[Editor’s Note: The Behind the Whistle editorial staff has received two blog entries on the subject of early recruiting. At the authors’ requests and the editorial staff’s approval, these entries are being published anonymously to protect their identities and maintain privacy.]
Prospective Student-Athlete Perspective
Every night I set my alarm for 5:30 am. I wake up with it dark outside, and I go downstairs, all while the rest of my family is sleeping. I live 45 mins to an hour away from my high school. Luckily, I have been part of a carpool that meets 15 minutes away from home, so my mom doesn’t need to drive from my house all the way to school every morning. In the afternoon, I am in a carpool with boy’s lacrosse players, so I don’t usually get home until 7:30 pm to start my homework. I came to St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School my freshman year. My parents and I knew that the school would provide me with an outstanding academic environment, as well as a strong athletic program. We knew that sacrifices would have to be made with the long commute. I went from talking about what high school I would attend to what college I would attend within a span of one year. I was only 14, but I was going to college camps, clinics, college tours and meeting with coaches. This was very intimidating and seemed very silly to me. I didn’t know what I wanted in a school, the size of the student body, or the location, let alone what I wanted to major in. I answered a lot of questions with “I don’t know,” or just said what my parents and coaches said I should say.
The pressure of recruiting as well as coming to a new school and starting high school lacrosse almost turned me against the sport I loved. The pressure came from all over; the college coaches were asking questions about what I wanted in a program, and my parents didn’t realize I was only 14 and didn’t know that I wanted. Even my own teammates played a role in the pressure when they knew they needed to stand out when a coach was at a club game watching.
I wish I had more time to mature before I had to make a decision regarding where I was committing to college. The stress of making a decision just to be like everyone else was overwhelming. Attending many camps and clinics in the 9th grade gave me little free time, especially since I played other sports. I am one of the lucky ones, and I am still excited to attend the school I chose when I was 15. At the time, I wish I had been able to make that decision when I was older and knew what I was looking for in a college.
Middle-School Coach Perspective
If a seventh or eighth grader’s focus is on college recruitment, they are missing what is most important, which is their development. Youth sports these days has turned into a money maker in all realms. As a program director, and eighth grade club team coach, I have seen too many parents turn their focus to spending their extra funds on private lessons and programs aimed on giving their child a leg up in the college recruitment process. Most of my days are spent receiving calls from parents worried about having their daughter get the “right’ opportunities to allow their daughter to get recruited. As a coach and director, it is alarming when players and parents focus on recruitment rather than the development piece.
My practices and my core values as a coach have always been at developing the whole player- a great person, great athlete, and great lacrosse player. Each one of my practices focuses on building strong fundamentals and a strong foundation to help develop a strong lacrosse IQ and athlete. However, most of my days are spent calming parents down in the recruitment process. I wonder why this is? As a seventh and eighth-grader, the pressure of getting recruited early has turned this process into a stress-filled ordeal. This phenomenon not only effects lacrosse but baseball and other sports as well.
As a director and coach I am always looking at different programs and looking at the best coaches to see how they do it and why they do it. Coaching and developing great players to lay a good foundation is a process, however, steps in the process are skipped along the way if recruitment is the focus. Athletes are skipping steps, and coaches, more often than not, are simply selecting the best athletes and rolling out balls for them to play with, rather than focusing on coaching them and making them better.
There is a problem when you see an eighth-grader in tears from the pressure she is receiving both on and off the field, so much so that she can’t even enjoy playing for her school. There is a problem when a parent of a seventh-grade player is more focused on whether their daughter will still get early recruited if their daughter isn’t going to grow. There is a problem when a kid is thrown into private lessons four to five days out of the week after playing for their school. There is a problem when players skip an opportunity to play with their club team to go to a recruiting event as an eighth-grader. There is a problem when a middle school player is spending every week and weekend in the summer playing lacrosse. There is a problem when a child tells you they felt they can have fun playing lacrosse after they get recruited. There is a problem when you have college coaches watching seventh-graders. There is a problem when a child, as a seventh-grader, receives emails from recruiting sites telling them coaches are trying to contact your daughter.
The culture shift around lacrosse has changed from development to recruitment. I am not sure where it started but can tell you as a program director, it hasn’t started at the club level or from our directors. It has come from parents as they hear more and more of the eighth-graders or rising eighth-graders who have committed. If college coaches want the best players, don’t you think they will want the most talented athletes with great fundamentals?