremely athletic, but she is competitive, works hard throughout the year, leads and is a special “personality.” During her freshman and sophomore year she was a role player, spent time playing various positions across the pitch. She never let us down, but she wasn’t special by any means. She came to us after her sophomore year and said she believed she could make a difference as a center back.
We let her try. Her innate soccer IQ and leadership capacity would define that role, but her lack of athleticism frightened us given our conference. In preseason she developed tremendous chemistry with an all-region player that would be her defensive partner. Her ability to make the most out of her gifts was brilliant.
Not only did we excel defensively, but she also excelled offensively from her deep lying position. She led the conference in assists, scored a few critical goals and was an effective team captain.