Cali Carmichael had nearly given up on playing college soccer. “If you asked me 3 months ago if I was playing soccer in college, I would have laughed,” she stated in a recent conversation with Trace Head Coach Tim Bennett.
Fast-forward to today, and Cali is gearing up to play for the University of Minnesota. Through seemingly impossible odds, she persisted in emailing college coaches with her Trace iD and never gave up on her dream of playing D1 college soccer, even after a number of setbacks and the challenges of recruiting during a global pandemic.
How Cali Used Trace Through Her Recruiting Journey
Cali started thinking seriously about college soccer when she joined an ECNL team and started traveling to showcases around the U.S. as a high school sophomore. She began seeing college coaches watching her games, she realized that college soccer was a real possibility that she wanted to pursue.
On a trip to Houston in February of 2018, she was in one of the youngest groups at the showcase and noticed a college coach speaking to her ECNL coach (college coaches can’t talk to players directly with the NCAA rules, so they tend to gravitate towards a player’s coach). “After the game, my coach came up to me and told me a college coach really liked me,” stated Cali. “I was like ‘oh my gosh’ and called my parents. I was so excited.” That school was the University of Minnesota.
Late in her sophomore year, Cali went to an ID camp at the University of Minnesota. At this time, she was still not actively thinking about college. “I couldn’t even drive yet; college just felt so far away.”
Throughout this time, Cali used Trace to keep improving and used Trace iD to keep track of her best moments.
“If we would not have used Trace, I would not have picked up on a lot of things that I was doing wrong or even things that I was doing well. When I played, in my head I would think one thing, but then re-watching Trace moments you can spot things, even in simple passing patterns, that you didn’t realize during the game. It’s definitely helped my development.”
As she played through her sophomore and junior years, Trace helped her see things more clearly. “I was definitely able to see what I needed to improve on and what I was confident in doing. I was confident in tackling, in hitting the ball, but I needed to improve dropping back and supporting, or going up and trying to cross. It’s the little things that I realized I needed to do to get better, and those little things were very noticeable with Trace breaking down my gameplay.”
During her junior year, she was emailing coaches more and more. When she would send college coaches her Trace iD, they would sometimes spot other girls on her team and reach out for other positions they needed to fill. “It was honestly helpful for everyone; some girls who send their Trace iD to college coaches would contact me, and vice versa. It was this very fluid back and forth.”
A number of college coaches were interested in Cali, telling her to come to their ID camps in Spring 2020. March/April/May of 2020 were all supposed to be Cali’s prime time, but then COVID hit.
“At first, I didn’t worry because I thought things would be back to normal by June (the summer before her senior year). But once I started getting into this summer, I was still emailing coaches and losing motivation. Coaches were worried about their seasons, not knowing if they were going to play, not about new recruits.” The odds were against Cali. It was her prime recruiting time, but she could not attend ID camps and colleges were giving players an extra year of eligibility, meaning fewer spots would be available. The coach who had initially championed her at the University of Minnesota ID camp had moved on to another job. This was her lowest point.
Finally, Cali got a break. She heard through her network that a center back had transferred out of the University of Minnesota.
“I sent the head coach an email with my information and my Trace iD. She got back to me within about 3 hours and asked to set up a Zoom meeting the following day. After seeing my highlights on my Trace iD, she asked, ‘Why aren’t you committed, what’s the deal? Let’s get this ball rolling.’
It literally happened within about a two-week span. It was crazy fast, but it’s what I wanted. When I was on the Zoom with the Minnesota coach, she said that the Trace iD was super helpful being able to click through to all of my moments and jump into full game film directly from a moment.”
Cali’s Personal Advice on College Soccer Recruiting
- Who should you contact at colleges? “I contacted mostly assistant coaches or recruiting coordinators. If there wasn’t an assistant coach or recruiting coordinator email, I would just contact the head coach.”
- What do you say in emails to college coaches? “When I was younger, I would just tell them my name, my grade, my age, why I was interested in the school, my GPA, and my SAT/ACT scores. Now, I also include three references, two from my club coaches one from my high school coach. I also include my Trace iD and an explanation of how the coaches navigate it, how they can jump to full games, how they can see my stats and stamina. Coaches all said it was super easy to navigate through the Trace iD, and it was way more effective, I would say.”
- How often would you send it out to your target list of colleges? “Well, I definitely tried to send out all of my Trace moments when we played higher-level teams. So if we played a team that was ranked on number #1 or #2 seed, I would send out to coaches and tell them, “This is the #1 ranked team in the state right, and this is how I played against them.” If I were to send them teams that we blew out 9-0, it just wouldn’t have been as effective. I would even send them games where we lost, and I would just show them how we matched up together because at the end of the day it’s definitely better to see how you play against a higher-level team. I would mostly send out games where we knew that it was gonna be a good game or an intense game.”
- What’s your advice if players are not getting attention from college coaches? “If you’re still trying to play college soccer, reach out to players on the team and try to DM people that you know have any sort of connection to the school. Have your coaches call schools for you. If you film your games, send that game film to them. For the schools that I was interested in before I committed, when we would film our games with Trace, I would send them my games. You can have college coaches look at specific moments in a way that’s very easy for them. Definitely don’t give up because you literally have no idea what opportunity can present itself.”
- Don’t take the recruiting process personally. “Coaches are going to do whatever they can to make their program the strongest. If you don’t fit the mold, then you’ll fit the mold somewhere else. But as long as you’re confident in yourself, just keep on doing it and there will be an opportunity that opens up regardless of if it’s a walk-on if it’s a scholarship.”
- How should soccer players choose a school? “The coaching styles was a big thing for me. When I met the coaches from Minnesota, they were so communicative with me. They showed interest right away, and they were setting me up with everyone else in our class. Gonzaga’s ID camp was the same way. They were also very welcoming, and the team atmosphere these schools was also an important factor.”
- How did you stay organized with your game film and highlights? “Two days after games, I’d go into my Trace game results and watch the full game right away and kind of reflect on it. Then, a little bit after, I would go through and take moments out of each game and figure out which ones the college coaches would like. You literally just take all of the different touch chains from different games, and you can put them all together into one Trace iD and you can circle yourself to make sure that coaches know who’s who.”
Want to hear more about Cali’s recruiting journey?
Watch the an interview with Trace’s Tim Bennett and Cali Carmichael on Youtube.