Stigma: the word that comes to mind when anyone mentions the MCLA in lacrosse circles.
The MCLA Stigma
A scarlet letter – a trope if you will – of what is seen when one mentions that they play lacrosse in the MCLA. The Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association is home to 169 member colleges and universities and growing. Riddled with some of the most recognizable school names, such as Stanford, UCLA, Clemson, Oregon, and Florida State, to smaller institutions, like Chapman University, Grand Valley State, Florida Gulf Coast, Elon, and St. Thomas, the MCLA houses and contributes the biggest developmental body and growth of lacrosse. Why frown upon growth? It should be celebrated and recognized as a badge of honor.
Once someone mentions the MCLA it is immediately assumed you are not a good enough lacrosse player to make it at any other level, but that is simply not true! There have been many MCLA players who go on to play in the NCAA at all divisions and even eventually play professional lacrosse. In fact, some upper-echelon MCLA lacrosse teams have gone on and beaten top-tier NCAA DII, DIII, and mid-to-low-tier DI programs. Granted, there is a huge drop off in development and competition between the top, mid and lower tier teams in MCLA DI and DII, but the same goes for the NCAA. Therefore, in 2020, the MCLA added a third division, to allow developing programs to gain experience with like-minded and caliber teams.
The assumption that the MCLA is garbage should be put to bed. There are good players at great schools who choose a different kind of lacrosse and school experience. Let us approach the conversation with a different kind of perspective. Here is a look at some of the reasons why lacrosse players forego NCAA lacrosse and play in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association: the MCLA.
Starting with the obvious: education. The main reason students attend college is to get the best job possible after school. If someone has a knack for engineering, they might be less intrigued at a school like Syracuse when they can go to the Ivy of the West in Stanford. The said person might have the opportunity to go to Syracuse and ride the bench for three years under Desko before a chance at playing, or they can hitch a ride to Stanford for an engineering degree while also potentially being able to contribute to a good Cardinal squad as a freshman. With major schools and higher educational institutions held in high regard, the MCLA gives a student-athlete 169 more educational opportunities in different degree fields on top of what is offered at the NCAA level. So, why not go to the school of your dreams while also giving the ol’ ball a toss competing for a national championship.
Close to Home Advantage
Face it, unless someone wanted to go to a small handful of schools on the West Coast (California, Colorado, Utah), NCAA lacrosse is a widely distributed within the Midwest and East Coast. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the truth of today is that lacrosse “hot beds” are no longer an East Cast delicacy but are arguably hottest out West. California (North and South), Arizona, Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Utah, and Texas have all come the farthest in the past five to 10 years when it comes to the growth of lacrosse. With a majority of MCLA programs sitting west of the Mississippi, these schools have a treasure trove of talent to pick from in their local areas. The fact is, in-state tuition is a heck of a lot cheaper than the opposite!
Get as Far Away from Home as Possible!
The opposite of can also be said. Don’t want to be close to home? Need a change of scenery? Need to get away from the beaches of California or escape the cold winters of the East? The MCLA has every situation covered. With a program in almost every single state in the continental United States, an escape from mom and dad is anywhere.
A Different Kind of Experience
The experience of MCLA lacrosse is a 180-degree turn, night-and-day difference in experience from NCAA. As an NCAA student-athlete, athletes are preached to be students first, then athletes. But that is simply not true. The nature of the beast it simply opposite of that. NCAA athletes have two full-time jobs: playing a sport, then being a student. In season especially ,with six collective hours of practice, workouts, film, and meetings, a student-athlete has to find time to get their studies and homework in outside of their daily five hours of class.
The MCLA provides a different experience than that of its NCAA counterpart. When you’re playing MCLA lacrosse, a student-athlete can take in more of the college experience, from fraternities, clubs and activities to more time for studying and pursuing a student’s degree of choice. Sometimes an athlete goes to school to be a student first over being an athlete. This situation makes perfect sense to choose the MCLA over the NCAA.
Opportunity for Exposure
For those athletes not able to get a look from top recruiters and not able to play DI, DII, or DIII, the MCLA gives them an outlet to put something on tape for NCAA schools. Like JuCo schools where students go for two years and transfer to a bigger school, some could say the same about kids playing in the MCLA. It is an athlete’s opportunity to get some high-level lacrosse under their belt, put some great stats up, and create quality film to push for an NCAA recruiting run.
At the end of the day, the MCLA give all student-athletes an opportunity to play the sport so many love. Without them, there is 169 fewer programs exposing the sport of lacrosse to the world and areas of the U.S. To learn more about the MCLA and the schools involved, head over to the MCLA website. With nine conferences, three divisions, and 169 programs and counting, athletes are bound to find the perfect fit for them.