There are basically two tracks available for talented European ice hockey players who want to pursue their careers in the U.S., combining their goal of becoming a professional athlete with obtaining a College degree. To better understand the paths, one needs to have an understanding of the U.S. Educational system which is slightly different from the European models.
Most European countries have 9 years of compulsory education starting with Primary, followed by Secondary Education with a path to Gymnasium (Matura) or, after completing the mandatory schooling, continue with Vocational Education (apprenticeship model) which can also be combined with a Fachhochschule to obtain the Matura. The U.S. Model has a more rigid structure with Primary, Middle and High School. To better understand the options available to European players to continue their academic education in the U.S., let’s compare the Swiss and the U.S. Educational system:
My blog about NCAA Eligibility details the academic NCAA eligibility requirements. This leaves a European player with two options to the NCAA:
- Completing the academic requirements (Matura or Apprenticeship) in Europe and then play one season in a US Junior League or
- Cross the ocean when completing the compulsory schooling and enter High School (Prep School) in the U.S.
The following depicts the two options (based on the Swiss model) each divided into the two areas, academic and hockey (red Swiss/Europe based, blue U.S. based):
The above graph gives a general roadmap to better understand the available paths into the NCAA.
In no way are they firm or unalterable when it comes to age, the academic or hockey path. These can change depending on the player’s academic and athletic abilities and have to be reviewed in each players case individually. It is important to be able to rely on a person/firm who is familiar with all the above mentioned aspects and experienced in guiding players and parents to choose the right solution.