The College Soccer Player

By:  John Van de Vaarst, National Clinician

How does the it help the referee to become familiar with the motivation and performance of college players a individuals and team members?  Does the referee gain knowledge by knowing the role of the institution in player and team motivation, development and administration?  The purpose of this article is to provide insight into these questions.

As an individual the college player is usually well developed.  The intercollegiate players of today have come up through local, regional and national youth programs.  They have played at the competitive level for many years including their high school experience.  Almost without exception they know what they are doing, how to do it, and are focused on what they want to achieve.  The college player is highly motivated to play at the top level of competitive soccer.  They want to excel, achieve, and have a deep love for the game.  At the Division I level, many of the players have received scholarships and therefore have a need to excel.  The intercollegiate player must attend classes, study, and participate in hectic training sessions and play games two or three times per week.  Their workload demonstrates that the athlete is goal-oriented and more than likely is aggressive in nature.

College players of today are very athletic.  They train throughout the year.  Not only does this training focus on skills, it also includes strength and endurance training so they  are very fit for the season.  Factor in the age and natural maturity level of the player and they tend to be highly competitive and not afraid to confront someone during a potential altercation.    The referee needs to be able to read the game and be able to react quickly to situations as the game progresses.

The college player was accepted to the college/university based on an established set of standards.  Their communication skills are at a level that is a benefit to the referee.  Players can normally be talked to and will respond to the official in a manner that will improve overall game control.  In addition there is the authority of the coach and the school administration in general that will not permit behaviors on the field that will negatively impact the college/university.

As a team member the college player is an extension of the college/university.   The overall skill level of a team is usually very high.  The players are well coached and trained.  Team tactics reflect coaching and is someone what predictable.  This provides an opportunity for the referee to better read the game so adjustments can be made and play can be anticipated.  Overall the intercollegiate game moves at a rapid pace.  The referee must be able to react quickly and make on-the-spot decisions.  The referee must be fit and able to keep up with play.  This is even more of a challenge if the team is trained to make long down field passes on a regular basis.  The teams expect the best out of every referee and fitness is a large part of this requirement.

The NCAA rules stress sportsmanship.  A competitive but fair game is what the school administration expects.  Behavior by the players is a reflection of the coach and the school in general.  The referee is expected to enforce the rules to ensure the game is fair and is a reflection of the college/university.  Players must also be protected.  They must be allowed to exhibit their skills without the fear of injury from tactical fouls or unfair behavior.  The referee must be ready to deal with unfair, dangerous, or violent play.  While the game is competitive and teams are pressured to winning, the rules of the game must be enforced.  The referee is responsible for maintaining control, dealing with gamesmanship, and more.

In summary, the college player is very skilled and well developed.  The team plays at a highly competitive level.   The referee must be mentally and physically prepared for each assignment.