-SIT- Stevens Institute of Technology Camp Lacrosse
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Is The College Lacrosse Recruiting System Really Broken?

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.