GPS takes an immense amount of pride in our players and we strive to help those who are a part of our community develop both on and off the field. We host a variety of College Placement presentations throughout the year while also providing players with access to valuable resources aimed at helping them identify the right collegiate fit.
In Mid-April, we invited a group of players to the GPS offices in order to celebrate and recognize their College Commitments for the Fall, where players got to sit and chat with DOC Peter Bradley about their GPS experience and college aspirations.
A handful of those players represent the GPS NPL 99 Boys squad, coached by Matt Hardiman. Hardiman’s squad has competed successfully at a regional and national level, claiming 3 state cups in the past 4 years.
This elite level of performance is reflected in the statistic that all of the 20-player squad have committed to play collegiate soccer in the fall from Division 3 to Division 1.
We sat down with Coach Matt Hardiman to pick his brain about the recruiting process both in regards to his squad as well as GPS’ club wide efforts. The full list of players and where they have committed can be found at the bottom of the page following the Q&A.
How long have you been with this group of players?
Most of the boys started as early as U14, when it was originally GPS South. Then we transitioned from an NPL group at U15 and U16. We have now been together at the 2000/99 birth year for the last two seasons. Some of the squad I have coached for 3 to 4 years and some a bit less. It varies based on time they’ve spent at the club. Typically we have a 2-year cycle with coaches and teams at GPS so this is a bit of an anomaly.
This is a highly competitive and skilled team, what makes them so unique?
This has always been a strong team. The team has won the State Cup 3 out of 4 times and have also won a National Title at the US Club Soccer National Finals. It has been the same core squad of players.
There are players that have been with the club a long time. Three of the boys who are going to D1 schools have been with the club since U10-U11. It has been based on hard work and their ability to listen. I think that is one of the things that this team, for me, has shown that is unique. What league you play in and the other types of things that get talked about don’t seem important, how hard working are you willing to be? If you can combine that with an ability to listen and learn then there is no reason why you can’t reach your goals. That is one of the biggest things I see with this group is that everyone of these kids is going to a college that they chose to go to. It wasn’t a last resort opportunity, every one has picked the school that they wanted to go to. Whether it be Div 3, Div 2, or Div 1 they made the decision that this is the school they wanted to go to academically and athletically.
When do you initially start assisting players with the recruiting process?
Once the kids reached being a freshman, in that sort of environment, that’s when I started to get them thinking about what they want to do. We did a number of different college meetings in terms of some of the things they are doing and should be looking to do during the process such as how to reach out to a college coach, some things to say, some things NOT to say, etc. Then we combine that by making sure we give them as much exposure as we can. We definitely traveled around in those important years and went to different places and I think that was good and gave them exposure to different schools they may not have necessarily been looking at. For me, once they hit high school it is something they should be thinking about and we can support them on the way from there.
Can you explain the ways in which GPS supports players throughout this process?
We have loads of different things. We have specific college liaison workers who will deal with a number of different aspects. Effectively, if you play in the club there isn’t a question you can’t get an answer to. If you have a question about what the eligibility rules are or stuff like that you can always have those things answered. I think what we are always trying to do is to find if there is another way for us to help them even more. If you play in a GPS team when you start to hit your high school years and you want to play in college, whether that be Div. 1 or Div. 3, you will absolutely get there and you will get the support to do that. The players drive the bus and we just support them and help them get there.
Can you elaborate on your role in the recruitment of players from your squad?
Firstly, what I did with the kids was I asked them specifically what they were looking for. I tried to help them understand that the school they needed to pick was a school that, say they got injured in the first week and couldn’t play, they would still want go to there. I think that was a big thing I wanted to address. First we highlighted what they wanted to study, then from there, I said to them let me know what you want to do. I think I have personally reached out to every one of the colleges that the kids are going to, either via email or by phone. Some of them I have even met in person at events and I have been able to support the kids and give them a very strong reference.
What are some of the challenges you face in helping to push these kids to reach for their athletic peaks while also tempering expectations?
Again, you start off with everyone wanting to play at the highest level, which is fantastic, but thing obviously change as kids grow. The key thing for me is that we have had a number of different meetings and I continued to really find out and have conversations with the kids about what they are specifically looking for. I also have been pretty open and provided my feedback to them. The kids have also been realistic with where they want to go. If you look at the list of schools, it is a very good list of schools that they are going to and it shows our reinforcement of the importance of academics and that has helped a lot of them. I think they should all be looking to play, but not at the expense of other things. Some of the boys picked schools where it might be tougher for them to play and such but they made that decision based on the academic side.
What are some of the personal highlights for you as a coach?
We have a squad of 21, and 20 have committed and the other one will commit but hasn’t right now. We have won national tournaments, but biggest thing for me is that you really get to see these kids grow and become adults. One of the biggest things for me is seeing how our kids interact, whether it be with our coaches, coaches of another club, other players and there is always a level of respect from them and a way that they want to be portrayed. I think that comes from being in this environment and the expectations that come with being a GPS player and I think it is going to set them up well when they go into college because they are going to get into that environment and automatically have that natural respect for things and that will be important for them moving forward.
What advice would you give this squad of players as they look to take the next step in the fall?
I have talked a lot with the boys I currently coach, and I think there can sometimes be a feeling of “I committed to college, alright I’ve made it fantastic”. The biggest thing I could say to any of them is be ready to work harder than you ever have. Now this really comes down to you. Take on board what people say. Be willing to listen and learn.
What advice would you give to someone in middle school who is getting ready to begin the process?
The sooner you can start the process, the better. Then its a case of standing out, not just in the way you play, if you're an excellent player, there are other excellent players, what makes you different? It's the way you interact with the coach. it is some of the little things like when you send emails, you don’t send generic emails, you send emails that look like you took the time to really care about the collegiate program you wish to attend. That is the biggest thing. As long as players have the ability and a good work ethic with their academics, the only thing stopping them is themselves.
|John Aquiar||Assumption College|
|Gregory Amador||Clark University|
|Nick Bernardi||Merrimack College|
|Gerardo Castaneda||UMass Boston|
|Jacob Castro||UMass Dartmouth|
|Nathaniel Cole||Boston Univ.|
|Skylah Dias||Brandeis Univ.|
|Zackary Dresens||Tufts Univ.|
|Christopher Garcia||Umass Boston|
|Josh Kim||Colby College|
|Troy Mattos||Wheaton College|
|Luke Muther||Kenyon University|
|Chukwuma Onyejose||St. Josephs|
|Chuckwudi Onyejose||St. Josephs|
|Andrew Stevens||Columbia Univ.|
|Alec Swarcewicz||Holy Cross University|