October 18, 2012

Accelerated Recruiting Creates Culture of Fear

by Justin Feil |

"It was kind of scary to be 16 and have to think about what I was going to major in," said former Ridgewood (N.J.) All-American midfielder Kelci Smesko.
© Dero Sanford

On Thursday, US Lacrosse issued a statement expressing concern over the the complex nature of collegiate recruiting process for high school student-athletes. With this in mind, here is an article on the topic from the May issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription.

It happens all the time in horror films. A nervous pedestrian finds herself in a dark alley only to be ambushed. NCAA Division I women's lacrosse advocates feel that way now. Accelerated recruiting has sent their sport into a spiral.

"There's a really big culture of fear right now," said Quinnipiac head coach Danie Caro.

It's a rat race for the high school athletes competing for scholarships (a maximum of 12 for fully-funded programs), for coaches competing in an arena that has grown to over 100 teams, for parents trying to pay for college and for club teams looking to turn a profit by claiming their players are the most committed.

"I had a sophomore tell me they step out at lunch time to call coaches," said Notre Dame head coach Christine Halfpenny. "They sit in the car and make calls to college coaches. I thought that was wildly outrageous to me. They should be eating lunch and getting ready for algebra."

Some coaches want to ban all contact with sophomores, even on unofficial visits. But the NCAA won't change anything without making sweeping changes across all sports. In fact, new legislation could lead to even less policing of the process.

"Everything in the last year has been geared toward deregulation," said Duke head coach Kerstin Kimel. "It's floored us."

Caro was president of the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) in 2008 when they sent a proposal to the recruiting subcommittee of the academics/eligibility/compliance cabinet of the NCAA with recommended legislation.

"We saw it coming," she said. "We've always known we didn't want to go down the path of basketball, soccer and men's lacrosse."

Even Caro, whose program is not a top-20 team, had finished recruiting her high school class of 2013 by last spring. Last year's college seniors were the first class to commit mostly as juniors, Sailer and Kimel said. Official visits were a formality.

"It will change when you reach a critical mass of coaches who have made bad decisions and players who have made bad decisions," Sailer said. "Then you might get a little bit of a pushback on it."

US Lacrosse Statement on Recruiting

US Lacrosse shares the concern of many lacrosse players, parents and coaches that the college recruiting process is not structured or timed in the best interests ... [Read More]

Kelci Smesko, an All-American senior midfielder out of Ridgewood (N.J.) High, had those concerns when she started to explore schools.

"It was kind of scary to be 16 and have to think about what I was going to major in," she said. "I wanted my heart to be fully in the school I chose. It didn't come easy."

Smesko verbally committed to Duke in December of her junior year, but only after taking unofficial visits to four other schools. She's one of the lucky ones. Schools will wait for a blue chip. She also has parents who steered her through the process.

"Parents are a big part of the process," Halfpenny said. "That's a good thing. They need as much mentoring and guidance as possible. It's not a four-year choice — it's a 40-year choice."

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