August 27, 2014

Early Recruiting and the Club Lacrosse Conundrum

by Justin Feil |

Seven Points for Parents

1. Beware the recruiting racket.

2. Seek the best experience (and not necessarily the best team).

3. Ask the right questions.

4. Respect boundaries.

5. Support your kid's team in a positive fashion.

6. Beware the burnout factor.

7. Encourage your kid to play multiple sports.

Adapted from the March 2014 edition of Lacrosse Magazine. Join US Lacrosse to start your subscription.

Lacrosse Magazine writer Justin Feil talked to scores of coaches, parents and players about early recruiting trends, the role club lacrosse programs and showcase events play in the process and sometimes perpetuating a culture of fear.

Feil's article, "Beware the Recruiting Racket," originally appeared in the March 2014 edition of Lacrosse Magazine. An updated and enhanced version of the article can be found here.

Here's some bonus material from the cutting room floor.

"I want to see if he makes varsity. What's the point of going insane with my aspirations if they're not his aspirations?"

— LB3 Lacrosse coach and former Washington & Lee player Jay Foster, father of Upper Dublin (Pa.) High freshman Sanjay Foster, on delaying registration for showcase events until he can make an honest assessment of his son's lacrosse aptitude and commitment

"For once in four years, I'm going to look out for my son. You have a pool of coaches from the top programs, but those guys are fairly young wearing flip-flops and sunglasses. I'm not putting him through the recruiting process." — Foster

"What you don't know is a lot of these clubs have deals with these tournaments. 'We'll play yours if you play ours.' There are alliances... It can be a bit of a money-grab. There are business decisions being made by the clubs, not necessarily in the best interest of the game or players." — Foster

"Many clubs like to claim they are the reason a player got recruited. Here, we do not. We are just part of their process. We are part of the parent-school-club triumvirate that helps players on their journey. Our focus is on helping these kids become better lacrosse players that are both more tactically, technically proficient and mentally stronger."

— Ryan McClernan, founder and executive director of the Baltimore Lacrosse Club (BLC) Crabs, as told to

"There's some communication that has to take place to get some insight on these kids. You have to go through those guys to get to those players. At the Division III level, since I've been back here, I've reached out to club coaches to see who's out there and who hasn't committed yet. They've become a big piece of this."

— Penn assistant Jim Stagnitta, head men's lacrosse coach at Arcadia at the time of this interview

"I was surprised. Despite being on the other side. I don't know that there's many people more prepared and more balanced for the process than we would be. There was still a real level of stress. The performance anxiety of showing up at these events and knowing how you did that day would impact what sort of feedback you got that day. I can see the stress it causes a kid."

— Stagnitta, whose son, Matt, committed to Johns Hopkins in 2013, on attending recruiting events as a parent

"The clubs that get their teams to the tournaments where coaches are, tend to be the clubs that send the most kids to college, unless it's an individual exposure event. Sometimes a club evaluation can be more important than individual because they play together. — Stagnitta

"My 2020 team, they're incredible. Never lost a game. Just won a national championship, outscoring teams, 151-7. They're already being invited to team camps, going to tour a couple campuses and invited to be guests of some Division I teams. They are exceptional, but that's way it is."

— Stony Brook women's lacrosse coach Joe Spallina, also boys' lacrosse coach for Team 91's 2020 Crush

"My word is as good as ink on paper. I don't think anyone's in love with the process of committing ourselves to [ninth-grade] boys or girls. What club they're playing in is important. If I commit to a ninth-grader, I need to know where he's going to be trained for the next four years." — Spallina

"Club lacrosse is similar to honors classes. I want my kids with the best teachers, the best students." — Spallina

"Less is more. I'd rather your son play three or four days a week at 100 percent than six days a week at 70 percent." — Spallina

"You're telling sophomores in high schools, 'You better get moving or you're going to miss the boat.'" — Spallina

"You have to be closely affiliated with the club scene. That's where you're getting your players. It's important for their business. It's important for your business." — Spallina

"When you're recruiting kids so early, you're almost forced to analyze things that you wouldn't with a later commit. How tight are the parents? Are they helicopter parents?" — Spallina

"You have to be honest when you assess [your kid's] talent. Can they go righty and lefty? How's their skill? Are they really an attackman or you want them to be an attackman? Self-assessment is the best thing." — Spallina

"Guys pay for their seven pieces of uniform, $275, and pay to play at tournaments. If at the end of the year, we're at $0, we're ahead of the game. We're invited to a zillion tournaments. Everyone wants to use our name once we say yes."

— Ebe Helm, Duke's (Pa.) Lacrosse Club coach

"We've never been about money. We know a lot of teams we compete with and a lot of the coaches, they're making a living and some are making some scary, scary dollars. Many people have said, 'You can charge out your you-know-what, and you could make a killing.'" — Helm

"It's very infrequent we'd have a practice. At the end of the spring, headed into summer, we'll have player evaluation sessions to pick Duke's 1 and Duke's 2. We have a 150-page playbook. With ninth-graders, I'll do the offense and Jason Christmas will do the defense. They'll understand the schemes... When they come out with us, we treat them like all-stars. We want them to read and react." — Helm

"As parent, want what's best for your child. You don't want to ruin his dreams, but you want to make sure they go to the right place. There is bad exposure if they go to tournaments over their heads, if you go to tournaments where coaches are crossing their names out and saying, 'He's not at this level.'"

— Hofstra men's lacrosse coach Seth Tierney

"There's no memory in recruiting. An all-new set of ninth- and 10th-grade parents coming through recruitment don't know the potholes. There's always new people in and new clubs in it. High school coaches play a role too, and see a kid in hallways. A lot of guys have left the high school guys out, and they probably have a better relationship with all the intangibles. Some of these kids that have signed might not have even met the varsity coach. Kids are going to verbal commit and coaches are going to de-commit if they go on a stray path." — Tierney

"Too much of anything is bad for anyone. Too much cheeseburgers. Too much health food. Too much lacrosse. The club guys, they're playing winter lacrosse, school team in spring. Then June and July, they race around the country to see how many tournaments you can play. Some clubs practice all the time. Are those kids burning out?" — Tierney

"It gets this bad name: all club is people out to take people's money. There are a lot of questionable practices, but in club lacrosse, there's a lot of good people doing good things, helping developing players and helping them through the college search and recruiting process."

— Denver assistant Trevor Tierney, director of Tierney Lacrosse and president of the National Scholastic Club Lacrosse Association

"Some of these club teams are going to get kids from all over the country so they can win tournaments, so they can get kids to sign up and raise their costs. When winning is be-all and end-all, it can drive us in a direction that's not geared toward development." — Trevor Tierney

"For our club, our mission is different. A lot of clubs run their clubs with promises of college scholarships and the ability to get seen by coaches. We explain to our parents, the most important part is the educational side. That's what's missing from club programs. A lot are so worried about the tournaments. We run about 20 practices during the season. Our goal is to prepare players so if they're seen, they're at the top of their game."

— Liam Banks, founder and director of LB3 Lacrosse

"I noticed the deterioration of stick skills. I noticed kids were not skilled. Lot of guys were putting together 'all-star' teams. My passion is to grow the game of lacrosse. — Banks, on why he started LB3 in 2005

"It takes 10,000 hours of practice to be great at something." — Banks

"We're dealing with young men. Threatening their future is a very dangerous thing to do... There are people who are high school coaches who say, 'If you don't play for me, you're not going to play for me in the spring.'" — Banks

"It's not cheap. Probably between travel and food, maybe $4,000 a season, maybe a little more. To us, as a family, becuase Kaitlyn wanted to do it, this is our vacation... It's definitely an investment."

— Kathy Weeks, mother of current Boston College women's lacrosse player Kaitlyn Weeks, who played for Ultimate Lacrosse in New Jersey

"My advice for him, and when I was coaching, is looking at the schools you're interested in and we'll go recruit them."

— Hall of Fame player and former Dartmouth and Utica men's lacrosse coach Tim Nelson, whose son, Connor, is a rising sophomore at New Hartford (N.Y.) High

"He needs to play a lot of basketball right now. That'll help him in lacrosse." — Nelson

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