This is a tough conversation to have with any prospective student-athlete. I have spent a life time as both an athlete and a coach in almost every possible college division, and as such feel I am particularly qualified to speak to this topic.
Every young athlete has heroes and role models. They are essential to our emotional, physical, and athletic growth. Michael Jordan sinking game winners for the Bulls and UNC automatically bring a generation of players dreaming of playing for both. This is just one example in a sea of examples we find as young athletes to target our dream school. Not to mention, the influence our parents have on that decision based on their athletic and academic experiences. "My parents both played at Indiana University, so must I". Lastly, our peers success in the recruiting world dictates our expectations of our own personal goals. "My teammate just committed to UCLA as an 8th grader…where is my offer?"
However, the larger focus on this build up of D1 hopes comes to us from our social media and TV platforms that provide almost exclusive coverage to “big” colleges and universities. It is hard for any of the divisions that are available for prospective student-athletes to have a chance in entering the field of dreams. I know this from experience. I chased the D1 dream in my first year of college out of pride and transferred after my first semester. It wasn't the right fit for me. So, what is out there for those that don’t hit their D1 dream school dream?…Let’s have some fun with math (using girls high school soccer as a testing ground)…
Assumptions: 30 person rosters
High School female Soccer Players (2019) = about 400,000
Total D1 women’s soccer teams (2022) = 333 teams x 30 person roster = 9,990 roster spots
NWSL Teams (2022) = 12 teams x 30 person roster = 360 roster spots
Using these numbers, an athlete has about a 2.5% chance to find a spot on a roster of a D1 program. Obviously, I did not dive into how many actual spaces are available in each program each year, or how many high school graduates (that want to play women's soccer in college) there are every year. So, if you want to break the numbers down further…have fun and let me know what you get.
Why break down the numbers? Is it to kill your dreams?…No. There is great value in having a goal and doing everything in your power to reach it. The glory in any adventure is the journey along the way. I did this to help point out that when you focus on such a narrow target, you may be missing so many possibilities within reach. There are very good and competitive athletic opportunities to be found within NCAA D1, D2, and D3, along with the NAIA. Leave the door open for yourself. There are many other great experiences to be had outside of your parents' D1 dream. They will still love you and you may just find you love it as well.
What are the differences between all these divisions? I got you…stay tuned!
BTW...There are so many good articles written on this topic...spend a few minutes googling!
Check out this link for a great graphic from the NCAA to illustrate the point being made here: