April 7, 2009

Part One (Sept. 2008): Free Fall? | Peer Review: Shannon Smith
Part Two (Oct. 2008): Passport to Campus | Peer Review: Gordie Wells
Part Three (Nov. 2008): Too Vested in Verbals? | Peer Review: Lily Ricci
Part Four (Dec. 2008): Piece of the Pie | Peer Review: Ilyssa Meyer
Part Five (Feb. 2009): Best Foot Forward
Part Six (March 2009): Camp Stories | Peer Review: What Camp Best Fits Me?
Part Seven (April 2009): Be True to Your School?

Recruiting is a topic on which families, prospects, coaches and others expend considerable resources, time and emotion. Lacrosse Magazine will delve into many of the sub-topics involved in a series of articles, augmented by personal stories from young men and women that have recently completed or are in the midst of the recruiting process.

Part Six of the series helps you navigate the summer camp circuit. This article appears in the March issue of LM, a US Lacrosse publication available exclusively to its members. Join today to start your monthly subscription.

Recruiting U: Be True to Your School?

by Brian Delaney | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

"If we keep accelerating the process, it does seem to me like a club team becomes more important, because coaches need to make these decisions of wathcing in the summer and the fall, and that's when club teams are really important."
- Jenny Graap, Cornell women's lacrosse coach

Between the very real pressure some high school student-athletes feel to commit to a college lacrosse program in the early stages of their junior year, coupled with a rising emphasis placed upon competing in the sport year-round through club ball, a unique question has emerged in recent years — does the high school season still matter in terms of the recruiting process?

Without hesitation, several college coaches across the country still say yes. But the answer is not as simple as a one-word response.

“Honestly, I believe the high school team is critically important,” Cornell women’s lacrosse coach Jenny Graap said. “It is meaningful to play on a strong high school team and win games and make your sectional finals and your state tournament. It’s phenomenal. It’s where these student-athletes are learning discipline and leadership, and that’s still the bread and butter of our sport.

“But if we keep going down the route of accelerating the process, it does seem to me like a club team becomes more important, because coaches need to make these decisions of watching in the summer and the fall, and that’s when club teams are really important.”

Graap said she likes to concentrate on her own team during the spring season. When the Big Red’s season ends, she’ll turn her full attention back to prospective recruits.

“I would prefer to focus in on my own team in our traditional season,” she said. “That’s where my priority needs to be. If there’s a day off ... then I think trying to see some games locally is perhaps the only thing that I or my staff will be able to accomplish. But again, I don’t really think that should be our priority at all. We feel comfortable about who we saw in the early process, the ones we’ve already seen play. Watching them again, yes, it’s something we’d love to be able to do, but we can wait until our NCAA tournament is over and get out on the road in early June to the playoff rounds.”

Unlike the fall and summer, when college coaches flock to showcases, camps and club tournaments, recruiting during the spring scholastic season becomes intensely regionalized for those coaches who deem it a priority.

Rutgers men’s coach Jim Stagnitta calls the spring a secondary recruiting season for his program. During the summer/fall evaluation period, the Scarlet Knights’ staff identifies the sophomores, juniors and any remaining uncommitted seniors they want to pursue — a practice that Stagnitta said has changed drastically over the past five years — and then tries to re-evaluate those prospects in the spring depending on their geographic proximity to Rutgers’ central New Jersey campus.

Stagnitta said he and his staff will “see a lot of games in-state.”

“A game a day in-state,” he said. “Within a two-hour area, we’re going to try and get out and pick up our evaluations again, and do what you do in the summer. We’re going to see as many teams in the state as we possibly can. Guys in Pennsylvania and Baltimore are not a bad trip for us, or getting up to Long Island. We get out as much as we can to see guys still on our list. We try to fill those couple of spots that we’ve held.”

For a high school recruit intent on playing for a college program not close to home, added emphasis is being placed on club ball and tournaments, the distribution of highlight tapes and by letting college coaches know you have an interest in their program.

University of Denver women’s coach Liza Kelly said that, aside from keeping an eye on the burgeoning Colorado scholastic scene, the majority of her recruiting work comes on the tournament circuit from May and June through December.

“It does,” she said. “It’s one-stop shopping. You can go to a club tournament and you can see some of the top players around the country without having to drive to New York or Massachusetts to catch some games. You’re going to miss a lot if you just count on the club tournaments, but I think it depends on where your program is.

“I think the spring kind of becomes the double check, like, ‘OK, let’s really take a last look at her.’ That’s when you’re trying to figure out how much money someone’s worth or if you’re trying to put a scholarship on the table.”

The popularity of club lacrosse has skyrocketed over the past decade, with the growing realization that showcases and tournaments provide the most visibility to college coaches who — either by choice or by the geographic realities of this still-growing sport — do little or no recruiting during the spring scholastic season. It has also created a competitive counterculture that benefits the wealthy.

“It’s money that drives this equation, and money comes into play for the families who have the means to pay for the club, pay for the tournament entry fees and pay for the coaching fees,” Graap said. “There’s maybe a few out there not charging a lot of money or doing it as a non-profit, but the majority of lacrosse clubs, it’s a business. People are supporting themselves on that business, and that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that, but some families aren’t going to be able to afford a club team because they don’t have the means.”

A prominent club like the Long Island Express charges an annual fee per player that includes everything from summer tournament dues to equipment to a “player profile” that can be distributed to college coaches. Its Web site offers a payment plan for the $1,260 annual fee, which is standard for all players except for boys graduating in 2010 or 2011. A 20 percent discount is offered for a parents’ second participating child.

One of the recent fall tournaments the Express has played in was the Ultimate Performance Lacrosse Tournament in Annapolis, Md. The tournament’s Web site listed well over 100 college coaches would be in attendance, although several coaches are listed twice or as many as three times on the expansive list.

Kerianne Allen and Aubrey Green, both seniors for the Mount Hebron (Md.) High School girls’ lacrosse team, played club ball with the M&D Lax club.

Club organizers ask for a serious commitment. On the club’s Web site, a bolded warning stresses: “Please do not try out for M&D Lax unless you are fully committed to playing for our program. It is unfair to take a roster spot from someone who really wants to play.” Club dues run $600 for a field player and $325 for both goalies and a second sibling. Those dues include uniforms, insurance, facility rentals, college recruiting assistance and guest clinicians, among other things, but tournament registration fees are paid for separately.

Allen and Green both said they benefited from playing club lacrosse, but making the commitment is a big step.

“Club is really, really expensive,” said Allen, who will play at UMBC next year. “But it was good to do.”

Said Green, who committed to Duquesne: “It helped a lot. It takes a lot of your weekends, because you have to travel a lot to go to tournaments. You practice at least once a week, so you have to schedule that against your family commitments.”

Green said club ball helped best prepare her to become a college prospect.

“If you want to play in college, it gets you ready for it because you’re playing year-round,” she said. “Without it, I wouldn’t have committed.”

When their seasons inevitably end sometime in May, college coaches immediately hit the recruiting trail in time to see high school playoff games. Occasionally, Stagnitta said, he has uncovered a senior player that can help his program — a diamond in the rough. But most of the time, coaches are eyeing freshmen, sophomores and uncommitted juniors.

They also are still adjusting to the rapidly evolving pace of recruiting.

“Everybody’s different,” Stagnitta said. “We’re trying to get our arms around this thing.”

comments powered by Disqus

More Headlines