Athlete Interview: 14 Questions With Professional Soccer Player Claire Winter | 2aDays

Athlete Interview: 14 Questions With Professional Soccer Player Claire Winter

Athlete Interview:  14 Questions With Professional Soccer Player Claire Winter Athlete Interview:  14 Questions With Professional Soccer Player Claire Winter

Come back every Thursday for Athlete Interviews on college recruiting and advice.

Claire Winter is a midfielder on the NY/NJ Gotham FC of the National Women’s Soccer League. She graduated from UCLA in 2018 with a variety of accolades from her coaches and the PAC-12, and the NCAA. In her final year she was a team co-captain where she led the team to the NCAA Championship game against Stanford. Recruits of all sports can learn a lot through Winter’s journey and advice so we picked her brain for her best tips to help you navigate the recruiting process. 

Why UCLA?

I fell in love with UCLA the moment I stepped foot on campus. You can find UCLA’s tradition of excellence in every aspect of the school’s culture, athletically and academically. I fell in love with the prestigious history of athletics, and I wanted to be a part of it. And quite frankly I liked that the women’s soccer team hadn’t won a national championship yet. I was hoping when I had the privilege to represent those 4 letters, UCLA, we would make a run for the championship. 

Related: Rate the University of California-Los Angeles

Should recruits be mentally ready to play different positions if the college coach should need the athlete to do so?

Be ready for whatever the team is in need of. The game is so unpredictable just as positioning can be. Honestly, my mentality was wherever I am going to get the most time on the field that is where I will play. For example I got recruited as an attacking midfielder. I ended up playing holding midfield my entire college career, and now in the pros I am back in my original position: attacking midfield.

Related: Stuck in the Middle? 3 Tips on How to Play Center Midfield in College

How can a high school athlete get noticed by a DI soccer school? What showcases or tournaments would you commend if they want to play for UCLA? (post-COVID) 

 Well with Covid, having a highlight reel is very important. It allows you to email coaches your tape. Be proactive reaching out to your top schools and letting them know what tournaments you are playing in. The college showcase tournaments are always great because they typically give you a list prior to the games about which coaches will be there. Back when I was playing, Surf Cup was always a popular tournament. The Vegas Showcase was a good one as well as ECNL tournaments. It is up to you to be proactive in looking up the lists and actively emailing coaches. No one is going to do this for you, it is your responsibility to take hold of what you want for your future.

What characteristics will a recruit need to be a successful DI soccer player?

I think a great trait to have as a high school/club player is the ability to make everyone else look good around you. By making your teammates look great in turn you will naturally look great as well. Also, confidence and  work ethic go a LONG way. Working on and off the ball is key. Making little movements, early,  to open up for your teammates is crucial. College coaches like to see grit and tenacity, you can be good on the ball, but they want to see what you are doing off the ball and how you react after you lose it. 

What quality will a recruit need if they want to be a great DI teammate? 

Confidence, heart, and trust are key when making a great teammate. Confidence is a given, because if you don’t have self confidence in your abilities your teammates will recognize that. Then comes the trust factor. If you are not a confident player, I, as a teammate, won’t trust to give you the ball. Finally, heart is very important because people can see it in your work ethic, your attitude, and the way you treat your teammates. These qualities go a long way from youth levels to the pros. 

What is the best piece of advice that you can give high school soccer players striving to compete at the DI level?

 Do your research before you start the recruiting process. Make a list of colleges and figure out which ones suit your desires and needs best. Be proactive and do the work emailing, sending  videos, and attending camps. Check out the players that are currently there in your position so you know your place on the depth chart before you get there. Ask yourself: “Do I want to be a big fish in a little pond or a little fish in a big pond?”

Related: Rate your Coaches, Facilities, and Campus Visits

Can you offer advice to recruits on how they can use social media to their advantage? What are some big don’ts as far as athletes and social media are concerned? 

Social media is a great resource if used properly. It is very good tool for promoting yourself and your soccer abilities  However, be careful about posting things that could be detrimental to your career. I feel like I don’t have to explain what is appropriate and what isn’t appropriate to be posting. If you are not old enough to be doing something then you should never be posting about it. 

You would be naive to think that coaches don’t check recruits’ social pages, because guess what? They do. And if they see something they don’t like they will just cross you off the list and you may not ever know. Even as a professional athlete at 26, I have to be very mindful about what I am posting on my social media. I have an image to uphold and I will continue to do so in a positive manner. 

Related: Send Tweet? Do’s and Don’ts for Recruits on Social Media 

What advice can you give to athletes who cannot quite get off the bench? Should they approach their coach if they think they should be playing?  

I see you. I hear you. I feel you. I understand. IT SUCKS. That was me throughout my college years. I would go from starting to not starting–t is truly a roller coaster.  You have to find a way to make impacts in training and treat everyday like a try out. Control your attitude and stay the course–do not get too high or too low. There has to be a middle ground or you will emotionally exhaust yourself to a breaking point.  

If you truly feel you should be playing be sure to prepare reasons ahead of time as to why you believe you should be playing. Because coaches will have points or excuses (or whatever you want to call them) ready for you, so you might as well be prepared to advocate for yourself because no one else will. 

How can incoming freshmen recruits mentally prepare for playing at the college level?

Don’t strive for perfection. The key is consistency. That is how you keep your starting position. Take it game by game.

When you were in high school, how many schools were you looking at? How many schools would you recommend that athletes look at? What is that magic number, if there is one?

I was looking at quite a few schools when I was being recruited. I knew I wanted to stay in California, so it was just a matter of where I wanted to go. Look at as many schools as possible. Write a pros and cons list and compare them between different schools. There is no magic number of colleges. When deciding between colleges, go with what your gut is telling you.

How can college soccer athletes prepare themselves during college if their goal is to go pro? If they needed to be consistent at one thing, what would that be?

If you want to be a professional you ALWAYS have to be putting in the extra work.Whether that’s in the weight room, on the track doing extra running, or getting extra reps on the field after training. I played with a lot of boys in [the] offseason to keep my speed of play sharp. Speed of play is always the hardest transition from high school to college and college to the pros. By playing with boys I was able to maintain and enhance my speed of the play so I was ready for the pros. 

Do you have any tips for collegiate soccer athletes playing for a coach that they do not particularly get along with?

 If you don’t vibe with the coach at the beginning of the recruiting process my guess is not much will change when you get to campus. Don’t feel like you’re trapped–use assistant coaches as resources and if it’s not the right fit it is never wrong to consider transferring.  Also, don’t base your worth on a coach’s opinion because it is only an opinion. I think a lot of players end up stopping soccer after college because of coaches’ opinions and false beliefs. If you believe you’re good enough speak up and if their opinion is that you aren’t then that’s when you check out other schools. 

What is the difference between playing high school soccer to college and the difference between playing college to pro?

Speed of play, transition, and the quality of players. It only gets faster and quicker and the abilities of all the players in the league only get more crafty and intelligent.

Since 2aDays is a rating and review site for college coaches, would you have used their resources to see what current and former athletes have to say about college head coaches?

I really think I would have. Typically I like to form my own opinions without being persuaded into thinking something, but in such a huge life decision I definitely would have wanted to know what former athletes were saying about college coaches. Especially when the reviews are legitimate.  Seems like it’s basically yelp, but for college coaches LOL! 

Have a story idea or know an awesome athlete we should interview? Email us at [email protected]

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