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Is The College Lacrosse Recruiting System Really Broken?

-SIT- Stevens Institute of Technology Camp Lacrosse
When it comes to recruiting, how young is TOO young?

The lacrosse world is abuzz after Trevor Tierney published his recent article, The College Lacrosse Recruiting System Is Broken over on his website, Tier Lacrosse. In the article, Trevor laid out the myriad problems that challenge parents, players, coaches, and camp/tournament organizers alike. His use of statistics to show how rare an NCAA Division 1 lacrosse scholarship truly is was especially compelling.

-SIT- Stevens Institute of Technology Camp Lacrosse

When it comes to recruiting, how young is TOO young?

So, what was Tierney’s main message? That there are a ton of travel teams, recruiting tournaments and more out there, and that for many people, these events can be a waste of time and money, especially if they aren’t fun. The chances of getting recruited are slim, the chances of landing a scholarship are even slimmer, meanwhile the costs are high and the pressure to perform can be immense.

I really enjoyed reading Trevor’s article, and I found myself agreeing with him on many of the points he makes, but I didn’t agree with everything, so let me first make some counter points. Then I will propose a very different solution to the same problem of a broken college recruiting system.

The first point that Trevor argued, which I didn’t agree with was this:

Basically, if your son is going to be a Division I prospect, you are going to KNOW it. There are going to be people telling him that he is the greatest thing since sliced bread from eighth grade and on.

Let’s look at that statement for a minute, and see how true it really is. From a first hand experience, I know plenty of guys who didn’t blossom until later. Mike Allain started at Hofstra in 2002 and 2003, but he had never played lacrosse before our sophomore year together in high school. Maybe you want something more up-to-date?

Rob Pannell was barely recruited by ANY Division 1 schools before his Senior year in high school. It’s a big part of why he did a PG year at Deerfield. Obafemi Alese started playing lacrosse in college and he’s now on the Brown team.  NONE of these guys were being told they were D1 players in 8th grade, two of them didn’t even play lacrosse, and Rob Pannell didn’t hear any of that until his Senior year.

Division 1 lacrosse players still come out of nowhere sometimes, and while the above scenarios may happen less and less, they do still happen. At a camp, I once saw a D1 assistant tell a sophomore to “quit now, you’ll never go D1.” It was wrong for him to say then, and it’s wrong to say now. I don’t think Tierney is advocating for people to give up on the game AT ALL. However, lacrosse is a skill game and big leaps can be made by players, even during later stages of their development.

The second point Trevor makes, which also gives me pause, is this:

The NCAA college coaches should do something about it to get it all under control, but they won’t… there is too much money on the table.

Why should the NCAA coaches be expected to do anything about this? They might not like all the travel and the ridiculous Summer schedules, but I fail to see any incentive for them to advocate for change. They can recruit middle schoolers, can put kids through the ringer and try to find the next “it guys” for their program years ahead of time.

The coaches at the biggest schools have the biggest advantage (because of their name recognition) and they can get paid over the Summer to do tournaments and camps. What’s not to love? It’s not just the money on the table, it’s EVERYTHING.

Right now D1 college coaches have absolute power, and we all know how that turns out (it corrupts absolutely). Expecting change from those who benefit most from the current system is extremely unrealistic.

And this brings me to my final point of disagreement. In his last paragraph, Trevor finishes up by saying:

So, really the power to fix this system is in the hands of the players and parents. Everyone has to be honest with themselves and be able to give themselves an honest grade of where they stand or get someone who can. If you are a top player, then go for it and try to get in front of as many coaches as you can. If you’re not, then you would be better off paying all that money to find a trainer and a coach to work with you all sumer and make you a better player for the next season if playing in college is a dream and goal of yours.

Trevor is on the right track here, and I love how he advocates for training and improvement over fancy travel teams, but the problem is his “get someone who can” evaluate you fairly portion. People already pay good money for travel teams, camps and trainers to tell them just that! It’s so ingrained that it is already a major part of the problem.

So what is the answer here? If college coaches can not be expected to create change, and the current system already allows for Trevor’s proposal (and the corruption of that process), what can be done to change the broken Summer college lacrosse recruiting season?

It’s simple… The NCAA needs to step in and regulate the living daylights out of things. Here are some proposed changes that would alleviate the real problem:

– College coaches MAY NOT have contact with players until they’ve completed their sophomore year in high school. 8th grader, freshman and sophomore “commitments” should be straight up outlawed. For those kids to be getting recruited already is a joke.

– Recruiting “events” for kids who have not finished their sophomore years should correspondingly be banned. A recruiting tournament for 7th graders is offensive. If you’re focus isn’t ont teaching kids at that age how to get better, you’re doing it wrong.

– Kids who are in school during their Junior year can start to reach out to coaches.

– Once a player has finished their Junior year of high school, college coaches can reach out to the kids.

Would this change things? YOU BET IT WOULD!

Why would a freshman go to a recruiting camp when they can’t get recruited? Why would they sign up with an elite travel team when they could get better training closer to home, and for less money? Under my proposal, college coaches would have no say in things, and that would actually make sense, because those doing the work shouldn’t also be the ones regulating it. If you need further proof of that, look no further than the banking industry.

The College Lacrosse Recruiting System really is broken. I agree with Trevor on that 100%. However, I don’t think that these events are useless, even for kids who aren’t the “top dog” in their area, and the pressure to change the system can not, and will not, come from parents or coaches.

Both sides are far too invested in seeing the current system proliferate. Only an outside governing body, like the NCAA, which should have the best interests of the students and the overall structure in mind, would be able to effectively create change. Complete freedom has run rampant, and the abuse is occurring all over… unfortunately at this point, greater regulation may be our only hope.

About the author

Profile photo of Connor Wilson

Connor Wilson

Connor is the Publisher of LacrosseAllStars.com. He lives in Brooklyn with his better half, continues to play and coach both box and field lacrosse in NYC as much as possible, and covers the great game that is lacrosse full-time. He spends his spare time stringing sticks and watching Futurama.

11 Comments

  • Connor,

    As an amateur writer, one of my greatest challenges is finding the balance in grabbing people’s attention and getting my message across. I think that I may have failed in this case.

    My main point is not so much that the entire set up has to change, but that we should examine our approach, expectations and goals of youth and high school lacrosse summer programs.

    I think that these camps, tournaments, clinics and teams can be very fulfilling and beneficial programs if we adjust our outlook. If we use them to help develop players, teach life lessons through the game and have a great time together, then that is awesome! At the same time, many kids will end up getting recruited in the process.

    But right now, we are going at these things with a skewed perspective of how it all works. Hopefully, this conversation can help people examine their own approach to all of it.

    Thanks for the feedback.

    Kind regards,

    Trevor

  • Hey Trevor,
    First off, I really appreciate the read, and the measured, intelligent response to my over the top criticism. That right there makes you a pro writer in my book.

    And I don’t think you failed in any sense of the word to be honest. I’m just super nitpicky, and believe that this conversation can, and should, be kept going. I simply hope my critiques can help people (myself included!) keep forming and reforming their opinions.

    Your point, restated above, is an excellent one. These events and teams can be fulfilling, but I don’t think that adjusting our outlook will be enough. For me, it’s gotten to the point where the interests are so entrenched in the current system, a desire change might not be enough. I do think the NCAA needs to step in here.

    I coached a camp this Summer where we had a couple kids leave early, or not show up for the second week because they had recruiting, or “elite” camp. These kids were ENTERING 7th through 11th grade. I think we see the same problem with that.

    The only difference is that I don’t think many parents will be the ones to “buck the trend”, and I don’t see many college coaches “doing the right thing” here. Like I said in my post, it’s not a knock on them, just a question of proper incentives.

    I guess I just thought you didn’t go too far enough!

    Thanks many times over for writing your post, and putting your thoughts out there for vultures like me to pick at!  I hope this can keep the conversation going, and that parents and players down the line will get some benefit out of it.

    Thanks again!

  • It’s not just D1 coaches, it’s coaches at all levels that are to blame for this.  Last year I had a senior attackman that was a legitimate D3 College Prospect.  He was a hard working athlete with a great stick and good attitude.  The summer before his senior year he made the All-Star game at the Denver Team Camp, and through other camps and his highlight films he got letters and phone calls from schools like Whittier and Washington and Jefferson.

    However, one MCLA D2 Coach emailed our player back after receiving his highlight tape saying that he questioned how seriously the player was taking his recruiting, since the player waited until the end of his Junior year to send out a tape.  In essence, he was saying that because he did not start putting out tapes at the conclusion of his sophomore year, deep down this kid might not really want to be a college player.

    What kind of message does it send when club coaches are pushing kids to start getting themselves out there as sophomores?

  • D1 coaches  can not official talk to recruits about scholarships and such until summer between Junior and Senior year and it has to be after July 1st 

  • This is definitely one of the best articles I have read on LAS in a while. I’m going into 11th grade this year, this season we played a team whose goalie is committed to UNC as a sophomore before the season even started. I mean that’s awesome, but now he has to live to a much higher standard then the rest of us because he committed so early. I know a lot of kids that have a lot of potential, but because they aren’t loaded or their parents don’t have the time to drive them, they will most likely not play high level college ball (not counting walk-ons).

    I know Virginia has already completed their ’14 recruiting class, say what. I think that’s silly, I know colleges want the best players they can get, but why not wait and see who comes out of the woodwork and steps up to be a great player. O well, cross Virginia off my list.

  • It may not be broken, but how about totally ridiculous?  Recruiting 8,9th or 10th graders is just bizarre.  How can this kids be expected to understand the choices.  A few years ago, ESPN 30 for 30 films showed “The Best That Never Was” (Marcus Dupree).  He was being recruited as a senior and still landed in a heap of trouble.  I don’t believe either the parents nor the coaches can self regulate, so it would have to come from the NCAA, but what credibility do they have?  They are too busy protecting huge football juggernauts that bring in 50 M$ a year, while telling the student athletes they are amateurs and should live on low end scholarships.

    Just curious, are the rules for recruiting football players the same as for lacrosse?  So how, i would guess the football side is more carefully regulated.

  • The college lacrosse recruiting system may need some tweaking but remember how young this sport truly is, changes will be made. I felt it worked amazingly for me and I landed at the most perfect school, for me, in the world (after basically being told to my face I could never play D1 by Trevors dad Bill) Lemme say thank god he said that. 
    Recently going through the recruiting process myself I have my own reservations on the system as a whole. Connor: I disagree that a tournament that is not for recruitment purposes is a waste of time. Nothing improves a player more than competing at a higher level and challenging yourself to rise to the occasion. You can pay as many personal trainers as you want but there is absolutely no substitute for pure competition. On the other hand I completely agree no kid should ever be told he can’t play D1 ball. I know of many coaches that will recruit a pure athlete who maybe hasn’t quite developed IQ wise knowing that you can teach lacrosse, you can’t teach intangibles like hustle, heart and quickness. Sure there are those 8th grade Shack Stanwicks being told they are the next big thing but more colleges need to take the Ivy League approach and leave a few spots open for those players who have developed a little later. (Ivy League does this because an 8th grade recruit can not follow up on Ivy League academics)

  • I actually like the regulations you added at the end of your article. It would change the game a lot. I know players who peaked in eighth grade and are now being looked at by top division 1 schools and I know players who have the same skill level as those players but because they peaked junior year they are stuck playing d-3 or mcla lacrosse. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with d-3 or mcla lacrosse, however putting those regulations in would create a much more balance

  • I can definitely agree that competing a higher level is very beneficial for a kid, and can get behind with what you are saying there. But how about we tweak that so it is that players are able to get the chance to compete at a higher level of competition without the idea that they are being constantly scouted? In my eyes that would be far more beneficial to their growth as a player.  

  • I’m on the fence.
     
    Upsides of the recruiting frenzy:
    – increased legitimacy for most of the country’s high schools and their athletes concerning whether or not lacrosse is a real sport like traditional sports (football, basketball, etc.).
    – allows ex-players who love lacrosse to have an opportunity running camps and travel teams, to piece together tenuous and low paying career in the sport
    – enticing athletes they can play in college will make playing lacrosse a priority in college selection,  be they NCAA or MCLA teams.  More and more DIII, NAIA, and MCLA universities and colleges are seeing the value in offering ‘non-athletic’ financial aid to students who play lacrosse.
    – someday there may be enough of us as frenzied fans to support a legitimate professional leagues and be in the Olympics.
    – escape the label of being a ‘stoner sport’

    Downsides:
    – ex-players who charge very high prices because they have a “brand” value, and there’s enough parents with excess $ who will pay to have their children with the ‘best’.
    – everything else that comes with success…

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