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How To Play Football And Go To University in the USA

Monday 23rd September 2013
It's Round And It's White are delighted to welcome a new writer to the site, Lee Hitchen, who lives in the USA and will be providing the site with the lowdown on "soccer" in America. If you're a young footballer looking at opportunities abroad, his columns will certainly be worth reading.

Twenty years ago something happened that changed my life forever…. I came to America. The good old U S of A. The land of opportunity. A massive place of which, I knew absolutely nothing about except what I had seen at the pictures or on television (pre-Sky). Yet here I was, late at night, stood bleary eyed after a very long day on several plane rides. I was looking for a man who was going to be the only person I knew, and not very well at that, in a country of 350 million. Not technically 350 million, at least among a few hundred at Pittsburgh international airport. I found him; I got in his car, and drove to a place that I was to call home for quite some time. The rest, as they say, is history…

My reason for moving to America was to embark on an adventure that was both exhilarating and life altering. I was a new recruit for the University soccer programme as an NCAA student-athlete. Of course, I had no idea what exactly this meant. I had a very, very steep learning curve. It was difficult at times. The wealth of information available to people today wasn't available then. Remember, this was in the days before the Internet, email, or even mobile phones. I had no point of reference. I had to learn as I went along and needless to say, I made quite a few mistakes. I fell foul of rules, laws, and cultural expectations so many times that I have lost count. A combination of ignorance and plain naiveté saw me get at a minimum frustrated and at worst taken advantage of. It wasn't easy. But boy was it worth it. Fast forward twenty years and here I am as a permanent resident, married to an American, with a varied career in higher education from athletics to administration.

You are maybe wondering what this has to do with going to America and playing football. Well, while there are many avenues available to potential players for advice on how to become a student-athlete, there are few who can explain the intricacies of the game. Not the game of football but the game known as recruiting. Make no mistake it is a game. The ideas of tactics are no different than you have experienced as a player on the park. One person pitting their wits against the other. In this regard, knowledge is power. Potential players do not know as much about recruiting or the NCAA as a head coach. This is a fact. To kick things off, here are a few things to think about before you make the decision that you want to make the trek across the pond and play the sport you love:



  • You have to get seen. This means a video showcasing your ability. Expect to provide game clips of you playing, and playing well! Don't be shy, and blow your own trumpet. If you don't, nobody else will. Coaches want to see a reason to recruit you. They have incentives to improve their team and are always seeking better players. A great video will set you apart from the crowd and don't be fooled; the crowd is a very big one.


  • Think about where you want to go to university. If you hate playing in the heat, don't look at Florida or many of the southern states. Crack out the map and do some research. If you enjoy snowboarding as a hobby, think northwest. You get the picture.


  • What do you want to study? If you have your heart set on becoming a PE teacher then obviously you will want a school that offers this course. Not all universities offer the same courses.


  • The fit. You should think about university that suits you. Everyone is different. There are so many options for university in America it can become overwhelming. Organize your ideas of what you are looking for. Academics, football wise, location, temperature, social life, the coach, current players who are from the same country as you. I could go on and on. Just think, what is important to me?




To make the playing field even my goal through these pieces is to offer tips and information on how you can go about starting the recruiting process, what you can do to sell your potential, make you an attractive potential squad member, and perhaps most importantly, not get taken advantage of. So if you have often wondered about going to America, playing football, getting an education, and enjoying a life changing experience in one of the greatest countries in the world then keep checking back for regular updates. I will explain the NCAA, the US higher education system, tips you need to be successful, and general insight into the student-athlete experience. Feel free to leave comments and questions. Remember, knowledge is power and you need to be as powerful as you can be.

Lee Hitchen, originally from England, is a former NCAA student-athlete, Head Soccer Coach, Athletic Director, Dean of Students, and Admissions & Financial Aid Counsellor at an American University. He is currently the Director of Soccer for http://www.accrecruits.com/, an educational & athletic recruiting company for more details. You can follow him on Twitter @AmerCollConn

 
Lee Hitchen
An English ex-pat, Lee currently lives in Chicago. Lee went to the US on a football scholarship and has since had a 20 year career in US higher education and university sports. Currently, he is the Director of Soccer for American College Connection, a recruiting education company that helps young "soccer" players continue their playing careers in the USA while earning a degree. The long-suffering Blackburn Rovers fan is on Twitter. Follow him @AmerCollConn and give feedback, ask questions, and read the latest in American college soccer news.

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