The following was sent to a small committee of college coaches who are meeting regarding potential rule changes to the recruiting process. Ultimately, these coaches are trying to delay the process by implementing specific rules that would create a longer evaluation process. I wrote this letter in support of this movement and to provide the perspective from a full-time lacrosse professional that cares deeply about the sport.
February 2, 2012
Recently I became aware of potential changes regarding the recruiting process. Before diving into specifics, I want to applaud your leadership and express my unequivocal support on behalf of these adjustments. While I understand that there are multiple versions in play, I believe any movement in delaying the overall process is a step in the right direction.
As a former Division I athlete and mentor for over three thousand five hundred student-athletes annually, I can tell you that the acceleration of the recruiting process over the last decade has negatively impacted the game. More often than not, the entire lacrosse community is confused on how and why decisions are made. Looking at the process from a top-down vantage point, I do not understand how expediting the timeline helps anyone involved – players, parents, high school coaches, program directors, and college coaches.
Players feel the need to make college choices lacking the necessary maturity to make these decisions. Often times, they make these selections prior to participation at the varsity level or their Junior year, thereby deemphasizing critical high school moments. They have already “moved on” and are less committed to playing multiple sports, achieving academic excellence, or meeting new people socially. Moreover, it puts them in an awkward situation with their non-athletic peers that are still waiting to hear from these same institutions.
Parents now believe that they must commit endless resources to provide their child the chance to play at the next level. They feel pressured to have their son “on track” as early as 5th grade, competing on the appropriate school, rec, and club lacrosse team. If their son does not make one of these teams in their developmental phase, they might as well give up the sport. They also push their sons to “specialize” so as to maximize their level of exposure to college coaches. Instead of developing more complete athletes and learning crossover skills, they push their sons to play year-round so they don’t “miss anything.”
As players advance in the process, it only becomes more competitive. In addition to outside teams, parents must send players to individual recruiting camps, purchase additional recruiting services, coordinate correspondence with coaches, and schedule unofficial visits. They also pressure their son’s High School coach around playing time since it factors so heavily in the recruiting process.
High School coach’s goals should revolve around developing young men through the sport of lacrosse in an attempt to win their respective league championship. These goals have become exponentially more difficult to achieve with the accelerated process in place. Increasingly, parents pressure the coach to play their sons at earlier ages because of the critical recruiting juncture for this age. Their priority is at odds with the overall goal for the team. Clearly, a coach with the best interest of the team in mind would favor playing a more developed, seasoned, and experienced Senior instead of a premature, inexperienced Sophomore. High School coaches have to live with the expectations placed on them by outside forces (college coaches, club coaches, and parents) who believe a player has more potential and should therefore receive more playing time than their older teammate.
While the club lacrosse market can be murky at times, there are some extremely upstanding individuals that try to serve as legitimate mentors for their players and parents. As the recruiting process has changed, it has become increasingly difficult for these Coaches and Program Directors to provide sound advice to their players. When a player asks them, “Where can I play?” how can anyone accurately project where a Sophomore with no Varsity or Elite Club lacrosse experience should attend? For the top blue chip players, it’s quite simple. For everyone else, it’s a crapshoot. After over 25 years in the lacrosse world, I suggest most players fall into one category: “Mid to High DIII, Low to Mid DI. And check out all the DII schools since they have scholarships.”
While it is incredibly generic in nature, the sad truth is that it is correct more often than not. For 80% of players, this label accurately defines where they fall in the recruiting landscape. This broad pool is created because the players have not been given ample time to develop physically, mentally, or from a skill standpoint and evaluators have not had a large sample size for an accurate assessment.
Why not extend this development / evaluation period such that all parties benefit?
I understand that there are inherent benefits to having classes secured in advance, specifically for the top tier programs. However, I believe that pushing the process back would only help these institutions and then enable a “trickle down” effect for everyone else. In my humble opinion, the best players, the “cream-of-the-crop,” will still attend the same programs.
These institutions have rich traditions, ideal geographic locations, unparalleled academic programs, or some combination that make them attractive to potential student-athletes. The coaches of these schools would benefit by having more time to properly evaluate incoming classes, thereby ensuring that they lock up the best players instead of having to project three years in advance. Following this model, their programs would actually become stronger.
This system would then allow the next tier of programs to recruit players that best fit their developing teams both athletically and academically. They would have a chance to learn more about the players and parents to ensure a successful match. This stability would benefit the incoming players, alumni groups, and create more job stability for the coach.
A natural argument to a “slower” recruiting process is the advantage of securing rosters years in advance. The thought process behind this methodology promotes the fact that a program can move onto the next year once a class is “complete” or filled to capacity. In theory, this makes sense. In practice, however, this system does not simplify recruiting. It has actually turned recruiting into a never-ending, year-round commitment that most coaches, specifically Assistants, abhor. They miss crucial time with their families, friends, and loved ones chasing after underclassmen that attend only to be seen by these same coaches. Speeding up the process has not made it simpler or easier; rather, it has made it more complicated, confusing, and work intensive than ever before.
Delaying the process may be perceived as creating a “sprint.” How is that any different from the current landscape? It seems as though coaches still operate at the same pace, but are trying to run a marathon at this accelerated speed.
Ultimately, the beauty of the situation is that you have the power to make a difference. You can alter the structure. As another leader within the game, I stand in full support of the potential adjustments. Additionally, I would love to serve as catalyst for change and am willing to contribute to the efforts in whatever capacity you deem most useful.
I love lacrosse as you do and want to create a positive impact in the lives of young men. I hope that this letter brings to your attention the critical importance of your decision.
Please let me know how I can help.
Chief Executive Officer