Editor’s note: A few weeks ago Connor Martin dropped by to put a funny spotlight on the recruiting process. This time around he’s taking a more serious tone as he opens up to the lacrosse community and shares his take on early recruitment. Connor never got the letter every aspiring college athlete hopes for, so he paved his own way into a career as a professional lacrosse player instead. Today you’ll hear how – and why – he did it straight from the man himself.
I want to quickly tell you the story of my lacrosse career. I wasn’t the first good kid from my state and I’m not the best kid either. I started late, wasn’t that good, but had a ton of fun. Somehow I ended up playing with the best in the world.
I was never recruited… and I’m glad I wasn’t.
In a West Coast town, far, far away…
In 2003 I started playing lacrosse in Lake Oswego, OR, when I was 14 years old. I was a 5’4, 110 lbs (soaking wet) freshman powerhouse attackman. Although I scored 4 goals in my first season on JV 2, for some reason I didn’t get any letters from college coaches… but I loved it.
I stopped skateboarding, I stopped dicking around, I stopped getting in trouble and just got addicted to lacrosse.
My sophomore year I was second line attack on the best JV team in the universe. I notched 20 goals, baby! But no letters… no looks… still no sadness.
My Junior year, I started to put it together on Varsity. We won State and I scored 50 goals without ever having the ball in my stick for 2 seconds. It was awesome. But no looks.
I didn’t know you were supposed to play on a cool club team in the summer to get recruited. Instead I hit the wall and went to an overnight camp.
By my senior year I realized playing in college was a possibility but knew it was too late to get recruited. So I just decided to go to a college called Chapman University in Southern California that had a film school, surfing nearby, and a mediocre (jokes) club lacrosse team with some of my high school alums down there.
That was it. My shot to play NCAA was long gone. The kids born with a stick in their hand who were already shaving and had back hair already were off to their NCAA schools and I took my peach fuzz baby face to SoCal, trying my luck at college club ball.
Why stop there?
Who cares that I was more suited for the MCLA, that’s life. Whether or not you thought I had potential to run with the big boys, I honestly don’t think I left high school ready for NCAA lacrosse.
I had sweet stick skills (or whatever) but I was a boy. I was 6’0, weighed like 140 lbs and was not that fast. I would’ve passed on me too.
College club lacrosse was perfect for me and unbelievably after college I got to play in the pros for 4 years. What needs to be realized is that I was most fortunate to have no one ruin the game for me and make it more than it was. I was a KID playing a GAME, and I loved it. I never had any reason to think otherwise.
All of the intensity I put into the sport, all of the passion, all of the hours, all of the standards were self created. No one told or forced me to do it. For some reason God made me this way and it was what I wanted to do. The sobering reality is not every kid is wired for this madness, and that’s just fine.
I was free to be a kid
When I was 14 I was free from the recruitment process. I was never bashed down by the pressure that’s put on 13 and 14 year olds now to get noticed by top colleges and verbally choose a school when they are 15.
I’m glad I was late to the party because I had the mental capacity and fresh attitude to push my talents through high school and well past college because I never got burnt out. I just liked scoring goals. That’s why I played. I developed a healthy relationship with the game and absolutely maximized my potential.
As big of a gimmick as it was, when I started my viral ascent in the lacrosse community, I was mentally capable of taking my game to a professional level in college because of how much FUN the game remained to me. How much FUN it was to keep getting better. How much FUN it was to win with your teammates. How much FUN it was go out and shoot with your buds.
Lacrosse can become a selfish job
I’m going to be honest here. When I got to the pros, I felt that is when lacrosse started to not be fun. I had entered the recruitment process.
If I didn’t score 3 goals, the coach didn’t play me the next week. I didn’t have a good enough resumé to have bad games. When I played well, I was happy, life was good and I could enjoy my teammates. But it was all ME, ME, ME making sure I got mine.
The mentality it put in your head was wrong and the stress of having these GM’s and coaches waiting for you to have a bad game sucked the FUN out of the game. It was a job. What an cool job it was, but none the less it was a job and it was up to me to keep it.
The same mentality I developed as a 24 year old middle of the pack pro we see in 13 year olds competing for these 12 1/2 scholarship spots at NCAA schools.
Some kids can handle this but in my humble opinion, I think this intense era we’re in is sucking the life out of the game for the kids when we should be pouring freedom, character, and fun back into the sport.
That’s the message here. There is nothing wrong with getting recruited. Nothing wrong with wanting to play with the best kids in the world. Nothing wrong with competing and training at a high level. What’s wrong is when we make lacrosse more than what it is. KIDS PLAYING A GAME.
– Connor Martin / Boom Town Lacrosse