When I was 17 years old, if you told me I would be frequenting Mercer Community College in Princeton Junction, New Jersey I would call you silly names. And yet, here we are in 2014 and I’m recovering from another trip to MCC where Tri-State holds their annual summer event.
From a recruiting personnel standpoint, the Tri-State National is no longer the tournament it once was when I first attended in 2011. I used to share the sidelines with D1 head coaches named Tambroni, Meade, Myers, Breschi, and DeLuca. Not to mention an unlimited amount of D2 and D3 coaches. Two years ago in a classic case of “I’m a D1 coach and you’re not,” a coach upstreamed me on the sideline so he could have a better view because there were so many coaches watching one field.
This Saturday, I didn’t see any D1 coaches, although Holy Cross tweeted that they were in attendance. Not only did I not run into any D1 coaches, but there were only a handful of D3 coaches walking around during my visit. Granted, I mostly watched 15s and 16s compete, which means D1 coaches don’t care, but it was staggering to see empty sidelines normally occupied by men rifling through recruiting binders.
Why are college coaches no longer coming to Tri-State? Full disclosure, it is a massive event and I was only there for five hours so there’s a good chance I missed running into many of them.
Because the venue is so large, it difficult on the coaches to move about from field to field. Likewise for the players, parents, and club coaches. I spent a good chunk of time walking from one field to the next, trying to find an indoor bathroom, and visiting a food stand.
Tri-State used to be one of the recruiting premiere events this weekend. Regional teams came to New Jersey and New England teams went to Amherst for the Mid Summer Classic. Both events are now competing with the Under Armour games in Maryland, NXT Summer Invitational in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, and the Jersey Shootout. Why does that matter? D1 schools can only have three coaches on the road and teams have more tournament options. Have you ever been able to be in two places at once?
Are there less college coaches at Tri-State because the top teams are going elsewhere? Or. are the top teams going elsewhere because they know college coaches aren’t going to Tri-State? (I’ve decided not to mention any teams that attended Tri-State in the past but were not present this summer.)
Recruiting has really changed over the last four years. Most Division 1 teams have their 2015s already locked up which means 60+ schools are not watching 2015 athletes play this summer. Now that Division 1 schools are taking commits from rising juniors, sophomores, and freshmen and they are filling those classes, you might not see as many coaches on the road.
The accelerated recruiting process makes the fall more important than the summer, which means later summer events are less valuable than events in June. If athletes are giving verbal commitments the first weekend of November, they make not need to be out on the road in mid July. This isn’t just D1 schools either. Top tier D3 programs are finishing up their incoming classes shortly after July 1st when prospective athletes don’t get the calls they were hoping for from D1 schools.
Tri-State isn’t the must visit stop on the recruiting trail it once was just two or three years ago. If your club promised you recruiting looks by attending Tri-State they made a mistake if your team is filled with rising seniors and juniors. However, there are still great things about the event and I will likely be back to watch in 2015 if I’m at the Jersey Shore that weekend in July.
While the talent pool isn’t the same, there were still some very good clubs in attendance. The Dukes, Prime Time, Long Island Express, and of course Tri-State were in attendance. If you should happen to be from a developing or emerging area, getting the opportunity to play against these proven squads is hugely beneficial win or lose. Beating a team from the east coast, could jump start lacrosse back home. Losing to a team like the Dukes, allows you to test yourself against the best in the country and provide a barometer for your program. Philadelphia, Long Island, Baltimore lacrosse players are human beings. They just happen to be human beings who have spent a lot of time on their craft. Competing against the blue bloods in person helps demystify the hotbeds.
Tri-State is the definition of a grind. Some teams had to play two games on Friday. Some teams had to play four games on Saturday. It’s always 85 plus degrees if not 95 like it was in 2013, a day after it poured. There is minimal shade so you better have team tents ready to go. The crucible that is Tri-State will forge life long memories and friendships for some teammates. If you don’t try to survive together, you will crumble as individuals to paraphrase and soften a famous Al Pacino quote.
Teams from Utah, California, Kansas City, Illinois, and Ohio traveled to New Jersey this past weekend to compete. Previously years, teams have come as far as Florida and Minnesota. Teams competing against different styles of play and coaching as well as sharing the field with athletes from different time zones is a great way to diversify the event and gauge competition.
The newly added Tournament Machine app was excellent allowing you to easily review tournament schedules and standings from your phone without having to sort through a giant chart of team numbers, game times, and field locations. (If Tournament Machine and other game day apps aren’t standard issue for events in 2015, you’re not going events that care about the participants.)
Why go to Princeton Junction, New Jersey to play in a lacrosse tournament in 2015? You’re going to get to play teams from all over the country in a championship format while battling the elements with teammates you likely don’t call teammates in the spring. Tri-State isn’t what it once was but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great event for the sport and for developing young people.
Senior AA: Twist Black
Junior AA/A: Primetime 2016
Sophomore AA/A: Garden City 2017
U15: Long Island Express 2018