Words of Wisdom

Since we launched Behind the Whistle in January 2016, we have been very fortunate to receive so many quality contributions, both from the IWLCA membership, and also from the larger lacrosse community. As we prepare for another summer recruiting season, it seemed like a good idea to share some excerpts from previously published entries that apply to the collegiate recruiting process and the high school student-athlete’s journey to become a collegiate lacrosse player. All of the excerpts contained in this entry have been previously published on Behind the Whistle and contain hyperlinks to the original entries. We hope you will revisit the original posts that appeal to you and find the insight of our contributors to be valuable.

I think one of the traits I see in student-athletes that allows them to be successful both while in college and as they graduate to the real world is their ability to communicate directly. Throughout their recruiting process and once they arrived on campus they were put into situations where they have had to correspond and talk with adults in a way many other college students haven’t. While some may be more shy or quiet initially, our student-athletes have an ability to adapt and learn to have greater confidence in interacting with others outside of their peer group – other coaches, recruit families, donors, professors, etc. – and this ability to look someone in the eye and engage with them really benefits them as they pursue opportunities away from the classroom and lacrosse field. – Meghan McDonogh

In the past high school athletes played multiple sports for fun. By the time they were looking at colleges, if they excelled at one of their sports they went on to play at the next level. Exceptional athletes received scholarships. However, at some point playing in middle/high school became a means to an end. When I ask high school athletes why they quit a sport, many reply because they do not want to play in college or that they are not good enough to play in college. When did one become a vehicle for the other? – Sue Stimmel

Do Your Due Diligence. That’s a legal term for “do your homework.” Research. Ask questions. Visit in-person. Talk often, particularly before you make a decision. You want to get to know the people involved, their background, their values, their expectations, their experiences, their way of thinking, their process. What is it really like to play on that team, day in and day out? – Samantha Ekstrand

Be a risk taker! Constantly push your limits. Athletes who have taken a lot of risks by the time they get to my program tend to have more confidence and outperform those who do not. It’s easy to pretend to be “mentally tough” when you are winning and doing well. Confidence comes easy then. The real champions learn how to take adversity and setbacks and turn them into powerful lessons to build off of. If you are not willing to look stupid or make a mistake, nothing great will ever happen to you. – Dennis Short

Please come prepared with questions: What do you want out of a school, a program? This is your future and you need to really think about what you want for your college experience so think about anything you might want to know from the coaching staff. This is your process so please don’t be shy and let your parents do all the talking. As coaches we want to hear from you, as you are the one we are going to be coaching. If you can meet with some members of the team – ask them questions, as they like it when recruits take the initiative and they don’t feel like they need to entertain you or always keep the conversation going. Ask them questions about being a student-athlete. – Karin Corbett in Coaches Talk Campus Visits

The recruiting journey requires communication between coaches and players. Recruiting involves coaches watching you play and evaluating your performance on the field, visits to campuses, emails, phone calls, etc. It also involves coaches evaluating your performance in the classroom. In my opinion, we cannot get a TRUE academic overview until the end of one’s junior year in high school. As a result, the cascading effect that I spoke about in my opening paragraph is set in motion. You could be the best player in the country and a top recruit, but if you are not going to meet the academic admissions standards of the colleges or universities you are exploring at the end of your junior year, it could be game over. So, academics do matter! – Sue Behme

The goal of recruiting is to find the best match. This takes time and research. This new recruiting legislation was intended to give both sides more time to evaluate the potential of this match. Committing to a school is a HUGE decision, arguably one of the most important decisions a student-athlete will make in his or her life. This decision should be an informed one, made with confidence and clarity of mind. Not rushed, harried or pressured. – Everyone Is Watching

When you are going through the recruiting process, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype. When a coach wants you and makes you feel good about yourself as an athlete, it’s difficult to put that aside and really think about what you want from your overall college experience. The thought that you might get hurt and be unable to play is something no one really wants to think about. No one thinks that the remote chance of a career-ending injury will happen to them. – Karen Emas Borbee

Tournament Season – During the tournament seasons (generally November and the summer months), communication is largely centered on ensuring the college coach has the information they need to be able to find you at events and evaluate your play in person (things like specific team name, jersey number, what position you’ll be playing, etc). The key to this type of communication is to do it early – before the coach hits the road to travel to recruiting events. One Division III head coach said “Every year the recruiting events are getting larger more numerous, so it can be overwhelming for both coaches and players. Typically, the Monday before an event is a great time to contact us and let us know that you will be at a certain event.” A Division II assistant shared that “if a recruit emails me the day before, or even during an event, it’s usually too late for me to watch them because my boss already made a schedule of games I need to watch.” And according to a Division I head coach, “It’s really not that difficult to send an email in a timely manner with the information I need to watch them play. But it’s amazing how many kids don’t include what I need or send it early enough to be useful.” – Straight From the Experts

Years of stress about getting recruited, getting seen, getting playing time, getting recognized and getting offers has players entering the collegiate playing world in a broken mindset. The end result of all that drive is not the social media declaration or the day you’re handed a jersey. The end result of that hard work is not a destination, it is the beginning of a long, difficult, but rewarding journey. It has nothing to do with getting anything, and everything to do with giving the result of all that hard work to a group of athletes who all dreamed that same dream to become something incredible together. The coaches who chose you? They chose your potential. No one is recruited to come stay the same and play as they did in high school. The work isn’t done, it hasn’t even scratched the surface. The act of being recruited is all about racing towards the opportunity to join a bigger race. – Kate Leavell

It’s obvious that coaches want to recruit prospects that will fit into their institution academically and into their program athletically. But what else is important to coaches as they go through the recruiting process? One Division II head coach wants to know if prospects participate in community service activities, or have a job. “I think this demonstrates to me that they can multi-task and have a good chance of being able to handle the college workload and budget their time.” An assistant coach for a Division I program said their recruits “need to have high moral character and thrive in structure,” while a Division III coach added, “I love to see recruits who show initiative and who don’t give up.” A different Division II head coach listed “attitude and hard work” as something they look for in prospects. “A student who is comfortable in her own skin is a great intangible because it also indicates some level of self-awareness,” said a Division III head coach. Straight From the Experts, part 2

Perhaps the most important piece of advice in the college recruiting cycle is don’t stop, even after you’ve committed. Too many players think the end goal is committing to a program; that’s when the real work begins. To be competitive in college, you have to continue to play and work on self-improvement. As club coaches we often struggle to field full teams of rising seniors, but if we don’t give our college bound athletes the opportunity to stay competitive and continue to work on development, we’ve failed as club directors and we’ve failed their college coaches who recruited them. – Zoë Smith

Play with presence. Stand out by being the hardest working player on the field; cheering for your teammates at every opportunity; being coachable – make eye contact with your coaches and teammates when they speak to you; and show your passion! I don’t want to have to spend 10 minutes trying to find you on the field. Perform under pressure. Yes, we are watching. If you can’t play well when we are watching, then can you handle performing in a high-pressure game? How you manage this is the trick… picture us in panda suits if that works or practice your butt off so that you know you are prepared! – Coaches Share Their Tournament Advice

My hope is that coaches and parents guide recruits to avoid the ghosting route and instead be upfront and honest. Technology is the future and will continue to be the way in which coaches and prospective student-athletes communicate. Not all conversations will be easy, however it doesn’t mean that they can be ignored. The hard conversations are the ones that will shape a student-athlete and prepare them for the future not just on the field but off it too. – Lindsay Hughes

As both a coach and a player I have noticed that there are huge advantages for a multi-sport athlete. There are synergistic results when you cross train that you just wouldn’t see if you focused all your training on one sport. For the women I have coached, I have noticed that they come into their second season in great athletic shape, reaching their fitness times and lift goals. – Sophia Agostinelli

Lastly and most importantly, let us remember that this game is FUN! So let loose, joke around with your teammates, and cherish the time that you have the privilege to be involved in this game. When you look back on your experience with lacrosse, you want it to be with joy, gratitude and love. It’s up to you to create your own experience so go ahead and create it! When the hard days come (which they will) try not to get bogged down in negativity or fear of what you can’t control, just ask yourself the simple question: Why do you play? – Lindsey Munday


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