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Club Directors Panel: Managing Expectations

The first summer the club scene took off in Pittsburgh we were dealing with a couple very disappointed families in the fall. There was a sense that if you played on a club team or you were invited to a showcase that you were a certain caliber player.

Naive perhaps, but remember this was a new experience for parents and their sons. If you’re in a developing area or perhaps a hotbed but you’re the oldest child in the family, the recruiting process may be new to you too. (Another reason the Club Directors Panel is such beneficial. Free knowledge about the whole process from industry leaders!)

Fast forward several years and we’d be willing to bet if you asked those athletes now if they ended up enjoying their student athlete experience the answer would be a resounding yes. Time has a way of healing bruised egos. Let’s find out how our panel handles this situation when the wound is still fresh.

This week’s question asks:

How do you manage a player, and perhaps his family as well, who comes off of a disappointing summer circuit?

He did everything that you asked him to do, attended the right events, made a professional highlight tape, and has great grades. But whether he had D1 ambitions or D3 ambitions, his top choices aren’t contacting him. Now what?

Anthony Crimmins – Dallas Select/Texas United

With all of the expectations and high hopes that players have nowadays, this is one of the tougher parts of the entire select lacrosse experience. The environment is more fiercely competitive than ever before, and it’s very difficult to find a spot for every single player at the next level.

The first point to reiterate is that this doesn’t mean you are a bad lacrosse player. At this point, there is a syndrome, especially when players are sophomores and juniors. If D1 Coaches aren’t knocking down the doors, kids think they aren’t good. The truth is, sometimes things just don’t work out. Control the controllables. Did you put yourself in a position to succeed? Were you diligent in the requisite areas?

Did you take advantage of your opportunities? Sometimes you don’t; it happens in life. It just means you have to go and manufacture others. At this point, players are more skilled and developed, especially in Texas, than at any other point in the progression of the sport. Players need to be excited about that and not take it for granted.

In terms of playing at the next level, I believe the MCLA is a tremendous option and one that should be more widely considered. There is great lacrosse being played, especially here in my home state of Texas. Whether it is Texas State, the University of Texas, SMU, or others, there are tremendous options to play at a high level.

Teaching life lessons through lacrosse is something we always engage in StickStar with our two groups, Dallas Select and Texas United: 1. You are not always going to get exactly what you want; 2. It is all about how you respond. If the D1 / D3 route did not work out, let it fuel your next ambition. Work harder, leave nothing to chance, and do not pout about it. Let’s go, and we will help you every step of the way!

Marty Kupprion – NXT

As club coaches, it is important that we are constantly available, open and honest will each of our student-athletes and their families.  There are only so many college spots and just because you’re on a club team doesn’t mean that you’re going to get recruited to play college lacrosse.  If that is the goal, it’s helpful to have coaches that can be not only optimistic and supportive of your efforts, but also realistic in giving you feedback on your performance and the work that they see you putting in.  At the end of the day, their grades are the most important thing that a student-athlete can control, and their grades will keep doors open regardless of what happens on the lacrosse field.

Matt Rowley – 3D

I think the most important part of this discussion is something absent from the question. What are the expectations for your families? And how do you set and manage those expectations? The first problem a club can make is to allow the expectation that Johnny is headed to Hopkins on a full ride to exist, whether its been presented explicitly or allowing it fester latently. Too many folks promise things they simply cannot deliver. Too many folks allow the latent suggestion that because Johnny is paying X and playing for a AA team he will go to X D1 school.

If you manage all of this before Johnny has a disappointing summer it allows you to have a frank conversation about his situation. David Jenkins who directs our New England club  is fantastic at this and I think its one of his best traits as a club director, its also why our parents have such great respect for him. He lays out very clearly what we as a club view a players potential to be and then he works tirelessly to make that become a reality. It’s a fickle process and if you are realistic with parents throughout the process, not just when reality sets in, than there isn’t much a family can quibble with.

JC Valore – SouthShore

Initial dreams or hopes to attend a certain school are addressed with players on an individual basis.  We make it clear that it is up to the college coaches as to who they feel make a good fit for the team they are building.  As coaches, we play many roles.  We do not teach just technique, strategy, or how to shoot off hip.

A successful program has the mentoring ability to assume the roles of guidance counselor, confidant, and an individual that provides realistic insight.  If the aforementioned criteria was done with sincere effort and the player can say without wavering, that they gave it their all, there honestly is not much that anyone can do to make a school contact them.  We try to explain that D1 does not necessarily mean better in regards to the fit for them personally.

However, if a player originally had D1 ambitions, and was not “recruited”, we will certainly open their eyes to other options that may provide them an amazing opportunity.  In our opinion, dreams should not be D1 or bust.  We have had D1 talented players go on to become 4 year starters on top caliber D3 teams.  Were they good enough to play D1, definitely, it just happened that the recruiting cards didn’t fall in their favor that particular year.

There will continue to be players that are talented who do not get to fulfill their dreams.  We will strive to keep them with a positive outlook.  We will encourage them to reach out to coaches on their own, or investigate new schools that they may have not originally thought of.  The last thing we want, is a player with a defeated attitude.

Lee Southren – NJ Riot

My conversation with them would have nothing to do with Lacrosse.  This is a snap shot of life.  Better to learn about disappointment at a young age when it doesn’t define you or your ability to hold a job and support a family. Sometimes you have to keep pressing  to get noticed.

Terry Mangan – Trilogy 

It is always a danger to have a focus as narrow as to go through a summer of lacrosse hoping to impress a specific group of schools. A college list should be broad enough to encompass a lot of different schools, those that you hope would recruit you, those that are recruiting you and others that have the potential to be a great fit. The list should only become small when a player has mutual interest with a particular school and based on visits to campus and communication with the coaching staff, and he is certain that his final choice is in that group.

Alexander Graham Bell said, “When one door closes, another one opens.” It is important for players and families not to look at the closed doors too long, because they will miss all of the open ones. When a player feels like he had not done enough to impress a particular school, there will be others that will think he is a great fit for their school and program. Players should continue to explore every opportunity to play in college until they find the right fit. Once he finds the right fit, he will not worry about any other schools. It is definitely out there!

Catch up on previous Club Directors Panels:

Tournament Selection

Early Recruiting & Coaching Staff Alignment

What makes a club lacrosse program successful?

Club versus High School 

Want to talk recruiting, club teams, tournaments or camps? Leave a comment in the comments section or tweet me at @4onetwolax or @AmRevolutionLax.