Editor’s note: 2003 Tewaaraton recipient Chris Rotelli recently interviewed Coach Holman from University of Utah about recruiting at the NCAA Division I level. LaxAllStars is pleased to share their conversation with the global lacrosse community.
Utah head coach Brian Holman is on a mission to build something special from the ground up in Salt Lake City. After years serving on the coaching staff at North Carolina, Coach Holman moved West a year ago to help establish a division I program at the University of Utah.
As a successful Johns Hopkins goalie himself and the father of three collegiate athletes, Coach he has excellent insights on what it takes for players to find success at the NCAA Division I level.
Play because you love it, and you want to get better, not because you want to get recruited.
The quote above represents the theme of our recent conversation. We discussed how players from the West can find success in the recruiting process, and the current recruiting landscape in the wake of the new recruiting rules that went into effect last April. His experiences in the game as a player, coach, and father coaching his own son (and now coaching with him at Utah), provides a very interesting perspective on the game today.
Chris Rotelli: Which High School graduation classes are currently being watched by D1 college coaches?
Coach Holman: 2019’s primarily. Lots still unsigned. Some schools looking at 2020’s as well. With the new rules, most are not watching 2021’s. I would say the top 8-10 schools are looking at 21’s if they are done with 19’s, but since you can’t do much with them for another 2 years, the focus is really on 19’s and a little on the 20’s.
Is there value in traveling to play on the East Coast if you are not in that recruiting window?
Coach Holman: Yes, absolutely. It’s all about competing. We look for competitive desire and fire. You can compete out West, but let’s be honest, the best teams are back East, and playing them will make you better. The strive should be about “how do you get better”, not “how do you get recruited”. Playing East will make you better, but the desire to go back East should be to get better, not to get recruited. I think that is a fundamental problem with a lot of young players right now. They are too focused on doing something to get recruited, and not focused enough on developing and getting better. If you travel to play the best with the intent of getting better, then you will find that you get recruited if you are good enough. The players we are looking for want to play the best, and for players in the West, that will require some travel.
What’s a good recruiting game plan for players in the West? When should they start attending prospect camps and traveling East to attend recruiting tournaments?
Coach Holman: It’s not an easy answer or an easy process. Focus has to come back to developing skills, craft, and your intention for playing lacrosse. Spend time developing your craft. Play other sports, and go play the best players because you want to get better. Find the best competition you can, and prospect camps and tournaments are great for that.
Coach Holman: Travel east to camps and tournaments because you want to get better and play the best, not because you want to get recruited. We can’t recruit 9th graders anymore, but it is still important to play the best if you want to be the best. As long as you are doing it because you love it, and want to get better, and it does not preclude you from playing another sport, then the more the better.
What advice do you have for Western players balancing multiple sports, while still traveling to prospect camps and tournaments during the Fall?
Coach Holman: The allegiance should lie with your school first. When the dust settles I believe 90% of players end up at the school they should be at. If you have a football game in the Fall, I want you to play in that game first. We can see you a lot of times throughout the year. Be patient and do what works for your other sports.
What characteristics do you look for in players you are Recruiting to Utah?
Coach Holman: Utah is looking for character kids first. What type of family is he from? How passionate is he? How badly does he want it? I don’t see that intense desire and passion in too many players. You can feel it when you meet the ones who have it. We also want skilled played who are athletes and who play other sports. A feel for the game, and sports in general is huge for us, and a willingness to play the game as it comes to you. We are looking for toughness. I want people to say two things when they watch Utah play. They are tough, and they are fast. Toughness, skill, passion, IQ are probably the top 4.
You coached your son Marcus at UNC, and he is one of your assistants at Utah. What advice do you give to fathers coaching their own kid?
Coach Holman: Great question. It’s not an easy thing to do. It’s a blessing, but hard to separate blood from rational thought. Really enjoy it. Forget about how well he plays, and just enjoy it. It’s such a rare opportunity. Treat him like every other player. Don’t be harder or easier on him. Your obligation is to the team, and the only way to fulfill that is to treat him like every other player.
The quote below is from author and former Cornell lacrosse player Jon Gordon. He has written great books on culture and teamwork. I want to share this quote because I believe it reinforces what Coach Holman was saying –
Everyone says to work harder, but to work harder, you need to care more.
– Jon Gordon
If you don’t play because you love it, you won’t ever work as hard as you need to in order to get recruited. Continue to play because you love it, and keep the game and the work fun. If you can do that, then you can out-work everyone, and the sky is the limit.