Editor’s note: Our partners at ConnectLAX recently had the chance to sit down with third-year Detroit Mercy assistant coach Jeff Turner. Watch the video, read the edited transcript, or a combo of both. We just want to make sure you know what it takes to get to the next level!
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Jeff Turner, Detroit Mercy
Coach, thanks for joining us. Super pumped to hear about your recruiting advice and a little bit about your school. Let’s hear a little bit about you, first.
Yeah, absolutely. Thanks a lot for having me. This is my third year at the school. We’re located in the city of Detroit, which is cool for me. I’m a lifelong born and raised Detroiter. I went off, did my undergrad work at the University of Michigan. Our entire staff here at Detroit, all three of us that are full-time on staff, we all were born and raised in the metro-Detroit area.
So for us, this is home. Yeah, this place is definitely home. Eminem on 8 Mile you know? No, it’s nothing like that. It’s an awesome place to be and it’s an awesome group of kids that we have here. It’s a real joy to come to work and get to work with a bunch of guys that work pretty hard on a daily basis.
That’s excellent, man. Great to hear about it. So, I know a lot of guys have a lot of questions out there. The first thing is, you guys obviously have been making some great strides. What do you look for in a recruit? How do you find that same passion about the area and the team as you guys do? What type of player best fits your program?
I think the first thing for us, and to be completely honest, is the talent. We say a lot of different things, and there are a ton of different things that go into it when we recruit a kid, but the number one thing for us, the thing that’s gonna get anyone in the door is always gonna be that talent.
That’s something that as I’ve been around, as I’ve been on a few different staff that I’ve noticed, is different. What exactly they’re looking for is different everywhere. I’d say for us the biggest thing that we look for is a Division I athlete to put it bluntly.
Is he a Division I athlete? A lot of guys that we recruit are two, three sport athletes. That’s something that’s big for us through the recruiting process.
By the time they get here, now they’re playing lacrosse year-round essentially for the first time in their lives, we think that they’re gonna get a fair bit better at lacrosse. The thing that we can teach some of the refining aspects of being a Division I lacrosse player.
For us, if they’re struggling to keep up in the weight room, struggling to keep up on the practice field in terms of the speed that we practice with, and if they’re a midfielder struggling to beat their guy off a dodge, defenseman who’s struggling to cover them one on one, then it’s difficult.
For us, that athleticism is really what gets kids in the door. Just really being someone that we think can come in and can compete in practice from day one.
Then from there, that pool of kids is much, much, bigger than the pool of kids that we end up recruiting. That’s when the other things come in the play.
That’s as we go through the recruiting process. It’s the people that we talk to. Kids that seem to be a good fit academically for us. Most kids that we recruit are right in the 3.5, 3.6, 3.7 range. So that range for us is big. We don’t have to use admission spots or anything on them. That helps us a lot through the process.
Yeah, grades first right?
— Detroit Mercy MLAX (@UDMLAX) April 20, 2017
Yeah. The grades are the number one thing for after that point for us. And then just the response that we get from kids.
What sort of environment do they come from, what are the coaches saying about them, and what are the people surrounding them saying about them?
Are they someone that’s going to buy in coming to the city of Detroit and competing every day at the Division I level?
What type of requirements are needed at the DI level? Not just as a talent aspect, but at a commitment level. Study halls, workout regiment, and stuff. Could you talk a little bit about the day to day with that?
It’s certainly much more of an all-inclusive activity in terms of the time that it takes. The way we do things, in the spring our practices will start, we go in the mornings. So film will start for us on a daily basis usually around 6:30, 7:00 in the morning. We’ll do film, guys will practice, then some days they’ll have lift. Then usually they’re done with lacrosse around 10 or 11 a.m. Guys schedule their classes after that.
Most of our guys are taking full class loads, 15-18 credits a semester. We have guys across every major. We have guys in the sciences, guys in engineering, guys in business, guys in liberal arts. Guys are all over doing a lot of different things, obviously a lot of academic demands. But then from there, we require study hall on a day-to-day basis.
Players have to do at least five hours a week of study hall when they’re underclassmen. Then there’s the assortment of other activities that our guys are involved in. We have guys that are involved in a whole diversity of things. But, pretty much from 6 a.m. when they show up to the lacrosse facilities in the morning, until at least 6 or 7 p.m. on most days, their days are booked pretty solid.
A lot of people think that they want that as they go through the process. Once you get here, it’s a very different experience than a lot of kids are getting from high school friends that went and didn’t play a college sport. So you’re hearing about their experiences and what they’re doing and how different of an experience that it is. That can be a challenge. It’s not always a lot of fun.
The Dab King 👑 beautiful lefty on the run shot for the G! 2-1 Titans pic.twitter.com/mFeQYkXL0q
— Detroit Mercy MLAX (@UDMLAX) April 8, 2017
You see the games on TV, you see the excitement at game day, you see all the cool stuff we pump out on our on Twitter. It seems like it’s a lot of fun and it can be. But it’s also a lot of work first and the fun kind of comes later. For us, I think that’s the biggest challenge for guys when they come in. They might understand in theory what it entails, but really doing it on a day-to-day basis can be a challenge.
That takes true commitment. You guys are out in Detroit and you’re going all over the country looking for guys. What would you say is the best way to get on your recruiting radar to get in touch to get noticed?
I’d say there’s a few different things for us. One, I’d definitely say, and I know people hear it a lot, but sending an email will always help. For us, we’re never gonna recruit a kid just off of an email, but to get on the radar and have that name recognition for us is a big thing. I’d say along with that, having a highlight tape is always huge. I think any email that you send should be accompanied with a highlight tape because otherwise I don’t know how to differentiate any of the emails that we get on a day-to-day basis from who’s a legitimate prospect and who’s just emailing us for the heck of it.
Having that highlight tape so we can click through it, just see a little bit of what you have to offer as a player. That will kind of spur more interest for us. We do things a little bit differently as well, we’re out at a ton of events, so obviously getting on our radar, being out at those events, email us ahead of time to let us know you’re gonna be there.
Again, just keeping that name recognition so when we’re at those events, if we see and notice you, then we can go back and go, “Oh yeah, I know who that kid is.” Also, just as you go through with stuff, we do things a little bit differently too. We’ll oftentimes if there’s a kid that we’re interest in, request some full game films from some of their summer tournaments.
Just having stuff like that available and always being proactive with selling yourself. Kids have a great opportunity now with social media and the ease of accessibility and the ease of contact with people, without going overboard, but just once in a while making sure there’s ways that they’re considering to get their name out there with college coaching staffs.
On the point of emails and highlight tapes, I know we get a lot of questions from parents and players about what they should be putting in their emails and how they should be arranging their highlight films. What’s the ideal email for you?
Yeah, I think for us, the shorter is almost better. There’s kids that will list every accomplishment. I know there’s a lot of very accomplished kids out there. At the start of the process, that’s not necessarily the biggest intrigue for us. We don’t know how much of it to be legitimate, how much is somewhat an exaggeration.
I think brief is better early on. I think the biggest thing a kid can do, number one is show why they’re interested in Detroit Mercy. Why us? We’re offering something very different than other Division I schools are, certainly Division II, Division III schools. It’s a unique experience. I think kids doing well getting on our radar, we’ve got a very strong business school, very strong engineering program.
Kids that say, “I’m very interested in that. I noticed you have this program. That’s something that I’m interested in.” That’s big for us. Then just including grades in there I think. What are your grades? Sending a transcript is always good, we always need that early on in the process.
Then just a highlight tape. Just a basic where you’re from, what your grades are like, why are you interested in this school, and then here’s my highlights, here’s the tournaments that I’m gonna be at. That pretty much gives us the information that we need. If there’s some interest there on our side to get that process moving, or if we see them later at a tournament, go back and find your email. That gives us that basic information that we can build off of as we get started in the recruiting process.
Quickly on the highlight video, what’s ideal for you? We see a lot on social media of a quick goal, but not much context around it. What’s best?
I would definitely like to see some context around it. Not too much. There’s some kids that will put 45 seconds before they touch the ball. When I’m sitting in the office watching that, I’ll be honest I get a little bored waiting for them to touch the ball. But you definitely want to see some context.
You want to see the competition, what that’s like. Usually a little bit of a longer clip is gonna be better with that. Yeah, definitely best highlights first. Whatever you have. The best three plays that a kid has playing lacrosse and that they’ve had over the last two years. It doesn’t matter if it’s summer ball, if it’s in high school, whatever it is.
Those best three plays should always be first. ‘Cause if you’re not catching the attention of a coach, usually in the first couple plays, that’s gonna be tough to garner that through a highlight tape.
I know a lot of people will appreciate that. Moving on, what areas of player development should these guys be focused on? What particular skills and work habits do you feel that players need to really excel in Division I?
I think that it’s gonna be a little bit different for each player. I think the number one thing that I think we see guys struggle with when they get here oftentimes, is playing at full speed. A lot of people say, “Hit the wall. Hitting the wall’s great. You should always be on the wall getting a lot of shots.”
If you’re an offensive guy, working a lot on your footwork and your off ball play, your off ball positioning, stick plays and all that stuff is great. For a defensive guy, right? When guys get here and the speed’s ratcheted up, it’s one thing to be able to go out and stand on a wall and throw a ball and hit the wall 100 times. You’re gonna catch it all 100 and you’re gonna switch hands and you probably can do it with both hands. But then when you’re out on the practice field and you’re having to play at 100 miles per hour and you have to make that same pass at 100 miles per hour, while you’re running downhill of a dodge, and you got to move the ball very quickly, that’s oftentimes where guys really struggle.
I think that’s the biggest thing for guys as they go forward, is being able to defend … If you’re a defenseman, being able to defend a dodger who’s going full speed. Being able to play a good position the entire time through a possession while there’s 100 things going on around you. For offensive guys, being able to pass and catch at full speed, being able to shoot on the run at full speed, not having to slow down. All that stuff is really big. I think that’s something that a lot of kids really struggle to do.
It takes a lot of dedication. It takes having that skill set then also having that attitude that I’m gonna go after it. I might just be on the wall today, or I might just be shooting today. I’m gonna go after it and I’m gonna do it as hard as I can ’cause that’s what’s gonna make me better.
Off of the field there are plenty of common recruiting mistakes and pitfalls that parents and players run into during the process. What do you feel they should avoid? What are some of those that you run into?
I think one big thing for any kid, parents, et cetera, is being realistic about the process. Being realistic about where you’re at as a player, where you’re at as a student, what’s gonna be a good fit for you.
I can’t tell you how many times we’ll go through a recruiting process with a kid and they’re just so … They want to be recruited so badly. Then at the end, they say, “You know what Coach? I really just want to do this major.” That’s something we don’t even offer.
At the start of the process they’re like, “You know, I’m kind of interested in whatever.” Then at the end they’re like, “I really want to do this one thing.” And you guys don’t offer it. I think it’s a waste of time on both ends.
Also, kids being realistic who think that they can play on a Big 10/ACC level, when maybe they’re down more at our level. Or think that they can play at our level when maybe they’re better suited for a lower level of lacrosse. There’s an opportunity for everyone to play at every level if that’s what they want, but it’s important for people to be realistic and understand this is the school that I’ll be going to.
When you’re 40 years old, you’re still known in a lot of ways by the college that you went to. It’s a part of you for the rest of your life. Thinking of that, I think it’s tough to do. Especially as recruiting has gotten earlier and they’re recruiting sophomores and juniors in high school. But I think it’s tough to think about, is this what I want to be part of my identity?
I think that’s really important. Is this something that I want to affiliate myself? Something I want to be affiliated with? Is this school something that I want to be a part of for the rest of my life? I’m sure you still have those connections to your college. I know I certainly do, and everyone does. So having that sense and going through the process of, is this something that I can really see for myself in the long-term? I think that’s huge. I think that helps make it much easier to narrow it down and rid yourself of some of those false assumptions and false assessments of yourself.
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Special thanks to Jeff Turner, the Titans lacrosse program, and ConnectLAX for helping to prepare student-athletes around the globe.