February 24, 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

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 Five of the series provides advice on how to interract with college coaches. This article appears in the February issue of LM, a US Lacrosse publication available exclusively to its members. Join today to start your monthly subscription.

Recruiting U: Best Foot Forward

by Nelson Coffin | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Dom Starsia remembered a recruit who yawned repeatedly throughout an interview. "That was the last contact we ever had with him," he said.
© John Strohsacker/

For a prospective college lacrosse player, there's so much more to salesmanship than selling a fake on the field.

Before making a special move to the goal, he or she has to go into full recruiting mode - the time when prep players seek the most desired destination in which to spend the next four years of their lives.

It's an opportunity for players to put their best feet forward as the search for a new team at a new level begins in earnest. And, of course, that's a two-way street, considering college programs must also make their pitch to the brightest high school stars.

But more often than not, it's up to the recruit to take a few timid steps while learning the business side of a sport they have previously played for grins and giggles. Coaches know what they want, and recruits have to figure out how to fit in at their school of choice.
With that, Lacrosse Magazine offers five tips to maximizing interactions with college coaches.

1. Be candid.
The first rule recruits should understand is that money talks.

According to Georgetown women's coach Ricky Fried, the simple economics of recruiting may dictate who ends up going where.

"We have to part ways with many players that we would have liked to have because of money or admissions reasons," he said. "I think the two most important aspects in the recruiting process are admissibility and affordability. This is where the parents need to have very candid discussions with their kids. College is very expensive and there are only 12 scholarships for a fully-funded program. On a team of 30 players that averages out to 40 percent. With schools costing in excess of $40,000-$50,000 a year, that is still a lot of money."

Honesty within family discussions and with coaches is paramount.

2. Reach out.
Division I coaches are not allowed to contact any recruits before Sept. 1 of their junior year in high school, but there is a simple way around that roadblock.

"Parents are so much more sophisticated about recruiting now," Virginia men's coach Dom Starsia said. "They know they can initiate contact with coaches to get the process going."

In Division III, no such impediments exist, although neither do athletic scholarships.

"We can call anytime to get a dialogue going and get academic information," Middlebury men's coach Dave Campbell said.

To arrive at that point of potentially being invited for a campus visit, the majority of recruits must find a way to be seen.

"Kids reach out through videos and e-mails," he said. "That's how the process starts for a lot of these kids."

Sending videos or DVDs is common, although it doesn't always work.

"We do accept them," Louisville women's coach Kellie Young said. "However, unless the video impresses (assistant coach) Matt (Lawicki) or we see the player at an event and want further evaluation on video, I don't see it."

If you're going to send in game footage, make it good, because in-person evaluations probably count for more.

"We probably get 300 or so tapes or DVDs a year," he said. "They mostly end up on (assistant) Hannon Wright's desk. I don't get a lot of kids off tape."

3. Speak well.
Be it on an official or unofficial visit, you'll likely meet with a coach. Consider the whole visit an interview that starts the moment you set foot on campus.

Young said face-to-face meetings are an integral part of recruiting.

"Can they articulate themselves during a visit? Can they express their strengths, weaknesses,
excitement, concerns?" she said.

"My style of coaching is passionate and intense. I set high expectations for my student-athletes and my program and challenge these young women to dig deeper and give more than they ever thought possible. To excel within this program, a young woman must be able to communicate, to walk into my office and ask questions, give her input, listen and hear what I am saying."

Starsia remembered a recruit who yawned repeatedly throughout an interview.

"That was the last contact we ever had with him," he said.

4. Look sharp.
If clothes don't make the man - or woman - they still send a message that coaches interpret.

"Our staff [dresses in] business casual on visits in an attempt to show our recruits and future players that we treat this job as a business," Young said. "Once at Louisville, our players are also expected to be in business casual for any pre-arranged meeting with a member of the coaching staff, an administrator, the press or for public appearances."

St. Paul's (Md.) School coach Rick Brocato said he counsels his charges how to make a good initial impression.

"You have to look sharp," said Brocato. "Coach (Dave) Urick (Georgetown men) and coach (Joe) Breschi (North Carolina men) told me how good our kids looked on their visits, and that's a big part of recruiting. You have to coach them up a little bit about it, because they're just 16- and 17-year-old kids."

5. Be thorough.

One visit, one interview, one interaction - keep it in perspective as just parts of a larger process that you should control. That includes additional research into other options.

Notre Dame (Md.) Prep defense wing Jessica Gring e-mailed several coaches despite not knowing exactly what she was looking for.

"I just wanted to put my name out there, and was hoping for something," she said.

The first response she received was from Denver coach Liza Kelly.

Although Gring had a connection to the Denver program in that her club team coach, Dudley Shoemaker, was Kelly's father, Gring kept her options open despite a terrific meeting with Kelly and her players on the DU campus.

Gring visited Stanford and strongly considering Louisville and Rutgers. Ultimately, she signed with Denver after a process her father, Jim, called "interesting" and remarkably above board. He said that coaches at schools with whom the Grings had initial contact, such as Fried at Georgetown and Maryland's Cathy Reese, were straightforward.

"We never felt like we were being fed a line," he said.

Nor should you in the search for a college lacrosse home.

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