There are too many accolades to list for this great coach. But just to name a few. He has been with the Tar Heels for 42 years, and he is the head coach and founder of the UNC women’s soccer program which started in September of 1979. Anson Dorrance Is the 2016 winner of distinguished Werner Fricker Builder Award from the US Soccer. Coach Dorrance was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame on August 2, 2008. One of the highest honors for a coach, and much deserved. This induction was unique because he has not yet retired from coaching. His team was in the international news as nine UNC standouts who competed in…you guessed it, the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Six of UNC players were skilled enough to help the United States win its first World Cup title since 1999.
LRT Sports sat down with Coach Dorrance, and he gave some of the best advice that we have ever gotten from a head NCAA coach. Here is what he had to say.
LRT Sports: What is the most important quality you look for in a recruit?
Coach Dorrance: Everyone thinks that the most critical element is talent, and it’s not. The most critical element is athletic character. So I look for self-discipline, competitive fire, self-belief, love of the ball, love of playing the game, love of watching the game, and grit.
Coach Dorrance: Everyone thinks that the most critical element is talent, and it is not. The most critical element is an athletic character. So I look for self-discipline, competitive fire, self-belief, love of the ball, love of playing the game, love of watching the game, and grit. I want to recruit a player that will kill herself every training session to improve.
LRT Sports: What is the best way for a recruit to get on your radar?
Coach Dorrance: Come to one of our three ID camps or one of our five summer camps. They can get there by navigating ncgsc.com. So the best choice would be an ID camp or our summer camps.
LRT Sports: When should an athlete contact you, what is the best way? (age, grade, time of year, email, phone or other)
Coach Dorrance: The best way is for them, as young as possible, to come to one of our camps because the statement that they make with that is that they are interested. And also, it gives us an opportunity to watch them, not just perform, but interact with teammates in practice, and we get to see their coachability, we get to see the aspects of their personal character beyond their talent and their athletic character. And so all those pieces add together for us when we can see them for an extended period. Also, NCAA rules do not allow us to email or call until September 1st of their junior year.
LRT Sports: What are your expectations for incoming players in the classroom, in the weight room, and on the field?
Coach Dorrance: The expectations in the classroom are taken care of, to a large extent, by our admissions committee. There is a certain standard for admission to an elite school like the University of North Carolina, and so the academic standards are held by our own discriminating admission committee. However, the expectation, if you are admitted, is that you live above a 3.0 your entire collegiate career. And our expectation is for our top students to chase very serious academic ambitions. We currently have a young woman attending Harvard Medical School, who has decided post-medical school, also to attend Stanford MBA School. She has already been admitted to Stanford, so when she finishes her Harvard medical degree, she will be finishing a Stanford MBA degree. We expect the kids that select a school like this to have ambitions beyond their soccer potential. We want serious students that also want to succeed and develop on the field.
LRT Sports: What are the do’s and don’ts when being recruited?
Coach Dorrance: The do’s for us are certainly to go to areas where they get exposure. There are national tournaments that we attend on a regular basis. Obviously like all of the elite programs, we scout the player development system for the United States. So U14 National Team players, U15, U16, U17, U18. Those are all players that are aggressively pursued by all the elite schools. We certainly include ourselves in that recruiting platform. So attending the major tournaments so we can see you, attending the camps and the ID camps so that we can see even more of you, climbing the national team ladders to demonstrate your ability at the highest level are certainly the Dos. The Don’ts are if you can afford to attend a school like ours, please don’t make scholarship an issue. During our National Championship in 2012, four of the starters were walk-ons. So if your family is in a good financial position, please don’t make scholarship an issue because we certainly aren’t going to make your playing time an issue based on the size of your scholarship. Also, do not let your parents drive the process. They are there for help and support, but this is the player’s job to seek out where she will study and play.
LRT Sports: What is the best advice you can offer a recruit?
Coach Dorrance: The best advice I can offer is to find a school that feels right for them. There are a lot of extraordinary schools across the country that have excellent soccer programs and wonderful coaching with an academic curriculum that can match students interests. Just make sure all of the things are aligned for you to become successful because there are many places you can attend where you are going to be perfectly happy, and they are going to address all of your interests and ambitions. Too often a young player thinks “there is only one school for me” and it is not true. You are not that fragile. There are many places where you can thrive.
LRT Sports: What jumps out at you when reviewing a recruit’s highlight tape?
Coach Dorrance: The highlight tape for us is only an invitation to watch them play personally. We don’t make decisions off of highlight tapes alone. The function the highlight tape has for us is to encourage us to watch a kid that we haven’t seen.
LRT Sports: What are the main do’s and don’ts for a recruit’s highlight tape?
Coach Dorrance: The shorter, the better. So if it can be 5 minutes or less, that is going to encourage our staff to watch the entire thing. And then show all aspects of your game. Certainly, have aspects of it that show your athletic promise; your speed, agility, and vertical jump; can you serve balls over distance, can you head, will you defend, can you keep possession, can you score goals, create goals, stop the opponent. Those things should all be exposed in the highlight reel to encourage us to watch you play personally. Keep it to game highlights. Practice highlights show us very little.
LRT Sports: When do you recommend recruits put together and share their highlight reels?
Coach Dorrance: As soon as they can. What we are interested in is their improvement. Certainly, there are a lot of great players out there. Some great players plateau while they are in high school, and we want to make sure the players we recruit are not plateauing. So we want to make sure that on multiple visits through several years they are living in a never-ending ascension so the highlight reel might get us to track a young star early and see if they can keep improving. And that is critical for our interests. We want to make sure the kid that we end up recruiting hasn’t plateaued, and we want to make sure that every time we see her, she is getting better and better and better.
LRT Sports: What advice do you have for recruits that get turned down by their dream schools? What are their options if they don’t gain the recruiting attention they want?
Coach Dorrance: What will shock a lot of elite players is how few players gain major scholarships from elite schools, and how little scholarship money is actually out there. In a typical recruiting class, we will try to recruit anywhere from 5-7 players. Of the let’s say, five players, maybe just one, or possibly two, would be on full scholarships. Another two would be on partials. The rest of the class are walk-ons that we have helped with our admission committee. So don’t be discouraged if you don’t fit into one school’s class, there are so many outstanding schools and coaches and programs out there. You are certainly going to find your place.
LRT Sports: How big a factor is social media when recruiting players? What advice do you have for athletes regarding social media?
Coach Dorrance: They have to be careful. We had a major scholarship recipient that was doing some stuff on social media that we thought wasn’t going to represent our university very well, so basically informed her that her conduct, certainly seen through social media, was not the conduct of the sort of athlete that we wanted representing the University of North Carolina. Because of that, we advised her to find a different school to attend. So your social media profile is critical. So certainly make sure that you represent yourself in the right way on all of your social media platforms.
When doing research in the recruiting process for my daughter I came across the LRT Sports website. I was immediately intrigued as this was another dimension of the recruiting process that many people don't even consider. My daughter and I could "short list" schools based on the education she was looking for, as well as the opportunity to play her sport. LRT Sports not only gave us pertinent information into the recruiting process with different interviews of coaches and players, it also gave us insight into current and/or former players' opinions on the coach of that school in her sport. We could use this information to re-prioritize my daughters list of schools based on this feedback. I have many friends that are, or will be, going through this process shortly and I highly recommend using LRT Sports as part of anyone's recruiting process.
The college process presents a myriad of challenges. Factor in athletics and it becomes even more daunting. Now, add the fact that you have zero experience with sports. What is a the mother of a college bound student-athlete to do? LRT Sports has truly lived up to its promise. It has kept "the college recruiting process honest and easy by providing first hand information about coaches, schools and the recruiting process." Their interviews with current students, coaches, and professional athletes have provided realistic guidance. I am much more informed because of LRT Sports! The coach ratings are the most helpful. LRT Sports interviews allow us to hear from students as to how the adults are impacting not only their athletic experience but also how they are helping to shape their adult self.
The C.A.L.C. was thrilled to have Keirsten Sires come and speak to us on multiple topics relevant to high school athletics today, including recruiting. Keirsten reached all of our students and left them with great strategies that will not only help on the fields, courts, and mats, but also in the game of recruiting. She was a true professional and delivered a wonderful message.
Now that the recruiting process and the related stress is over, I wanted to thank you for your guidance. You did so much more than we had expected. Once you started the process by matching the best academic schools first, not the best sport programs, I knew you were the one. The way you laid out a timeline of contacting coaches, visits, and camps completely took any guesswork out of the plan for us. All of the student athletes that you put us in touch with gave us a look from the inside, and made us more comfortable knowing what was coming. Finally, using your website as a resource for knowing what to expect from different coaches based on former recruit reviews gave my son confidence before our meetings. There is no way we could have figured this out on our own, you really put us in a great position when decision time came.
I think hearing from other athletes is very beneficial. To be able to learn from people’s mistakes, and to be able to have access to those voices is really helpful; especially voices that have been there and done that. It’s very important for people to have access to information that could benefit them, and in this case there are many voices that can help the next wave of athletes.
If you have something that’s going to spell [the recruiting process] out for you… it’s so valuable. I think what everyone at LRT Sports is doing to spread the word and help advocate and educate athletes on the recruitment process is incredible.
Without question would have used LRT Sports. It would have probably been one of the most valuable tools that I could have had. If you want to know what these coaches are really like then I think this is the best tool out there. I’m really glad you are allowing recruits to have a resource like this moving forward.