One of the greatest aspects of the sport of lacrosse is the general embracing of superior academics as being just as important as superior play on the field. Even Division I top 25 programs will reject superior blue chip lacrosse players before rather than admit a great athlete who is an academic slacker.
This is the reason why academic powerhouse programs like Harvard, Cornell, Princeton, Brown and Johns Hopkins are also college lacrosse powerhouses. It is also the reason why in general the quality of Division II lacrosse lags behind that of Division III Lacrosse. With Division III lacrosse programs having a greater wealth of high academic achievement colleges in comparison to Division II, they tend to attract the better players.
Let us take out of the equation that professional lacrosse does not pay all that well, and simply take a look at the percentage of college athletes that go on to play at the professional level. According to NCAA.org statistics averaging 5 sports (basketball, baseball, football, lacrosse, hockey), only 3.4% of NCAA college athletes will go on to play at the professional level. That static is actually artificially inflated by baseball with 10.9% of college players going on to play professional ball, the majority of which bounce around A, AA, and AAA Minor League baseball for a while but ultimately fall short of making the Major Leagues. Take baseball out of the average calculation, then the probability of a college athlete playing professionally drops to 1.96%.
The bottom line is that for the vast majority of college athletes, their athletic career will be finished after their NCAA eligibility expires and they are faced with the rest of their life having to rely on careers that their academic achievements prepared them for. When I hear of some of the abysmal graduation rates of college football players, a sport where only2% of players go on to play professionally, I am saddened the fact that such little emphasis is placed on having academics play a more prominent role in the sport’s culture. My intent is not to just pick on football, as this is prevalent in other sports as well.
I remember we I was a kid and despite lacrosse being very popular in my town, our parents (our Dads especially) were so resistant to those of us that left baseball for lacrosse as our chosen spring sport. Part of it was that lacrosse was foreign to them, but part of it was that they had some inner pipe dream that their children may go on to play sports professionally. Consequently, the answer I heard all too frequently from our Dads was “Why lacrosse? There’s no money in that?” (There was no Major League Lacrosse until 2002) Such sentiments imply that the primary reason to play youth sports is to one day play professionally, which completely is not only unrealistic, but completely misses the point of youth sports participation.
I do believe that professional lacrosse in the not so far off future will be a lucrative career. I also hope that will be the case, as dedicated full time professional lacrosse players would raise awareness of the sport and bring it ever closer to the main stream. However, I also hope when that does happen, that lacrosse maintain its dedication and commitment to academics first and foremost.
Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of subjects and platforms. In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport. He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse though his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.