College recruiting - Finding the Right School

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Re: College recruiting - Finding the Right School

Postby IcePick » Sat Feb 12, 2011 1:44 pm

Two men I greatly respect (Billax and DlaxDad, whom I have known for 6-7 years through watching our boys play together on various travel teams) asked me to share my son’s lacrosse recruitment journey. The hope was that sharing my son’s experiences might provide encouragement to young men, and parents, who find themselves in a similar position…. I am happy to do so.

My son is in the position he is for several reasons. First, at every level of lacrosse he has had the benefit of amazing coaching. Men like Sam Greason, Dan Nourse, Mario Enea, Pete Langkammerer, Steve Reyda, Braden Edwards, Greg Angilly, David Grose, Todd French, Mike Iorio and, of course, Peter Worstell have poured their lacrosse knowledge and lives into my son. They have been a tremendous influence on my son and each played a significant role in his success. Not only his success, but that of so many other Bay Area young men as well. They have taken time from their families and careers to teach, coach and travel with our boys across the country and all up and down the eastern seaboard. They have talked straight with our boys, and with the coaches who were interested in them, regarding their individual lacrosse skills and personal character.

Second, my son committed himself to work hard in both the classroom and on the lacrosse field. Looking back on it now, classroom success is paramount. Consistently, the first questions each coach asked were “What is your GPA?” followed quickly by, “What are your SAT scores?” The bottom line is, if you don’t put in the effort in the classroom it really doesn’t matter how gifted you are on the lacrosse field. If you can’t get in, you can’t help their program…it’s that simple.

Third, he didn’t give up on his dream. That is really the essence of this post…don’t give up. Here’s why:

On September 1, 2009, (the first day schools can officially talk to Juniors) my son received letters of interest from several schools. As the fall progressed, one D1 school in particular began to aggressively pursue him. Many emails and phone calls occurred and transcripts & SAT scores were sent. It all culminated in an invite for him to travel to this particular University’s ‘Junior Day’ in January of 2010. Since this school was one of those on his top 10 list, reservations and plans were made for the unofficial visit.

Sometime between Christmas and New Year’s a phone conversation with an Assistant Coach occurred and my son, who was in Tahoe with a friend’s family at the time, called me right afterward, very excited. He said the Coach told him they were very excited about his fit with their program and university and to expect an offer at the conclusion of the Junior Day weekend. So, a short two weeks later we headed back east in anticipation of a great weekend.

The weekend was fun and was no different than any other visit really. There was a presentation by the Head Coach detailing the highlights of their program, a presentation from a professor and admissions officer regarding university academics and requirements, a campus tour, athletic tour, an opportunity to watch an intra-squad scrimmage and a stay-over with the team with each recruit being hosted by a current player in the program. The weekend was slated to end with a one-on-one appointment with the Head Coach on Sunday. Unfortunately, when we received his Sunday time slot late Saturday afternoon, we realized that if we kept the appointment we would not have enough time to get back to the airport to catch our flight home. We discussed this and quickly agreed that he should ask for an alternate time slot, which he did.

Looking back on the experience, I think that this is where the wheels started to fall off with this particular school. The Assistant Coach coordinating the meetings with the Head Coach declined to reschedule the appointment for an earlier time slot. However, he did offer to meet with us in lieu of meeting with the Head Coach. Seeing that there were no other options we accepted his offer and agreed to meet at 8 AM the next morning.

We arrived early for our Sunday morning appointment, the Assistant Coach arrived 15 minutes late…in sweats. He apologized for his tardiness and then looked at my son and asked, “What’s your name again?” OUCH! I could literally see the disappointment written all over my son’s face…it was hard to watch. The AC told him that he had a high enough Academic Index (AI is a combo of grades and SAT test scores) to gain admission but there were two things potentially standing in his way. First, they had already made 6 offers to players who all accepted and all had AI’s that were below the minimum AI set by the admissions office. That of course meant that the remaining 6 recruits would all need to compensate for the first 6 by having proportionally higher AI’s. This would then raise the class average to the minimum AI. Because his grades were strong the coach suggested he work on raising his SAT score.

Second, there was one pole ahead of my son who was deciding between their university and one other. If the young man decided to attend the other school, my son would be their next choice. If he decided instead to attend their school, my son was more than likely out, unless they decided to take a 4th Pole. Needless to say, the much anticipated offer never materialized and it was a long, long flight home. We had no idea what happened. On New Year’s Eve he was told to expect an offer and less than two weeks later it was as if they didn’t even know him. In retrospect, perhaps the assistant coach misinterpreted our inability to change our flights to accommodate their schedule as a lack of strong interest on our part in their program, which was not the case. In any event, once home my son emailed the coach to thank him for the weekend and asked what the next steps would be. Unfortunately, despite several attempts, he never heard from the university or coaches again. He was greatly disappointed.

He watched as others in the 2011 class began to announce their verbal commitments. Each time, he was genuinely happy for the individual and he would tell me how awesome each young man was and how he thought that they were very deserving. But, you could also tell that he was seriously beginning to doubt whether or not he had a future at the next level and wondered aloud if his dreams had passed him by. He purposed to focus on his Junior lacrosse season and enjoy his team and the sport as much as possible.

Flash forward to June 26, 2010. The boy received a great opportunity to play with the Alcatraz Outlaws who invaded hot and humid Swarthmore College (we renamed it Sweatmore!) for the King of the Hill tournament (KOH). Following the KOH, it was off to Gettysburg College for the Gait Cup. It was an awesome two weeks spent with some amazing young men. There was some great lacrosse played, great times, great stories and time well spent with some amazing families, old and new friends. Going into the summer we had hoped that the summer travel lacrosse tournaments might yield some additional opportunities. Neither of us ever anticipated the ride we were about to go on.

Essentially, following the end of the King of the Hill tournament and throughout the Gait Cup, phone calls came from Head Coaches interested in my son. Each call was similar to the next in that each coach said they were finishing up their 2011 recruit class, time was of the essence and that they very much wanted my boy to consider being a part of their recruit class and program. Consistently, each coach said they wanted to move quickly and wanted to schedule a visit prior our returning to the West Coast.

Honestly, some of the opportunities caught us completely off guard. Mom and Dad were hoping a certain D2 school near home would be the landing spot. We thought, “It’s a great school, we loved the coach and there was the added bonus of being able to watch him play in college”. However, now back east, the list of opportunities began to grow rapidly and it was clear that a decision would have to be made pretty quickly. In the midst of all this, his dream school called and asked him to visit. We did, and they ultimately offered him a position. Looking back on it the whole experience was very exciting, but it was very stressful as well.

As my son began to winnow his options down, he quickly realized he was going to have to communicate his decision to the coaches who had extended offers. At one point he said to me, “Dad, I know it will be fun and easy to say ‘Yes’ to my dream school. How in the heck do I say ‘No’ to everyone else? I just feel so honored to even have my name cross the lips of these coaches, how do I say ‘no thank you?’

The answer of course is to go back to your goals, which from his mouth were to attend the best university he could, play the highest level of D1 lacrosse and then, serve his country. When measured against those goals, his options came into focus pretty clearly.

And, as has been so well stated in other posts by so many others, we counseled him to choose a university that he would be happy at even if he never got the chance to play a single minute of lacrosse or worse, was injured and his career came to an end. To pick a school that would give him the most options and prepare him well for the next 40 years of his life, not just the next 4. In the end, after several visits, time to think & reflect, he made his decision and he couldn’t be happier. Frankly, he can’t wait to get there and we are excited to see him grow over the next 4 years. In the end, we could never have dreamed that the summer of 2010 would be so good, but it was.

So, the simple message here is: Never give up on your dreams! Try hard not to get discouraged if the recruiting process doesn’t meet your self-imposed time lines. Remain hopeful. Focus on the fact that you love playing the game. As stressful as the whole experience can be, remember that you play the game because you love the game…not because it may take you to the next level. Remember that you never really know what’s possible, who is watching or when. So many variables come into play during the recruiting process, many of which are totally outside your control. The only thing you can control is your attitude, which should remain positive.

Case in point, the school my son ultimately committed to shared with us how and when they found him. Apparently, they ‘stumbled’ across him when their Offensive Coordinator went to the King of the Hill tournament to scout an Attackman that they were interested in. The coach chose to watch a particular game on the last day of the tournament where a certain defender from the Outlaws (my son) was defending this young man. Apparently my son had a great game against this Attackman and the assistant coach was impressed enough to call his Head Coach about it. As it turns out, they were looking for one more defender in their 2011 class and after hearing this coach’s account, the Head Coach decided to travel to the Gait Cup to watch my son play. After watching him play he gave Peter Worstell his business card and asked him to give it to my son with a request for him to call. The boy called and we scheduled a visit prior to heading home.

Unbeknownst to us, the school’s Defensive Coordinator then traveled to see my son on Day 3 of the Gait Cup where he watched him play four additional games. He then traveled to Cali Gold and while here, took time out to visit with us in our home as well. Except at the point where the Head Coach asked my son to contact him, we had no idea that the school became interested at the King of the Hill nor did we know the Defensive coach traveled on the 3rd day of the Gait cup to watch him play. Just because you can’t see anything happening does not mean that nothing is happening! Stick with it, play hard, give it your all and enjoy every moment.

I want to close with two additional thoughts. The first is the role his coaches played in all of this while the second is some travel ‘pearls of wisdom’ we learned along the way.

First, my son’s high school coach, Peter Worstell, was invaluable throughout this entire process. He spent a great deal of time calling coaches on my son's behalf, all along the way and long before the summer of 2010. As we entered the summer season, he was there for us every step of the way. Often he had heard from interested schools before we did. The first call my son made after hearing from a coach was to Peter and if Peter hadn’t already spoken to the interested college coach he called them immediately. Afterwards, he would call my son to provide feedback and intel. He provided honest, candid insight into each opportunity which was immeasurably helpful to my son when trying to determine a school’s level of true interest in him. He did this all the while his own son was in the middle of his own recruitment process. He gave 100% and we will always be grateful.

The Alcatraz Outlaw coaches were amazingly helpful to us as well. They too spent hour upon hour talking with coaches on the phone and in person about every player on the team. They were instrumental in connecting the dots for many of the boys. They provided valuable insights, asked probing questions and helped the boys to think about the process with their minds, not emotions. They are held in high regard by the college coaching ranks and after watching them at work this summer it’s easy to understand why.

Last, a few words to help a rising senior in the recruitment process. I hesitate to say anything at all knowing that DLaxDad has literally written the authoritative book on what to expect during lacrosse recruiting and better yet, what the student-athlete and parents can do to maximize the process. But, I wanted to share a few things we learned about the final summer lacrosse season for the rising senior.

First, bring multiple official copies of your transcripts and SAT scores. This will greatly speed up the unofficial process with interested coaches who very often walk the information over to their admissions folks for a quick assessment. They also appreciate the fact that you came prepared, as it demonstrates that your head is in the game.

Secondly, be flexible with your travel plans. Give yourself some time in between tournaments, and certainly on the back end, to visit schools that pop up on the radar screen. You will want to spend as much time as you possible visiting these schools. There is something to be said for how a school ‘feels’ and time on campus will help.

Finally, make sure you and your son are crystal clear with his educational and athletic goals. The completion of a recruit class is a crazy time for both the recruiter and the recruit. Time is of the essence for rising seniors and those who would recruit them. Clear goals not only pave the way for clear evaluations, they also make for better, more expedient decisions. Expedient decisions ultimately relieve the huge stress on your son and, help coaches deal with the timing pressures associated with recruiting rising seniors as well. To be clear, I’m not saying to rush your decision, rather, come prepared and be crystal clear with your goals…it’s better for everyone.

So, that’s the story. If someone reading this is a recruit and you find yourself in a similar situation…all is not lost! Continue to work hard, remain positive, enjoy the game and your team mates and in the immortal words of Winston Churchill, ‘Never, ever give up!’

If you are a parent of a rising senior take heart, I am convinced that there is a place for every young man who wants to play the game at the next level. Even if he doesn’t get the chance to play at his dream school, he’ll still get to play his dream sport. In the end, that’s a pretty good deal. Especially when you consider you get a few more years to watch him play and all the while, he’ll be receiving a good education too!
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Re: College recruiting - Finding the Right School

Postby DlaxDad » Wed Feb 16, 2011 9:13 pm

Great post, 'Pick. I look forward to the day your son follows Old Glory into Navy Marine Corps Stadium to play lacrosse for the U. S. Naval Academy. I'm getting a lump in my throat just writing about it.
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Re: College recruiting - Finding the Right School

Postby Billax » Fri Feb 18, 2011 8:40 am

Here is another online resource for players and their parents.

http://www.collegeresults.org/

It is the best one I've found in comparing a group of schools one selects and comparing the group via hundreds of measures (e.g., ratio of students to faculty, median SAT scores, graduation rates, dollars spent per pupil on faculty expenses, etc)

Since I hold the quirky belief that he who pays the bills should have some say in a student's college choice, this may be the best data set by which parents can inform themselves about candidate schools. Of course, many parents have different ideas. They, too, may find this website useful.
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Re: College recruiting - Finding the Right School

Postby DlaxDad » Tue May 03, 2011 3:40 pm

It looks like California players can mark Denison off of their lists, at least for the foreseeable future. I was talking to a dad who played lacrosse in Ohio himself, who took his son on one of those marathon Ohio and Nor'east jaunts over spring break, and reported that at Denison Coach Caravana said he essentially can't be bothered with West Coast players -- "They have Rob Emery, but who else?" or something to that effect.

I was reminded of the boy's and my own visit to Denison, and how we got stiffed by Coach Caravana on our visit. Here's hoping the rising tide of western players sweeps Denison under the rug before Coach Caravana realizes what hit him.
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Re: College recruiting - Finding the Right School

Postby slingman » Tue May 03, 2011 5:33 pm

If I'm not mistaken, a kid down south that plays at Coronado will play at Denison next year--- Alex Bookout
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Re: College recruiting - Finding the Right School

Postby DlaxDad » Tue May 03, 2011 5:39 pm

I wish Alex luck. The Denison roster also lists two other Coronado grads -- Jake Vita, a junior midfielder, and Cory Couture, a sophomore attack man.

Posts are not a guarantee of any particular result. Your experience may differ.
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Re: College recruiting - Finding the Right School

Postby DlaxDad » Tue May 10, 2011 11:24 pm

One question that comes up often in the recruiting process is whether it's better to go to a school where you're one of the coach's guys, or to walk on. I've developed an opinion on this -- no surprise there -- but it's deriviative of the first principle -- pick a school you'd want to attend if you couldn't play lacrosse at all. Go somewhere where you'll get the best education you could get. Make a 40 year decision, not a 4 year decision.

Having said that, all other things being equal (and notwithstanding Moose's terrific post about his son's decision to walk on at Georgetown -- of course if it hadn't worked, he was still getting a Georgetown education, which is sort of my oft-repeated point) -- all other things being equal, I think it's really important to be one of your coach's recruits. There are no guarantees anywhere, and you'll have to try out like anyone else, and there may be good walk ons where you go, but I've heard over and over again stories of good players who tried to walk on unsuccessfully -- at Oregon, at Middlebury, you name it.

I think that if you are walking on, you're competing not only against the other players, but against decisions the coach and his staff made carefully and after long consideration. They sorted through applicants and tournaments, and came up with their list of 10 or 12, who they sold and convinced to come to their program. All coaches are in their jobs to win, and I suspect most would take a clearly superior player if one showed up, but walking on does involve a bit of cognitive dissonance -- a good coach is going to own his recruiting decisions, and it is likely to take a lot to to get him to change his mind for a guy who is just "showing up."

So if you're serious about playing in college -- recruit yourself a coach and a college, and be one of the players the coach has on that list he takes to admissions, saying, "These are my guys." I think this maximizes your chance of playing your sport at the college you want to attend.

And if you can't do both -- pick the right school. There's always intramurals. Your education lasts forever. Or at least until you get to be my age . . . .
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Re: College recruiting - Finding the Right School

Postby numbersman » Wed May 11, 2011 9:55 pm

One twist to this scenario relates to schools that participate with the national letter of intent program (all Div I schools excluding the Ivies and military academies, and many Div. II schools); if a recruited athlete signs a letter of intent, the school they sign it with is obliged to provide the student with some form of financial aid for one year, and the student commits to stay enrolled for that year. If a coach decides to "cut" a recruited athlete. The school is still obligated to pay the financial aid to the student.

Because athletic scholarships are so dear, tryouts at many DI schools for recruited athletes are somewhat a formality - at least in the first year. For non recruited athletes, there is no such obligation. Since teams limit the number of players on their roster, a walk-on really needs to turn a coach's head to be successful.

All the more reason to pick your school based on the following: if on day one at my college, I broke my leg and couldn't play lacrosse anymore, would I be happy continuing and getting my degree there?
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Re: College recruiting - Finding the Right School

Postby DlaxDad » Thu May 12, 2011 9:06 am

Good point about scholarship institutions, NM -- casual readers should know that numbersman has one guy playing D1 ball and has had (or will have, counting this year's graduate) 3 guys playing MCLA club ball, so he knows whereof he speaks.

You hear over and over again that the player should choose a college he'd be glad to attend even if he couldn't play lacrosse. I've said it quite a few times in this topic myself. But the player is looking for a school with a program where he can play (or for a championship program, or one at the highest level at which he can compete -- choose your lax goal), so how does this match up with the goal of choosing a college you'd attend if you couldn't ball?

It requires the setting and maintenance of dual goals. Lacrosse and college. Since so many 17-year-olds can't actually hold two thoughts in their heads at the same time (some can't hold one, and of course there are the rare exceptions who can hold multiple ideas that aren't on an iPod or PS3), maintenance of dual goals may require some parental input. Would my guy have chosen to go to college in Pennsylvania but for lacrosse? Absolutely not. But if he can't play, he'll still get a great education at a school with outstanding degree options in fields he's interested in.

That is, if he graduates from high school . . . . . .(please, please, please) :lol: :lol: :lol:
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A few random thoughts on the Service Academies

Postby DlaxDad » Fri Jun 17, 2011 11:16 pm

This one's been percolating for a while . . . The boy wasn't looking to go to one of the service academies, but after the summer between junior and senior year, the recruiter from the Air Force Academy, whose e-mails Conan hadn't responded to, started showing a lot more interest. After the King of the Hill tournament, he told the boy he could be "an impact player" at AFA. Then in the fall they made him an offer and told him they'd "blue chip" his application, and to send in his transcript and SATs, which they already had a pretty good idea about from the tournament rosters and the boys lacrosserecruits.com web site. So what do you do? All of the Academies provide a rigorous education of the absolute highest quality, and produce leaders devoted to service, honor, and country. And they're free.

The boy asked the D coach if they'd teach him to fly jets, and the coach said, "We've got a few pilots on the team . . . . "

My brother Pat did 26 years active duty in the US Navy, enlisted, learned Russian at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, became a cryptologic technician, rode subs out of Misawa, eventually got his commission and ended up working NSA or some such thing out of Ft. Meade, MD (I don't know what he did, exactly, because he said he'd have to kill me if he told me), but he's the only non-native speaker ever to be asked back to the DLI to instruct Russian. He's the real brains of the family. And he's a huge lax fan. So Conan sat down with DlaxPat to talk about getting a military education. As might be expected, Pat had some pretty thoughtful things to say on the subject.

"Don't go to a service academy just because it's D1 lacrosse," he said, "and don't go just because it's free, and your dad thinks it would be a good idea and would save him a pile of dough." [I learned that a student can drop out of an academy after two years without penalty, but if you can't make it during years three or four, it comes with a six figure bill. And the education is tough. One young man who elected to finish elsewhere after starting at an academy told me he was working harder than he'd ever worked in his life, but still wasn't cutting it. It ain't easy.] "Go because you are ready to make this a choice in your life, because you want to serve, because you want to be in the military, and because you're ready to commit to 9 of the hardest and most rewarding years of your life, early mornings and late nights, and relentlessly demanding work, and an incredibly difficult educational process." Good advice for anyone considering any of the academies. More than almost any other schools, the academies are life choices, not just colleges. You really need to be going for the right reasons, and you need to know that going in.

The boy thought it over and decided that it wasn't what he wanted. I think for him he made the right choice. He called the coach up and spoke to him directly, and thanked him for the opportunity, but respectfully declined the offer. I think DlaxPat nailed it. Don't go because it's D1; don't go because it's free. Don't go just for lacrosse. Go because you believe in the mission long term, and are willing to do whatever it takes -- and the mission isn't man down defense. I have huge respect for the young men, like Icepick's guy, who have chosen a career of military service and who will attend an Academy. The rest of us can sleep a little more soundly at night knowing we have young men and women who have chosen this path.
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