We all have our biases. In a friendly conversation circling around where a kid wants to go to college, I will often promote the D3 path first (over D1, D2 and MCLA), because of my own historical bias (I played and coached D3 lacrosse).
Of course then I have to laugh that bias right off, because I realize that my experiences are not that of every other player out there… And also because I realize that every single decision is different for each student-athlete.
What brings up this week’s Hot Pot rant is the idea that one path can somehow be better than another, on an inherent level.
As lacrosse pontificators, many of us believe that we know what is best. We’ve seen the D1 recruiting circus (kids who have never played varsity are committing), the exorbitant price tags of many smaller private institutions ($50,000 a year), the rising costs of playing in the MCLA (many programs charge around $3,000 a year), and the overall improvement of the game from D1 to MCLA D2.
From the above scenario, some of us may feel like we have found the “secret” best path. It’s almost like we’ve run regression analyses in our heads and have come up with an answer, but I’m here to tell you that none of us have found any secrets, and that the college selection process is just as murky and individualistic as its ever been.
You see, some kids are looking for smalls schools, and some kids are looking for big schools. Some guys want a good D1 sports program at the school they attend, others (like myself) could not possibly care less, and yet others want to be a part of that very D1 scene themselves. Some guys want to be big school business majors, while others want to study economics at an elite small college and then pursue an MBA. Others want to study poetry, or film, or physics.
Some guys want to play club, while others would choose joining a fraternity over that option. Some guys will get a ton of aid from a school like Duke or Wesleyan because they are excellent musicians, and college will become more affordable for them. Some guys will be so strong academically, that they can go to their home state school for free. Some guys really care about playing NCAA lacrosse, and others don’t.
And a $5,000 difference in potential price tag is usually not enough to make this decision any easier. The point here is that there is no “better” choice in general. Every kid’s decision is their own, important, and different.
The goal for a college coach should not be to convince only the top potential recruits that their school or option is the best, but to find the kids who want what the school has to offer, and then draw those players in. The first path will result in transfers, unhappy players, and regrets. The second path leads to success and family.
When I was at Wesleyan, I thought about transferring… twice. It was a big change for me from high school, and each time, Coach Raba offered up his help and services because he wanted me to have a good college experience. My success and happiness were more important to him than convincing me I loved Wesleyan. I ended up staying put, and when I did, things went back to the way they were. Coach Raba is a man with his priorities in the right place, because he knows that the college decision is never so simple.
To neatly surmise that one college option is clearly better than others based on $5,000 and a small set of criteria? All that means is that a good deal of bias is showing.
To go a little bit further, student-athletes should look at all their options, weigh the pros and cons, and then make their decision. D1 isn’t better than D3 for certain players, and the MCLA, or NCLL, make perfect homes for tons of other kids. Each level, and each school within each level, has different things to offer, and it’s never as simple as one level of play or college experience inherently being better than another.