(The below letter is written from Laxachusetts but is applied to all high school lacrosse players regarding significant changes in the recruiting process regulated by the NCAA)
The latest NCAA legislation has gotten a LOT of attention from the lacrosse community. Colleges can no longer offer admission and/or scholarships to student athletes before September 1st of their junior year. Nor can they communicate with a student athlete before September 1st of their junior year. This legislation has provided significant relief to college coaches. Going forward, they will not feel pressure to finalize their evaluations of student athletes while they are still 14-15 years old. Coaches were concerned that the kids they offer early may not develop as much as projected and they were concerned they missed offering a student athlete not yet matured that could turn out better than the student athletes they had offered. Those concerns have been eliminated. They will continue to evaluate and vet the 14-15 year old student athletes, but they will not have to commit to any of them. They now have a longer time line to evaluate the growth and development of their recruits.
This legislation will deflect a lot of negative attention the sport has received. Society has placed a great deal of concern on the choices “forced” on 14-15 year old elite lacrosse players. So the opportunity offered to a small group of 8th, 9th and 10thgraders the past 5 or so years was eliminated. For student athletes and their families that means less access to information from college coaches and more time required/allowed to showcase success on the field and in the classroom. Elite student athletes will continue to be evaluated from an early age by college staffs. But the dialogue between the athletes and the college coaches will run exclusively thru club and high school coaches until September 1st of the student athlete’s junior year.
The big board in every college lacrosse office that lists potential recruits by grade and position will need to get bigger with this new legislation. And it will require an eraser now because coaches will evaluate classes over and over again. They are not going to wait until the summer before a student athlete’s junior year to do their vetting. We expect the sidelines of the top club events to continue to be populated by college coaches. And the conversations our coaches have with those college coaches at the conclusions of those games will be similar to those in the past. But going forward, the student athlete can not call those college coaches to follow up on those conversations until after September 1st of their junior year.
Nor can they meet with staffs (even on the staff’s campus) until September 1st of their junior year. The only permitted interactions with college coaches before September 1stof a student athlete’s junior year will occur at prospect days and camps. Prospect days have always been a huge part of the recruiting process for players. Student athletes will have to be selective in one’s approach to attending these prospect days. Because colleges are not permitted to selectively invite. Laxachusetts athletes will receive HUNDREDS of “invitations” to attend these events. It will be important to have the opportunity properly vetted by the Laxachusetts staff. We continue to speak to college coaches every day. Taking “flyers” on prospect days will get expensive and exhausting.
All that said, the legitimate interest colleges have in student athletes not yet juniors in high school is not going to “wait” on your legitimate pursuit of greatness. This legislation has not put their interest on hold. It has only put their ability to finalize their decisions on hold. They will continue to scout young players. And they will place players on their board who play great, have the proper academic credentials and have shown evidence of positive character traits to their club and/or high school coach. Once he goes up on the board, the player’s development will be tracked. The difference now is if that player drops off in school or in his athletic performance, the coach only has to erase his name from his board.
The fear that “late bloomers” would not have opportunities provided to the early commits has been eliminated by this legislation. That said, we have yet to find a player whose academic and athletic resume deserved a Division1 opportunity NOT obtain a division one opportunity. But this legislation should negate the anxiety that many athletes and parents had in regards to it. It is important to remember that this reduction of anxiety can not lead to a reduction in time or effort in the classroom and/or at one’s lacrosse development. Lacrosse is a skill sport. You can’t get great, or even good, overnight. We don’t expect the list of our committed players to be very different due to this legislation. Because the kids who end up committing (and eventually attending the school they commit to) work hard on the field and the classroom for many years. Some commit earlier than others, but none who end up at the school of their dreams have ever stopped working. That will not change.
The timing of reclassifications may change, however. The average grade of kids reclassifying has moved younger and younger. Currently Freshmen, when not generating interest from schools, consider reclassifying. With this new legislation, we will likely see reclassification consideration happen later in a student athlete’s high school career. Student athletes may wait until after September 1st of their junior year to confirm that they are not being as avidly pursued as they would like, but there will always be a large number of them repeating to gain a year (or two) of maturity. Colleges have never had a problem with this and never will.
Nor will they do anything about specialization. This legislation will not reduce the pressure to specialize. We love multi sport athletes. The majority of our younger players have a lot of success playing other sports. But lacrosse is a skill sport and a huge amount of time is required to be spent developing that skill. Do not interpret this legislation as a pass to spend less time on lacrosse. That would be a mistake. Whatever work was required to be great at lacrosse is definitely still required. The start date on hard work has not been postponed by this legislation.
Laxachusetts has always maximized our players exposure by maximizing their development while reinforcing their character and academic development. Before this legislation, our players had to get better on the field and in the classroom throughout high school. And that is no different now. We will continue to be the point man for the information flow back and forth between our student athletes and our friends in the college lacrosse community. And our student athletes who work hard in the classroom and on the wall will continue to achieve admissions at great colleges with great lacrosse teams.