By John Leaney, guest blogger 

John Leaney was born in London, England, and attended Didsbury College of Education majoring in Physical Education. John taught high school for 12 years before emigrating to the US.  He coached women’s soccer at UC San Diego and mens and womens soccer and track and field at Macalester College.  The Macalester women’s team was DIII National Champions in 1998.


I am a former college coach, having coached for 28 years, and I would totally encourage any potential student to try to play college sports. It is not about winning trophies; it is about making immediate friendships with other students like you.

One thing most people do not know is how the level of playing ability is so spread out in college sports. It does not follow the path of what we see on television, which of course is only interested in Division I high level athletes. DII and DIII also offer many opportunities to play, however, Division II is much smaller than DI or DIII so in essence there are fewer opportunities for scholarships. DII schools are also in pockets around the country so sometimes travel to compete is an issue. 

What about the fact you have not been recruited? Generally speaking, coaches will arrange one session for incoming walk-ons. With recruiting being so high-level, the coaches may not pay much attention to walk-ons, but it is a huge benefit for those who try out to meet others like them. What trying out for a team does for the incoming student is it creates the opportunity to find a group of students with a similar interest. This is most important as it is highly likely they will see somebody like them. It is a huge benefit for Fall sport athletes who of course are invited to come on campus early.

Expect you will not even be given a try out in some cases, but look around for others like you. As you are leaving the meeting look for somebody who appears disappointed like you and introduce yourself.

It is also a good idea to ask about a JV program and if there is a cut policy. If none of this works out, then it is imperative to ask about club sports and intramurals, and how to sign up for them.

Most important is the fact you need to show in your application for admission all your extracurricular sports experience. It does not matter if you did not play high level at any sports, as long as you played. The competitive colleges and universities have a selection process where they are looking for students who have participated in activities outside the classroom. If you participated in a sport at a competitive level, admissions officers will pass this information on to coaches. I can remember certain admissions officers who were delighted if they found me a player I did not know about, which was rare. 

It is most important that the student finds the right fit. A player in a comfortable surrounding, and who is happy to be there, will perform better than one who is questioning whether they made the right choice.

Finally, as in all aspects of this process, it is important to be proactive. Colleges are very good about putting together activities for incoming students. Be active and selective to find what you want.