Sifting Through The College Lacrosse Recruiting Conundrum

As parents, we are barraged with this issue virtually on a daily basis.  Whether it is an invite to create a profile on Captain U to get your kid’s name in front of college coaches or paying big money for college prospect camps, we are confronted with information overload when it comes to college lacrosse recruitment.

Big money club teams that claim to have the reputation and relationships with college coaches to get your child noticed is another increasing reality of youth and high school lacrosse.  This has become a big money industry that is lining the pockets of many, whiling costing parents a small fortune just to keep up.

The main questions are:

  • Is this all necessary?
  • Are prospect camps and high end club teams worth the money and time commitment?
  • When is the appropriate time to start all of this?

In a recent interview my friend and co-host Steve Jordan and I recently had with Florida Tech Men’s Lacrosse Assistant Coach Mark Penn on our Lacrosse and Sport Podcast, we learned that the answer is not straight forward.  I would encourage anyone interested in the college recruiting process to take a listen in the player above.

Mark was very clear that all college lacrosse programs have access to tournament databases to send personalized e-mails to parents inviting them to camps and clinics billed as “prospect camps.”  While they may be addressed seemingly directly from the head coach of that given program, according to Mark, unless you or your child has had direct correspondence with that coach, it is likely that he does not have any idea who your child is.

That begs the next point, knowing that the head coach does not know your child, is it worth paying the money and travel to go to that school to try to get noticed by that coach?  The answer Mark gave was not likely.  Prior to prospect camps, coaches have already had multiple points of contact (directly or indirectly) with the players attending that they are most interested in and subsequently come into those camps with a heavy bias toward these players.  On the other hand, if there has been legitimate outreach from a coach attending a prospect camp toward your child, knowing you are on his radar, it may well be worth attending.  The main point here is, some level of correspondence being a big key in the worth of a given prospect camp.

How about club teams?  Are they worth it from a college recruiting perspective?  Mark’s answer was maybe.  Per Mark, your average tournament is not typically crawling with college lacrosse scouts looking for their next recruits.  The main benefit in reality in playing club lacrosse in the end is getting better, playing at the highest possible level, and most importantly, having fun.

Mark noted that there are some caveats to this, but generally, especially in emerging lacrosse markets like my home state of Florida, it is realistically only players that play on teams that play out of state from the Mid-Atlantic north that generally get legitimate notice from top tier college teams.

The other caveat would be an in state team whose coach for whatever reasons may be well connected with college coaches and has the chops and reputation to get one of his players noticed.  In the end, a player still needs to perform, as club coaches will not risk damaging their reputation and credibility in recommending players that are not legitimate candidates for a given college lacrosse program.

Coach Mark Penn expanded on the podcast about many other nuances about the college lacrosse recruiting process from eye opening realities, to very helpful tips in fostering direct communication with college lacrosse coaches.  There is much more information on this topic in the podcast that I am able to list here.

As lacrosse club director, I left my conversation with Coach Mark Penn feeling a lot more capable of advising my players and parents.  Still, there is no substitute for hearing it directly from a straight talking gentleman who recruits college players year in and year out for a living.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics 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 through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Things To Look Forward To In 2018 For Lacrosse

Every year changes are made in the game of lacrosse in an attempt to continually improve the experience and growth of our beloved sport.  Changes come primarily from US Lacrosse and occasionally from other governing bodies like the NCAA.  Most of the time, changes end up being for the better.

For 2018, one of the exciting developments carrying over into youth lacrosse groups from last year is youth leagues across the country taking the plunge to implement small ball for optimal development of young lacrosse athletes.  The small ball approach maintains smaller field sizes and team sizes.  The result is that players get more touches of the ball and remain more consistently engaged in play.  See the link below for the current US Lacrosse youth small ball guidelines:

https://www.uslacrosse.org/blog/us-lacrosse-announces-new-boys-youth-rules

What spurred this initiative was reporting by the Sport and Fitness Industry Association that 2007 – 2014, the number of children aged 6-12 participating in traditional sports (baseball, basketball, football, soccer, softball, track and field) dropped precipitously from 35% to 27%.  During the same time, the same study concluded that hockey participation grew by a stellar 43% (lacrosse during this time lacrosse grew by a more modest 29%).

Looking to emulate the success of USA Hockey in shortening the size of the hockey rinks and goals for young lacrosse players led to the new small ball standard for maximizing development and enjoyment in the the sport of lacrosse.

From the college recruiting side of lacrosse, we can look forward to a new era where young lacrosse players can enjoy the sport without the pressure of the college recruiting process.  In a vote that went down last year, college coaches are now prohibited from making contact with players before September of their junior year of high school.  In a college recruiting process that had players signing commitment letters as ridiculously early as 7th grade, this is a huge development.

As already mentioned, this restriction facilitates unbridled enjoyment of the sport without the pressure of the college recruiting process that can be overwhelming to young athletes. It also evens the playing field for young athletes that are late bloomers that may have otherwise gotten passed over in the recruiting process simply because they needed more time to hit puberty.

In girls and women’s lacrosse news for 2018, they will now be allowed to use lacrosse sticks with pockets strung with mesh.  This will offer girls and women more variation in their preference for different pocket types that the boys and men’s game has enjoyed since the 1980’s.  Lax.com has already begin selling girls and women’s lacrosse heads strung with custom mesh pockets for 2018.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics 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 through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Off Limits Part 2 – Its Official! No NCAA College Lacrosse Recruiting Prior to Junior Year Of High School!

On April 14, 2017, the NCAA Division I Council voted to prohibit contact with prospective lacrosse athletes, including offers and commitments, until Sept. 1 of their junior year of high school.

High school coaches from both public and private schools said the new initiative will slow down the recruitment process, giving college prospect athletes more time to evaluate their options at the next level. It especially benefits late-bloomers, who are currently left competing for fewer roster spots with many of them already having been filled by underclassmen.

“I think the general consensus is, it’s a good idea, to let’s slow this down,” said Ireton Coach Rick Sofield,“What it does do is, for those really elite blue chip athletes, it means they gotta wait. I don’t know that really hurts them in any way. In fact it probably helps them without even knowing it.” Sofield adds, “What freshman knows for sure what college they’re going to?  They haven’t even finished algebra.”

In addition to not necessarily having a feel for what school a young student athlete may want to attend, not allowing college recruiters access to young athletes will reduce the pressure to perform and enhance their enjoyment of the sport of lacrosse.  Thinking back to my own playing days, I could not fathom what it would have been like to play the sport knowing that whether or not I made a college roster depended on my performance at the prepubescent age of 14 (I was a late bloomer).

I am cautiously optimistic about this new development, but the moment new rules are imposed, there is often near instantaneous pursuit to find loopholes to get around them.  I will be interested to not only see the complete language of the resolution, but seeing how its logistical enforcement plays out.

Once thing is for certain, this vote is most certainly one big step in the right direction.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics 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 through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Off Limits! The “Scourge” Of College Lacrosse Early Recruiting And The Pending Vote To Finally Stop It

Boys and girls are being recruited for college lacrosse as early at 7th grade, some signing letters of intent before even reaching high school.  It is wrong on so many levels and it is exerting negative effects not just in the sport of lacrosse, but across the spectrum of youth athletics.  College coaches often dislike this practice as much as anyone, but are loathe to stop because they feel that if they do not do the same, they may miss out on the the next great blue chip athlete that may be program changer.

US Lacrosse CEO Steve Stenersen has branded the early recruiting epidemic as a “scourge” that is damaging to the sport of lacrosse (and youth sports in general).  Lacrosse participation has leveled off.  Single sport specialization is at an all time high, as are overuse injuries that are clearly associated with single sport specialization at a young age.  70 percent of youth athletes are quitting organized sports by the age of 13, and college transfers are at an all time high.

Beyond these facts, the pressure being placed on young athletes to perform is unprecedented and is zapping the fun out of lacrosse and other sports.  While a minority of parents relish in the notion that they are spending crazy amounts of money to keep their child playing year round on multiple state and national club teams, the financial strain and time commitment that cuts into precious family time is troubling to many others.  Look no further than the high divorce rates of families that commit all of their resources and time to making their child a singing or acting star to see why such a course is not healthy.

Says WLCA president Alicia Groveston, “We are at a tipping point….Some sanity could be restored to the recruiting process.”  What she is referring to is NCAA DI Council Proposal 2016-26, the vote of which if passed, would ban all college coach contact with youth and high school athletes until September 1 of their junior year of high school.  The vote will take place when the Council meets April 13-14 2017.

If the measure does not pass, it may not come up again for consideration for another 2 years or longer.  For the sake of the kids and the sport we love, let us hope good sense and a commitment to the greater good prevails.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of tpics 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 through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.