Gap Year to Train Abroad

Teesta Sisodia-Sullivan, May 12, 2021

Are more students taking a gap year to train abroad?

FC Malaga City Academy boys - celebrating a win on the beach.

In October of last year, Division I, II and III all made the decision to give fall and winter athletes an additional year of eligibility.  This eligibility is not effected by whether or not they compete in the 2020-21 season.   

The Division III committee is going so far as to extend this ruling to 2020-21 spring sports athletes as well.  This means that they will be able to pay in the 20-21 season and still return for one more year of sports. 

What Does This Mean?

Student athletes have four years that they can play.  Usually, they are given a five year time period in which to play these four years.  When you hear the term red-shirted, it means a player will not be playing for one year in order for them to grow in skill and size.  During this time period, they train with the team.  This extra year means that they now have six years in which to play their four year.

NCAA athletes will be able to play their 20-21 season and may not have it count against their division eligibility depending on any division specific rules.

The NCSA sports site provides the following example:  "A D1 freshman athlete, whether they compete in the 2020-21 competition season or not, is eligible for an extra year of competition. Starting their sophomore year, this athlete competes in 100% of the season through senior year. After their senior season, this athlete’s eligibility count is 3 years and they decide to enroll as a fifth-year senior to compete in their fourth collegiate season. Upon the completion of their fourth competition season, this athlete has the option to compete for one final season, a fifth year, because the NCAA D1 had granted all 2020-21 athletes an extra year of eligibility. If this athlete returns for a fifth year, they will have been a member of the team and eligible to receive financial aid for six year, because their first year of competition didn’t count against their years eligibility.  You can read the whole article here.

Individual schools and conferences will have option for whether or not they want to take advantage of this or not.  This means that depending on the school, some might grant their seniors the extra year while others may decide not to. 

The Ivy league has stated that it will not be granting an extra year for its student-athletes, even though their season may  have been cut due to COVID.

College Coaches

As a result of this, some members of the senior class may opt to return for one more year of competing  This will be great for the colleges, giving them seasoned, experienced players who work well together and with the coach.  It’s not so great for the incoming classes because there will be fewer roster positions.

Also those recruits who have already committed may see less playing time early on because older players will be returning.

This means that options will be much more competitive for 2021 and 2022 recruits.  They will need to recognize that there will be fewer roster positions and scholarship opportunities.  Recruits can always broaden their search for schools but the reality is some students won’t be signing with schools.

There are services that assist in locating colleges and coaches that will be a good fit for a student.  I'd recently written about one bespoke service offered by Carlos Gonzalez in California called College Soccer Guide.  I am hoping to interview a few others and will share their information when I do.

Gap Year

Some students are choosing to take “gap years”.    Whereas students who previously took gap years did so to “discover” themselves, after COVID and the change in NCAA rules regarding eligibility, many students are choosing to use a gap year to train abroad.

I spoke with a few parents who are considering gap years for their kids.  A few of them had children who had hoped to get D1 offers, but were finding themselves looking at D2 or D3 offers instead.  At least two of the parents had children who DID receive D1 offers, but felt like the opportunity to experience European training was too good to pass up.

I will be collecting information on some of the gap programs that are being offered in Europe and sharing what I learn.

Right now, the only ones I can speak to are AIC and FC Malaga City Academy.  AIC (Accademia Insegnare Calcio) is the Italian Soccer School my son attended when he was fifteen.  The program is in Assisi, Italy and is run by a well recognized Italian FIGC coach, Bruno Redolfi.

FC Malaga City Academy (FCMC) is where we sent my son in 2019.  He was there until March of last year when COVID forced the Academy to close for the summer.  He returned this year until he joined his current team in Melilla.  FCMC is located in Almunecar, Spain.  The coaching is excellent.  The young men live at a couple different hotels and have a restaurant that caters to them for lunch and dinner.  They also offer schooling options, both for highschool (The Accelerator School) and this year they are introducing a college option.  

There's always a chance your child will be scouted and able to join a professional or league team.  Even if they don't, they will have a phenomenal life experience.

If you would like to know more about either of these programs, you are welcome to write me.  I'd be happy to answer questions about the training and accommodations.  

Dean, Jared and Jesus

This photo is of my son and the two other young men who trained with him in Assisi, Italy at the Italian Soccer School.

They attended boarding school at the Liceo Scientifico of the "Convitto Nazionale Principe di Napoli"  This is a fully accredited school that offers a rigorous high school curriculum.  They lived at the Convitto and went to nearby Perugia for training.  

Dean is now playing with a professional team in Australia.  Jesus is attending college.

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