ESPN glorifies the college recruiting process. During key recruiting seasons its Web site, ESPN.com, features rankings of the top high school prospects in football and basketball. During Lebron James’ senior year of high school, ESPN televised several of his games on national television, exposing his rare talent to both the college and pro world. However, the recruiting process in college athletics, particularly on the women’s side, is much more complicated and grueling for both coaches and recruits than the average fan realizes.
‘It’s a lot of work,’ said UC Irvine’s new women’s soccer Head Coach April Heinrichs, who is widely regarded as one of the most experienced women’s soccer coaches in the world and one of the game’s pioneers. As the first woman inducted into the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame, Heinrichs played at the University of North Carolina where she was twice named National Player of the Year. She had two successful coaching stints in the Atlantic Coast Conference before becoming the U.S. National Team’s head coach in 2000, winning an olympic gold medal with the team in Athens in 2004. For all the success she’s had in her career, it’s surprising that Heinrichs thinks recruiting is one of her most difficult tasks.
‘I would say, conservatively, I’m putting in 11 to 12 hours a day [into recruiting], and that doesn’t even include the weekends,’ Heinrichs added.
The stakes are high as the top high school players have begun to make verbal commitments to schools up to two-and-a-half years before graduating. That puts the pressure on coaches to put together a short list of recruits they’d like to bring on board.
For women’s soccer, coaches are allowed to send two recruiters out at a time. That translates into coaches attending weekend-long tournaments during the recruiting season