Week Three of the Club Directors Panel finds us discussing how many tournaments a club should participate in, and how these clubs select those events. Should you play in three tournaments or five? If you play in too few events are you risking not being seen by coaches? If you play in too many events, are you risking injury or being over exposed? Some may argue that playing all summer puts an athlete in jeopardy of burning out. To that we say, burn out is a myth.
Should you play in tournaments that you can win or is it better to lose every game against the best competition you can find? Do you need to attend tournaments at a certain time of the summer? Do you need to attend events that cater to certain age groups? Those questions are extremely easy to answer if you’re a club director that has a crystal clear idea as what they’re offering their families.
If you’re a club director that that runs travel teams for fun, entering small, regional tournaments that feature lesser talent makes sense. The last thing you want to do is enter your team of kids that just want to wear a sublimated jersey in an elite event. Suddenly, the sun in July will feel a little bit hotter.
If you’re a club director marketing your teams as a recruiting opportunity, you better get your kids in a tournament that features other like minded teams. The summer landscape shifts every year so just like the families need to do their research when selecting a club program, club directors need to keep tabs on what other teams are entering the events they are considering. A great event one year might not be a great event the next. Some tournaments don’t get the salmon of Capistrano treatment.
Let’s see what our panel has to say about their tournament selection process. This week we’ve invited Matt Rowley of 3D Lacrosse to the discussion.
Panel Question #1: What are you looking for when selecting tournaments for your high school teams?
Marty Kupprion - NXT
When selecting team events for our high school teams, these are the most important factors to us:
COMPETITION: We don’t want to play in tournaments we know we are going to win. We want to play in events where we know that we will face the best competition and be challenged in every game. Everybody knows who the top clubs are nationally and we want to measure ourselves (individually and collectively) against the best. If we go unchallenged and undefeated in a tournament, that’s a good sign that our time would be better spent elsewhere.
EXPOSURE: Most of our players have goals of playing in college. Our club provides them valuable opportunities to play at events that are well attended by college coaches year in and year out. It is strange to see college coaches on the sidelines watching players as young as ninth grade, but it’s a reality. When our freshman showed up to their first event this fall (Terp Classic) and saw coaches from the likes of Hopkins, Maryland, Notre Dame and more watching them, things got real, fast. We think about the recruiting timeline and want all of our teams and players to have those type of opportunities to prove themselves in front of college coaches during their high school years. We will continue to send our teams to fall events like the Terp Classic and UPLAX because there are coaches from all levels recruiting kids from the different grades.
EVENT ORGANIZERS: Our club is just one division of NXTsports, and at NXTsports we pride ourselves on running the best lacrosse events in the country. We know the difference between event organizers that get it and those that are just copying others and trying to make a buck. What is the communication like leading up to the event? How visible are the event administrators and event staff before, during and after games are played? Is there any follow-up from the event organizers once the event is over? Was the event experience really what it was hyped up to be? Asking these questions helps our staff to reflect and then plan for the future.
FACILITIES: Our players and coaches are a little bit spoiled in that we get to practice at Episcopal Academy, where NXT also hosts events along with the United Sports Training Center. With that said, where an event is held says a lot about the experience that goes along with it.
Tom West – Team Florida
Since we have to travel so much, we look for events that provide the most recruiting exposure for our boys. Over the years, we’ve had much success at Battle of the Hotbeds at University of Delaware and Gait Cup at Gettysburg College.
Ryan Danehy – Go Blue
As a staff, we want to make sure we’re going to tournaments that have a wide range of coaches from all divisions (D1 – MCLA) that best suit our player’s interests and talent levels. That sometimes requires us to go to tournaments that may be outside traditional “hot bed” areas.
If we go to tournaments that only have a certain pool of coaches from certain divisions, we aren’t providing the full spectrum of exposure to our players. Ultimately, no matter what we think of their talent, you never know what coaches are looking for and what players are interested in after they receive interest.
Anthony Crimmins – Dallas Select
In selecting tournaments for our teams, our program looks to find the appropriate balance with an ever-increasing variety of factors. In this “golden age” of recruiting and exposure, the importance of having a well-balanced menu of options that addresses not only getting “the looks” but also exposure to quality collegiate campuses, worthy adversaries, longer tournaments, and, finally, travel conscientiousness, is paramount.
To begin with, in terms of recruitment, certain tournaments will ALWAYS have top tier, coaching visibility due to tradition established. The Denver Shootout, King of the Hill, Baltimore Showcase, and Gait Cup are all spots where you can and will be seen. Obviously, a daunting amount of additional tournaments exist including Adrenaline events, NSCLA events, and the list just goes on and on.
While placing our players in a position to get the appropriate looks remains a primary consideration, seeking out quality competition for our Dallas Select and Texas United teams takes precedence. Winning is wonderful but not against relatively obscure programs. We want out teams to play the best, to test their limits, and, ultimately, to see where they stack up. The tournament schedule that we put together every summer allows this to happen. We need to say it again – In order for our players to improve, they need to play the best! In playing the best, each player’s primary focus must be continued improvement. In Summer 2013, our teams had the opportunity to play great programs which had direct consequences for our players.
While we look to compete at a high level, we also believe in the importance of taking our players to universities that they might aspire to attend. Since our inception, we have attended tournaments at the following, first-class institutions: UVA, UNC, Notre Dame, Denver, Gettysburg, and Swarthmore. We like nothing better than the opportunity to stay on campus with our players! And, while not every player may be able to play for that program, they might actually want to attend the school. Time permitting, we also do our best to schedule in a campus tour (admittedly, though, that is often hard to do).
Two further qualifications include longer tournaments and travel conscientiousness. Because our group travels from Texas, we do our best to be smart with travel dollars. First of all, tournaments need to be a direct flight away in order to maximize time spent on the ground and minimize lost baggage. In addition, we try to mitigate travel cost by not requiring parents to act as chaperones. Of course, they are ALWAYS welcome to come as spectators! Finally, we try to pair tournaments in order to get “more bang for the proverbial travel buck” as evidenced by the King of the Hill/Gait Cup and UVA/UNC combinations. Furthermore, Gait Cup and UNC are two of the few, four-day tournaments which really allows for chemistry to build and manifest itself within a squad, especially on the back end of a back-to-back.
All of these qualities factor into our formula, one that is ever-changing! We understand that the lacrosse choices out there are numerous and often confusing. In addition, players and parents need to balance individual events, team events, church retreats, family vacations, and more, all in the space of one summer! With the flexibility that our program provides in terms of choosing how many and which tournaments each player can attend, we hope to mitigate those difficulties. And, ultimately, we want to provide each player with a memorable experience!
John Harvey - No Excuse
When we are selecting tournaments for our High School Blue Chip Team we are looking for a few key things. Each year, there seem to be more and more tournaments around the country, and each one claims to have the most coaches. It has become nearly impossible to know who will be at each one so you have to take a few chances and hope for the best. With the over saturation of recruiting events, we tend to look for the best competition and find tournaments that host some of the best club teams in the nation year in and year out.
If we can put our guys in a place to compete against the best guys out there, it will up the chances that somebody will be watching. For guys from Tennessee to get good looks, they need to show something against the best guys. If we can stand out as athletes and players against top teams, we tend to get good looks for our guys.
We have also tried to split our tournaments up a bit regionally. We will do one in Long Island, one to two in Maryland, and we did one on the West Coast last year. It gives us a chance to get seen by more local coaches in those areas in all divisions and club programs. You do start to feel the pressure to pick the right tournaments for your teams and hope that you are putting them in a position to be seen if they play well. You just never know who will be where, on which day and which game. We try to always remind our guys that the first game Sunday morning or the third game on Saturday could be the most important game, and sometimes it just takes one to change your career.
Jay Fox – Ottawa Capitals
We are looking for tournaments that have historically had good college coach attendance and ones that offer the highest competition. We usually make a point of hitting Maryland once in the summer and once in the fall. The concentration of colleges in the area and skill level makes it a worthwhile 8 hour drive.
Rob Horn – Minnesota Elite
We have a general couple guidelines we like to follow when we attend events. For starters, we really try to only attend events that are operated by college coaches. We have nothing against lacrosse companies running events, but when you are spending as much on travel as we are often forced to do, you really need to make sure you presenting all players with the chance to showcase their abilities. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories lately about unfair representation for things such as all star games, tournament seeding where politics come into play, and we just try to avoid those things at all costs.
Not to mention, we’ve developed some great relationships over the years with college coaches, and we like supporting them and their events (you never know how a coach can help). For example, we were at a fall event this year, and not only did we receive a full tour with the staff, but the coaches even helped us get the guys into the locker room to get showered and cleaned up before we headed on flights (after we were already checked back out of the hotel).
We’ve also seen over the years that working directly with college coaches, they tend to be a bit more prepared for weather issues and communications regarding field adjustments in a timely matter. Logistics are key when you are dealing with handling transportation, food, lodging, and even filming – and you need to be able to get a hold of someone at a moments notice.
Other things we like to look for:
What number of coaches attended last year? Are they guaranteed to return? How big is this event (number of teams)? Are any of our close club team brethren attending – whether national teams such as Dallas Select, LI Sting - or even just the other MN programs? Are the fields in close proximity, or do you have to drive between venue to venue? Who are the field directors? (College coaches or college players) Is any transportation to and from airport, or even to and from fields included? Is lodging and food included?
Is this a tournament, or a guaranteed game event? This is big for us, we really try to stay out of events that are “for summer trophies”. Now we attend a couple events here and there that are that format, and sure the boys would love to “win it all” – but that’s not our focus. We focus simply on our core principles (see Panel Discussion 1). No one remembers who wins a summer event, nor should anyone really care. If your focus is to WIN AT ALL COSTS at these events, what are you sacrificing to do so? Not all players getting on the field equally? More emphasis on summer coaches and summer teams versus spring seasons? As you can imagine, there is a wide gambit of things that you can run into if the focus is just to win.
JC Valore – Southshore
With the advent of deposits being due early to hold a spot, schools ending late, and tournaments starting earlier and earlier, it is imperative for our staff to select appropriate tournaments for our high school teams. One of the most difficult things we face in NJ is the rules that block our coaches from working with players from their own team until the State Playoffs are finished. This doesn’t happen until early June. On occasion, we may only get in one or two practices before their first tournament or recruiting event.
So, our first tournament needs to be one that is well organized and ran by someone we have trusted for years to be accommodating for our players, parents, and coaches. Like minded clubs make the similar choices we do, which makes for great competition. Even if 100 college coaches aren’t there, strong competition drives our selection of tournaments, as we make an effort to film all of our games and offer each team HUDL services as part of our program.
Our location as a club is something that we are quite thankful for. We are in close proximity to MD, PA, and NY. This allows us to choose tournaments throughout the summer that do not always require parents to dish out hundreds (if not thousands) of more dollars in travel expenses. Many of our tournaments that are 2-day events are still close enough to go home if desired. We are always mindful of this when selecting.
This saving grace allows us to travel to one tournament out of our area each year to face teams we don’t regularly see in the summer. In recent years, this has included New England based showcases. Playing new teams in the summer is essential to expose our players to different playing styles. Adapting in the summer is something we feel coaches are looking for.
Then of course, we do need to see the reputation of the event itself and the attention it draws. Strong relationships have been built over the years with college coaches or event coordinators. We place a lot of faith in them to give us a rigorous schedule that gives our players the ability to not only showcase themselves, but do so against quality opponents.
We do our best to demonstrate our thankfulness to the coaches/coordinators by always playing our hardest and demonstrating sportsmanship in the process. Respect goes a long way on the recruiting scene and our players, coaches, and parents do their very best to make a positive experience out of each tournament we attend. Tournaments change each year and new ones pop up left and right, but we don’t like to change a good thing when certain events provide great experiences year in and year out.
Matt Rowley - 3D Lacrosse
I think for us there are a number of factors that go into tournament selection and it’s a question we revisit at the end of each of the two main tournament seasons (summer and fall). The landscape seems to change every year and tournaments that may have been great a few years ago don’t have the same cache now for any number of reasons. We have a different schedule for our teams almost every year.
The primary factor for the majority of our teams is exposure; will there be college coaches there? This tends to be among the most important questions we need to answer and to do so we tend to look for tournaments that pay and take good care of college coaches. Our first job for these kids (with regards to tournaments anyway, as we view our primary responsibility as player development) is to make sure that they are appropriately exposed to college coaches.
Their are a number of other factors that come into play after that. In no particular order
1. Quality. Quality of talent, quality of facilities and quality of coaches in attendance. Those are the factors that make tournaments such as Baltimore Summer Kickoff, King of the Hill and The Under Armour Shoot-Out must attend events. There are a few events that deliver everything you look for in a summer tournament and those become the cornerstones of your summer program.
2. Location. We try to find a balance between going to Baltimore, which admittedly you simply have to do, and getting to new spots. You can only stay at the Airport Marriott near BWI so many times before you just can’t handle anymore meals at Champions, or even G&M. There are great events up and down the eastern seaboard as well as on the west coast.
3. Talent Level. Putting everything else aside, you want your kids to be challenged. You want them to test themselves against the best talent. We chase down talent, looking for tournaments where our kids can play great teams and players. The formula is pretty simple, as great competition also tends to attract coaches which plays into our primary focus. Dave Jenkins, our North-East director firmly believes that losing 1 goal games all weekend is more important than winning most of your games by 5-10 goals. We aren’t a “winning tournaments business” after all we are a player development and college placement business.
4. Our own events. We run one of the premier, if not the premier, summer recruiting tournaments in the west. The Denver Shoot-Out is a great event, in a desirable location that attracts so,e great talent and coaches. We send a ton of our own teams there and while the quality of our teams is high, it’s teams like Dallas Select, Zip-It out of Vegas, Brady’s Bunch and others that make the tournament such a great event. We’ve got great coaches attendance at this tournament which is huge for our non-hotbed teams. The location, ability to play different teams and the coaches are a huge draw for our east coast teams.
We also run a very good east coast event with club that we feel is a kindred spirit when it comes to club philosophy. Our FLG in 3d tournament has attracted great talent from outside the 3d ranks and most of our own high level teams also attend. The talent and our penchant for treating college coaches like premier customers means we usually have great college coach attendance. We like our events, because we know that we can count on a certain level of organization, customer service, exposure and value for our players and families.
Lee Southren – NJ Riot
Being a newer club team, exposure in quality tournaments is very important. We research the events we want to attend. Some of them have the first right of refusal to incumbent clubs and therefore we are not able to get in. For the high school elite level, we look for a high amount of coaches attending, good competition and a solid venue. We also try to minimize the schedule conflicts with individual player showcases and school visits which can be challenging. The summary is a good balance of the above.
Terry Mangan – Trilogy
Picking the right tournaments for high school club teams is similar to putting a puzzle together. Budgets, distance, competition, dates, and other events all have to be taken into consideration. At the end of the summer, all program directors hope to have happy, but exhausted players and parents.
Program directors want to deal with knowns and not unknowns, and that starts with competition. Hopefully, directors are looking for events where their teams can be evenly matched – not too tough, not too easy. Having the ability to see who else is playing in the event can be helpful, allowing directors to feel good about what other clubs will be in attendance that weekend.
Exposure to college coaches is important as well. Smart directors will know that bigger is not always better. For a team with several rising HS seniors that have not yet committed to a college, it might make more sense to play in an event with more Division 3 coaches in attendance rather than Division 1 coaches. For a talented team full of rising sophomores, an event that is popular with Division 1 coaches might be the way to go.
Location can have multiple meanings to families heading to tournaments this summer. Getting to and from the hotel and the airport without too much difficulty is great. With so many players and their parents visiting college campuses as well, finding an event where families can arrive early or stay late to check out schools on their favorite list can go along way to making a hectic summer a little easier. Many times, program directors will not know if they scheduled the right tournaments until the summer is over. Directors that do the research while trusting their instincts will usually have the most success.
Panel Question #2: Do you have a golden number of events to maximize exposure and prevent injuries?
Marty Kupprion – NXT
We like to have each of our teams participate in three to four top team events in June and July. With eight to ten team practices spread out over those two months, we have lots of time to coach and develop players and get our teams ready to compete against elite competition in front of college coaches. These days, high school players receive dozens to hundreds of e-mails and invites to individual camps, “showcases” and “prospect days” that they have to weed through and wonder about the validity of each.
Our club parents use us as a resource for feedback on these type of events, and we advise them to be very selective. Our club is completely hands-off in August. At the end of the day, they are going to play lots of lacrosse and there is a huge risk for injuries. It is very important for our players to have enough time away from lacrosse to just be a kid. Life is not all about lacrosse and it’s important to make that very clear to these young men that we are coaching and mentoring.
Tom West - Team Florida
Since we draw all of our players from travel teams around the south, we only attend two events in the summer and one in the fall. This allows the players to be with their own travel teams, then join the best players for our events.
Ryan Danehy - Go Blue
This summer we are going to 5 tournaments. We encourage as much participation as possible over the summer, regardless if it’s with our club or with other clubs. There are also individual events we encourage our players to attend if certain institutions that they are interested in are attending. We can’t determine how much our players can or cannot take over the course of the summer.
We do recognize that players play a ton of lacrosse over the summer months (that includes a lot of stress from travel and financial strains). Only they can decide what is best for them and how much they can do. By offering as much as we can, we can help them expose them as much as possible in this ever complex process.
John Harvey – No Excuse
We try to do three to four big recruiting events a year. Two in the summer and one in the fall. This year we added a winter event, right before the season and that was a very positive experience.
Jay Fox - Ottawa Capitals
Ideally, we do three in the summer and three in the fall. During the summer, we may look at dropping one, as most of our players have extensive box lacrosse commitments.
Rob Horn – Minnesota Elite
We schedule three events per team. Travel costs can be expensive to fly east. Each family can chose to participate in a minimum of two events, as we know there can be conflicts with other events and family vacations. Each player needs to decide what is the proper mixture of events for their summer. We’ll help them secure an individual event versus attending a team event if that’s what they want to do. I think some players definitely do too much, but I can understand why. With our players being located in the Midwest, sometimes families feel they have no choice but to schedule as much as they can due to the current recruiting landscape.
I’ve often seen players physically break down over the course of the summer from doing to much. It’s a very thin line to walk.
We do offer optional events that tend to be a mixture of players from all teams. Those events can provide players that don’t want to do showcases another opportunity for exposure. Our optional events will often allow some alternate players the opportunity to attend events as well.
JC Valore - Southshore
We wouldn’t call it the magic number, but based on keeping cost down and allowing our kids to still be kids, we make sure all of our teams visit three tournaments. Certain teams in the high school sector will have a fourth tournament that is optional for players to attend as a showcase event.
There will always be members of a particular team that will attend individual events as well. We do not schedule our tournaments necessarily around these events, but we are mindful of the fact that some players may be missing.
We don’t like to be overly cautious about kids getting injured from overplaying. Unfortunately, injuries can happen at anytime. We do worry about kids being “laxed out”. As said before, we want our kids to be kids. They need time to relax. They also need time to spend with their family, train for other sports, and simply enjoy not being in school. It is summer after all!
Matt Rowley - 3D Lacrosse
We’ve come up with a formula on the club level that we believe works. First, we run three or four day training camps at the start of the summer in lieu of weekly practices. This allows us to get a full summers worth of training in a condensed time. We build a single team per age group of 30 or so players that attends four tournaments each summer, of those four, each player chooses three. We feel three tournaments is sufficient for our players. In addition to our tournaments we encourage our players to attend something developmental whether it’s one of our box camps, a face-off or goalie camp etc. We also encourage uncommitted players to attend a showcase.
For our committed players, things are a bit different as they may play in one or two tournaments, but build out a summer of development to prepare for college. Many of them will attend box and overnight camps designed for college preparation that we provide or simply play box in Canada.
The only other exception to our 3 tournament model is our national teams. We create a 40 player pool from our select teams across the country from which we build 22 player roster for national team opportunities. This summer our national teams will be attending the Big 4 Champions League in Philadelphia and will return to the U-15 National Championships, held in Aurora CO this year, to defend their title from last summer.
Lee Southren – NJ Riot
We look at four team events over the summer and at least two in the fall. With transitioning from middle school to high school, there is a huge adjustment in all aspects of their lives. Lacrosse wise, they go from practicing a few times a week after coming home, playing some video games, and homework to playing two or three hours a day six days a week. There is five straight months of lacrosse ahead, hitting more calories, more sleep is vital to keeping them fresh and able to perform late in the hot summer when it may count more for them and their goals.
Terry Mangan – Trilogy
When I first read this question, I thought of all the HS players I have seen over the years that have been “overexposed”, the ones that play in too many events. Their hope is that by playing in “one more” event during the summer, the player will have played at a high level in front of the right coaches, and all of their recruiting problems will all be solved.
The reality is that after a certain number of events, it is no longer that exciting for the players, parents, and even the college coaches. The fatigue factor has set in for everyone, and it is almost impossible for players to compete at their highest level after too much time on the road.
My rule of thumb for players and parents during the summer is that three tournaments and one showcase event should be enough. If scheduled correctly, players will be fresh mentally and physically for every event and will have played in front of enough college coaches. Players can try to add to that number, but the chances of that being less than a positive experience will rise with playing in each new event.
This post is over 5000 words. Pray your club’s director takes tournament selection as seriously as these men.
American Revolution participated in both the 3d Denver Shootout and the NXT Summer Invitational last year. Great events in terms of venue, competition, communication, and college coaches in attendance. Both are stay to play events. At least they were last year. Learn about our tournament selection process here.