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The Crisis of Early Recruiting in Lacrosse

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Every summer thousands of young lacrosse players ranging from 4th graders to rising seniors in high school travel the country to various tournaments. The goal, especially for the high school athletes, is to achieve the dream of playing collegiate athletics. College coaches line the sidelines to evaluate the potential talent and find the next big name All-American to help fill their rosters. The combination of eager athletes, eager parents, and the pressure for coaches to get the best talent has created a recruiting pandemic in the world of lacrosse.

It is not uncommon for the top Division I schools to have a recruiting class filled before that class even begins their junior year in high school. Recently some athletes have even committed to colleges before their freshman seasons in high school. Insidelacrosse.com has reported several athletes in the high school class of 2018 that have already verbally committed to schools such as Ohio State and Syracuse. No one party should be blamed for the rapid increase in early recruiting, but it is instead a combination of several factors. Parents pay thousands of dollars each summer for their sons to compete on club teams. Parents expect these club coaches to talk with college coaches and accelerate the recruiting process. The result is both parents and coaches facilitating premature discussions with college coaches on behalf of the student athlete. Collegiate coaches feel a similar pressure. Many dislike the idea of recruiting an athlete that has yet been able to mature and develop as a player, but coaches feel the pressure to get commitments before their rival counterparts. The lack of NCAA regulations regarding the timetable of recruiting has contributed significantly to the pressure of coaches reaching for early commitments.

One of the biggest issues with early recruiting relates to the athlete. How can a 15-year-old freshman in high school be expected to make a decision on where he wants to attend college when he is 3 years away from that point in his life? Personally I changed my mind well over a dozen times before I made my final decision on where I wished to spend an important four years of my life. In no way would I have had confidence in my decision had I made it a few months before, let alone three years before the spring of my senior year.

 

Another major issue with early commitments is personal athletic development. A lot of maturing occurs between 15-18 years old, whether it is physical or mental. College coaches have no way of predicting how an athlete will mature during his high school years. Many high caliber players have slipped through the cracks in recent years, simply because they matured slightly later then their peers. One of the more significant examples of an athlete being overlooked is the story of Rob Pannell. Pannell went on to become the Tewaaraton Trophy winner in 2013 and he holds the Division I lacrosse scoring record. In an interview conducted by Lacrosse Magazine Pannell discusses how he was hardly recruited during his high school career. He speaks to maturing later than his peers and to his less than flashy style of play. Pannell went on to take a post-graduate year at the Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts. After finding that both Penn and Brown did not have room for Pannell on their rosters he finally found a place at Cornell. Pannell’s story is not alone in the world of Division I lacrosse, but it provides a perfect example of top-level talent being overlooked because of early recruiting.


There needs to be a change in collegiate lacrosse recruiting. College coaches must work together to create policies that will inhibit early recruiting. Club coaches and parents must work together to counter the current culture, which places so much pressure on young athletes to commit before they are mentally or physically ready. The majority of college coaches shares this opinion. University of North Carolina head coach Joel Bresci is quoted on insidelacrosse.com as saying that, “Everybody wants to recruit later, there is no doubt about it. It would be excellent to gain a few more years to watch the kids grow and develop and get more years under their belt academically. We feel like we’re really working together to make a change because quite frankly nobody loves early recruiting.” It will take an effort from both collegiate coaches and the NCAA to create rules and regulations that will set the recruiting timetable back to a more reasonable time in the high school athlete’s career, but in the mean time we must accept the fact that early recruiting has become a fixture in the world of lacrosse. 

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Sources:

http://www.insidelacrosse.com/

http://www.laxmagazine.com/landing/index