Start With the Beginning in Mind!

By Lisa Palmisano, parent of two 2020 recruits  @palmisano4

[Editor’s Note: The author experienced the recruiting journey with her daughters last year, and now wants to help families understand and take some of the guesswork out of the recruiting process. This entry is based in part on a blog post previously published by the author for fllaxgirlnews.com ]

The summer tournaments and recruiting season have basically come to a halt. Many college coaches are going off the grid and on well-deserved vacations before the craziness of September 1st, 2019. If you would try to view the recruiting process with the beginning in mind instead of the end, this will help to alleviate a lot of stress. Eventually the recruiting paradigm will shift. When coaches call the 2021 recruits on September 1, they are beginning to officially recruit their 2021 class. Personally, and from talking to college coaches, I think unless you are a one-percenter, the process will slow down even more this fall than it did for the 2020s. Coaches want to take time to get to know potential student-athletes and athletes will/should have time to get to know the coaches. One coach even predicted that the process may extend into the spring. My heart goes out to the 2021s and their parents, as well as the coaches recruiting them. It’s a challenging process for everyone—especially 16-year-old recruits (thank God they’re no longer 14-year sold). The 2021 class will have phenomenal opportunities. And once the balls start rolling, DO NOT make the mistake of comparing your process with anyone else’s! The recruiting journey travels different roads for every student-athlete.

        Photo courtesy of the author.

First thing—this is of upmost importance—is to have an ordered (or general idea) of your top five to ten schools. Sit down with your parents and share your list. Discuss the costs of each school, go online and do the Net Price Calculator on each school’s website and come up with the amount that your family is comfortable/has budgeted/is able to pay for college per year. Doing this may possibly knock some schools off of your list. You need to know the cost of a school and how feasible it would be for you to attend and pay for throughout four years. Coaches will like to know where you are coming from financially. A “good” lacrosse scholarship is typically 33%. Normally, with most schools, the 33% is based on the Total Cost of Attendance. It’s important to think through if you or your family can afford the 67% you may end up paying? Even if you are offered a 50% athletic scholarship at a $60,000 per year school, you will still be paying $30,000 out of pocket. You need to talk through taking out student loans or choose a school that is within what you can afford.

Make sure you’ve enrolled in the NCAA eligibility center and have copies of your transcripts ready. Also, ask your guidance counselor what your school’s policy on college visits is. Every visit my girls made was excused because we found out what was needed to get it excused from the girls’ guidance counselor. Most schools allow for excused college visits. Also, make sure you communicate with your teachers if you miss any school for visits.

After you have a list in order, contact via email every coach/school that you are homing in on around Wednesday, August 28th. Write in your opening paragraph WHY you want to go to that school! I think it is good to let the school know if they are at the top of your list or even in the top five. The coaches are also stabbing in the dark a little bit from the one-way communication. The restrictions are on the coaches, not on you. Coaches want student-athletes who want to come to their school! If you let a coach know that they are your dream school and if you happen to fit the piece to the puzzle they are looking to assemble… the rest may be history. Maybe you know if ‘X’ school, which is a school that you’ve attended their camp several times, the school fits you academically… if that coach did make you an offer that you and your parents have agreed that you would accept it. If appropriate, you could communicate that in your email. Coaches would most definitely like to hear that—it doesn’t mean you’ll receive an offer, but at least they know where you stand with them and that you would really like to attend their school! ALSO, if you happen to have any coach’s cell #s (ask your club director ahead of time about this) make sure that you put them in your contacts. Only ask for the numbers of your top schools— so if/when you get calls, you will be a bit more prepared because you can see on caller ID who is calling. Parents should be ready because some coaches may accidentally call or text you!

Have your questions ready for the coach and have paper and pen to write down what is important that the coach tells you (visit dates, etc.). Make sure you write down anything said in the conversation that you want to remember.

Possible Questions (*** indicate VIP questions):

***How would you describe your team culture?

What are the team’s goals this year & beyond?

Describe your coaching style/philosophy:

How many 2021 commits do you already have (this was more for 2020s but it is possible that some kids may commit on Sept. 1st or a few committed before the rule changed) –you can ask this in conjunction with– ***How many 2021 commits are you looking for to fill your 2021 recruiting class?

***What positions are you looking to recruit and how many from each position?

***Where do I rank among the 2021s whom you are recruiting?

***Do you help Student-Athletes gain admission to the school?

***What is the GPA needed to get in?

***What SAT/ ACT score is acceptable?

How many student athletes who commit are unable to get in?

What is the Student-Athlete Graduation Rate?

What is the women’s lacrosse team graduation rate?

What academic support is given to the athletes?

***Are there any majors that student-athletes are not allowed to pursue?

What majors do the lacrosse players have?

Is there a program in place that helps athletes to network and find a job after graduation?

How do you see me contributing to your lacrosse program?

If the coach saw you play and told you they watched you at ‘X’ tournament, then ask them if they have any notes on your play and advice to help you improve as a player?

BE PREPARED TO ANSWER QUESTIONS THAT THE COACH MAY ASK YOU:

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS/OBJECTIVE/REASONS YOU WANT TO PLAY LACROSSE IN COLLEGE? BE SURE TO SHARE THE “WHY” YOU WANT TO PLAY LACROSSE IN COLLEGE & HOW YOU SEE THAT SCHOOL AS PART OF REACHING YOUR FUTURE GOALS!

***If a school offers merit aid/academic scholarships (you can find this information on the colleges website), you can ask questions about the academic aid and find out if you can stack academic and athletic aid.

***Find out if athletic scholarships are capped at a certain amount/percentage when combined with academic scholarships? If a coach does not talk about athletic scholarships, table the athletic scholarship questions until later, but you can still ask details about the academic scholarships.

***If invited on a visit, make sure you know if it’s official or unofficial!

***Find out if there is a date to visit when other recruits will be there.

***Ask if you can attend a class on your visit (this will mean going to visit during the week or adding a Friday or Monday to a weekend visit. Make sure you are able to watch a practice when you visit.

Parents: please discuss the do’s & don’ts of visiting a college campus and staying with the athletes. Make sure you’ve discussed making the right choices and how to behave on a visit to a school!

Athletes: Let your parents know what is going on during or after you talk to the college coaches. Either have your phone conversation on speaker or after your calls discuss with your parents the details of the conversation. If your phone is on speaker, the conversation still will only be between you and the coach alone—unless the coach specifically asks to speak with your parents. After every phone call, email or text the coach thanking them for the call. If a coach/school calls that you are not interested in—politely and honestly tell them that! Your goal is to go to a school where you are wanted! Simple-yet profound! No coach wants to recruit a player to sit the bench. Pick a school where you have a shot at making an impact on your team. In your conversation with the coach, make sure you ask how they see you fitting into their team.

Don’t be in a hurry! This is supposed to be the start of the recruiting process and it will most likely take longer than you may anticipate. If you need to take all five official visits and some unofficial visits, then take all the visits and time that you need. You want to find the right fit and the coaches want to find the right player, person and teammate for their program.

If no one calls you, call them! Don’t be afraid to reach out. What do you have to lose? It may be hard to hear that a school is not interested, but it’s better than not knowing. You may possibly be on the “B list” or “C list.” If you really want to go to a certain school, it may still work out. Coaches want players who want to go to their school. There is also nothing wrong with walking on to a team—especially if it may mean admissions help to get in a school that you may not be able to get into without lacrosse. Don’t let the recruiting window close without pursuing your goals and dreams!

Lastly, ENJOY THIS TIME! I was given that advice and thought it was insane. However, I was recently asked, if I could change anything about the recruiting process what would it be? My answer was to not stress as much. For some reason, parents seem to stress way more than the kids going through all of this! Having college coaches call, being invited to visit a school, or being offered a scholarship to play lacrosse in college is an opportunity that few kids have. Enjoy it! Help your kid enjoy it (or as the recruit, help your parents chill out)! Enjoy the relationships that you make with coaches, recruits, players, parents and anyone you meet during this process. It’s a unique and incredible time – don’t ruin it with stress – savor it and take it in! As my girls’ future college coach told me, “Once the girls commit, after all the recruiting stress, it kind of becomes boring because now you have to wait almost two more years until they go to college.” Make the most of the entire experience. It’s a very short season!

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