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Article 1 A Recruit’s Story and Message to Players “Been There, Done That,” Here’s My Story and Advice to You It wasn’t long ago that I was in your shoes: trying to decide what caliber of player I really was, what I needed to do to get noticed, what college I wanted to attend, and many other issues you may be struggling with at this very moment. Hopefully, my experiences as a college athlete and my recommendations will be helpful to you. In this first article, I will tell my college story, divulging some very specific things I did during my youth and high school years to make me a better player and a more attractive recruit. I’ve also included some “Lightning Round” items on college soccer and college life experiences which may be of interest to you. Finally, I’ll give you a daily schedule of my life as a college soccer player during the season. Our goal in this book is to help you reach your maximum potential as a student athlete. After this initial personal account, we have 32 additional articles which will help clarify the recruiting process, maximize your visibility, and help facilitate your efforts to get recruited by colleges that best meet your soccer and academic aspirations. Now, here’s my story and advice to you. My College Story My soccer recruiting class was ranked number 4 in the nation for Division I. I came in my freshman year on top of the world with a scholarship in hand and an opportunity to play for a top twenty program. Yet, I was scared out of my mind! The game was three times faster than what I had played before. Everyone on my team was as good as or better than me, and there was not much room for error when trying to impress the coach. Paralleling my youth soccer experience, I did not see immediate success. My parents repeatedly told me, “Just do your best, work hard, and things will work out.” As a player, this is the only thing you can guarantee… your effort. Well, I did my best, and tried my hardest, and I did it every day. Fortunately, I consistently came into the preseason fit (which is a very big part of college soccer). Being smaller in stature also required that I develop my strength through weight training; an additional aspect of college soccer training that goes on for four years, in-season and off-season. Another strength I was fortunate to be able to bank on was my technical skill. Regardless of these plusses, I found that my biggest shortcoming was the speed of my decision making process in the highly-paced level of play. I kept finding myself in the wrong position off the ball, and at times it took me too long to find the right play to make when I did have the ball. For me, this was the hardest thing to improve upon. College soccer is renowned for being a very fast-paced game in comparison to the many youth levels.

Copyright 2010 Rich Rydarowski


Watch top-level professional teams like Barcelona, Inter Milan, or Manchester United and count their touches and runs off the ball in the build-up through the attack. The touches are few; the player with the ball knows where he is going with the pass as well as where he is going after he releases the ball. Players off the ball know where they are going based on the situation and where they will place the ball when they receive it. College play is similar to this level of play. It took me two years playing college soccer to develop my decision-making speed and skills – and convincing the coach of this – before I became a consistent starter. This was my Achilles’ heel, what’s yours? Besides soccer, there is education, which is hopefully the primary reason why you, I, and 99% of your teammates are in college. In my first three years of college soccer, I had four teammates leave before they graduated to play professional soccer. This is a pretty high percentage for a college team, but we were a Top 20 program with many national team and residency players. All of us student athletes that put in the work on the field would love to have had this professional opportunity. However, we also realized the low odds of many of us being offered the opportunity to play at the next level. So, we put in hard work off the field toward our education. You need to approach both your college soccer and educational experience the same way. Whether your future lies in MLS or in an MBA, be sure that you enjoy the journey athletically and educationally. So, what is the secret to success as a student athlete? Two words: time management. College is not high school; it is ten times better and ten times more difficult. Balancing school, soccer, and fun (in that order) is tricky. A good idea is to watch the upperclassmen and see how they do it. Chances are they have better time management skills than you. A good motto for me was “Work hard, Play hard in everything you do.” There were many times when I became frustrated when it came to playing time. My advice is to be patient, continue to give your best every day, and learn to deal with frustration. At the end of my freshman year I had played in six games and did not start. My sophomore year was more rewarding, with me playing in12 games. All my hard work really paid off in my junior year as I became a full time starter and assumed a leadership position on the team. My college soccer experience, much like my youth soccer experience, followed a pattern of success through effort. In one of our forthcoming articles we quote legendary college basketball coach John Wooden. When addressing how success is achieved by student athletes he states, “We have success within. It’s up to you to bring it out.” I think I have, will you? Advice for the Youth & High School Years I enjoy looking back at what I did to help me develop during my youth and high school years as a soccer player, as a recruit, and as a college student athlete. Below, I discuss situations I experienced and how I dealt with them during my early years and through the developing years of 14-17. You may be able to identify with a few of these as they may be occurring in your life presently. My teammates will tell you that they, too, have dealt with similar soccer development situations. History does repeat itself.

Copyright 2010 Rich Rydarowski


Few are born superstars, the rest of us are not. We earn it! I was definitely not a born superstar. My youth soccer playing days had several unsuccessful events followed by several hard-earned successes. I did not make the first competitive club team I tried out for. I must admit, I was worried - could I have been washed up at eight? Fortunately, Mom and Dad were there to tell me, “Just do your best, work hard, and things will work out.” I did, and shortly thereafter, I made a good club team. I didn’t make the state pool the first two times I tried out. I didn’t make the state team the first time I tried out. I didn’t make region pool the first time I tried out. I didn’t make region team the first time I tried out. Eventually, however, I became a Region III player, which greatly enhanced my chances of playing college soccer and receiving some scholarship funds. So what’s the lesson here? Keep playing and work on those areas that you have been told need improvement. I played all the time, especially on my own time. There is no substitute. You have to play all the time, be it club, academy, high school, ODP, pickup or with your little brother or little sister in the backyard. If soccer is just a two-day-a-week training event with a game on the weekend for you, then I wish you luck. Help! No, leave me alone. Help! No, leave me alone. When it comes to the college soccer process, the player must take the initiative to actively market and advertise himself or herself. Contact the colleges in which you are interested, go to their camps, and talk to the coaches. Easy to say but hard to do when you’re a teenager. It’s a tough to deal with so many normal, “grown up” issues. I’m also telling you to take the lead in your college soccer preparation – and to do it sooner rather than later. How did I do it? I recognized that I needed my parents’ help, and I decided to work with them to help me on my journey. This may be tough to do when you are a teenager with the so-called “image” you have to uphold, but get your parents involved. They are smarter than you think. It will be worth it. My dad gives seminars on the college soccer process. He usually relates the story he calls The Turning Point in my recruiting process. After months of encouragement, suggestions and a little bugging by him, I made the big move. We were attending a college game between two Division I schools in which I had some interest. After the game was over, and the field was clearing, I walked up to one of the coaches, extended my hand and said, “My name is Jon, here’s my soccer resume. I’m very interested in attending your school and playing soccer for you. I’ll be attending your upcoming camp. Please give me a look and keep me in mind.” Not bad for a 14 year old! I still can’t believe I did it. Bottom line: after much procrastination and sweating on my part, coupled with the encouragement from my parents, I did it. The next personal introduction was a lot easier. I needed to do it, and you will need to do it. My parents helped me. Your parents can help you. The sooner you begin working as a team, the better. We discuss this relationship in more detail in Article 3.

Copyright 2010 Rich Rydarowski


I’m faster than you so I am better than you… at least for now. Develop your technique instead of relying solely on natural athletic ability. Also, develop your tactical attributes and understanding in order to play at a continuously higher level and faster pace. Essentially, become a student of the game. As we mature and progress in our soccer careers, our various God-given abilities will have less and less of an impact on our success during the game. You may be a step faster than your teammates, but if your first touch is lacking, your speed is essentially useless. A player who has speed and a good first touch will enhance his or her opportunity to be recruited. Combine this with an understanding of the field and flow of the game and you will differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack. Standing 5’6” and weighing 140 lbs, I didn’t fit the mold of the typical marking back. So how is it that I am able to stifle a 6’2” forward fresh out of national team residency for 90 minutes? I worked on developing every part of my game. (speed, strength, skill, positioning, and most importantly my understanding of the game). I can mark a player who is bigger, faster, and stronger than me if I know where the ball is going to be before he does, or I can cut off the passing lane and deny him the ball altogether. Tactical development will become more in demand as you progress in your level of play. How many times have you overheard coaches talk about someone being a “smart” player? Use your legs to fly down the sidelines and your brain to cut off a passing lane. Be a student of the game and continuously learn. Be a regimented, self-imposed task master and work to develop all of your skills. Play like Rafael Coaches want a multifaceted player. For those of you who may not know, Rafael is a dynamic defender who can also attack. A coach wants a defender who can get involved in the attack, a forward who can track back and cut down passing lanes and a midfielder with a deadly tackle and an even more deadly cross. It’s also nice to have a goalie that can nail a penalty kick! As I mentioned before, I am generally a marking back. However, I have seen time on both flanks, as a holding midfielder and even up top. One would not find me complaining, because I hoped to offer something at any one of these positions. I urge you to play as many positions as possible in your youth career. It will give you a greater understanding of the entire field, make you a more desirable recruit and eventually give you an opportunity to gain more playing time. On our college roster, I liked being listed as “M / D” (midfielder / defender). The Lightning Round, My College Experience Preseason- It’s tough! For our fitness test we ran two miles in twelve minutes, took a ten minute break, and then ran one mile in five minutes and forty-five seconds. We also do the “beep test,” of which most soccer player are aware. We practiced twice a day for three hours at a time, and did fitness at the end of each practice. This usually continues for about 14 days. My advice to you is to come in fit and ready to go!

Copyright 2010 Rich Rydarowski


In-Season Practice- This is daily and usually lasts two hours (unless there is a game the next day), not counting warm up, cool down, pre-practice preparation, taping and post-practice shower and visits to the trainer. Practice usually involves individual skill development, team shape, offensive/defensive tactics, and fitness. My advice to you is to play each practice like a tryout because this is where you will earn your playing time. Games- Games are the greatest experience in the world! If you love this game, try to select a college with a large and avid soccer following. Imagine its 7 p.m. on a fall Friday night and 3000 of your fellow students are cheering as you step out on the field to play “Bad Guy U,” your biggest rival. “Eye of the Tiger” is playing in the background, and you have a ton of butterflies in your stomach. To a soccer player, this is only a step away from heaven. My advice to you is to enjoy these moments while you can! The Off-Season- The college soccer season ends between late November and early December, based on your team’s success in post season tournaments. Players are basically free until early February when the spring season begins. My advice to you is to take this time to continue to work on your strength, fitness, and individual skill. The Spring Season- For our team, we practiced every other day, then lifted weights and did plyometrics on the other days. Spring season is more laid back as you are preparing for the next season, which is five or six months away. The coaches are giving players who generally did not play much during the last season a good opportunity to be viewed, seeing who may fill voids left by graduating players and who will be battling incoming freshmen for playing time. Spring season usually involves 5 – 6 games, generally between February and April. My advice to you is to take this opportunity to position yourself for playing time in the fall! Summer – Usually the coach has youth summer camps and will invite several team players to participate as instructors. If special elite camps are involved you may be asked by the coach to help evaluate players as potential recruits. My advice to you is to jump at this opportunity and share what you have learned with younger players coming up, establishing yourself as a role model. Tests- For me, study time ranged from 6 to 20 hours for a normal test, assuming I was totally caught up on my readings. This meant no last-minute studying for exams. On several occasions you may have to make arrangements with your professor to take a test earlier or later based on you travel requirements to away games. My advice to you is begin to work on your study habits now to prepare for the increased workload. Finals- The whole school goes crazy and so will you! You’ll study and take tests for 4-5 days straight. Not much fun, but everyone is doing it so it’s a little easier. My advice to you is to sleep while you can!

Copyright 2010 Rich Rydarowski


Traveling- Not everyone on the squad travels to away games unless the games are nearby. If an overnight stay or plane flight is required, then generally only 18 players will travel. Starters and key substitutes are given priority, with class and position being additional factors. Fraternity / Sorority- This definitely depends on the size of the school, the amount of Greek participation, the normal time commitment at each school, and personal preference. Investigate this on your own. See how or if you can afford to do this along with your athletic and educational responsibilities. If this is something you would like to do, then do it. Time Management- The opportunity to do a lot and have fun is everywhere. Time management is the key. You need to learn to manage your time or college will be a thing of the past and you’ll be working at the local fast-food chain. A Typical Day During the Season 8:00 Wake up (Breakfast is whatever I can find around the apartment) 9:00 class 10:00 class 11:00 class 12:00 Lunch 1:30 Study for an hour or sleep 3:00 meet in locker room to get ready for practice 6:00 leave locker room 6:05 eat dinner 7:00 Fraternity meeting/Athletic board meeting 8:00-11:00 Study as needed 11:00 on - Free! If you have the time and energy you can go out. Otherwise get a good night’s sleep. This is where time management comes into play.

Good Luck! Jon Rydarowski

Copyright 2010 Rich Rydarowski


Sample Article | The College Soccer Journey