The Art of Recruitment Part I

The Art of Recruitment
Part I: Painting the Picture
By CJ Jacobs,

It seems like every young kid playing lacrosse wants to get recruited.  The young players dream of playing for a tradition-rich Division 1 program like Johns Hopkins or Duke on a “full ride” while their parents yearn for a free Ivy League or New England College Athletic Conference (Williams, Amherst, etc) education.  Considering that (1) lacrosse magazine estimates that 0.89 percent (yes less than 1 percent) of high school males will receive college lacrosse scholarship money; and (2) full ride scholarships are virtually unheard of in lacrosse, most of these dreams will go unrealized.  Even more sobering is the fact that many of the roster spots at the top schools are now being tied up as early as the freshman year in high school.

My intention of presenting this information is not to dissuade parents and players from pursuing a dream of playing college lacrosse; rather my intention is to remind players and parents that the goal of the recruitment game should not be only about playing for the dream team, dream coach, or playing lacrosse for as long as possible.   The goal of the recruiting game should be about finding the right fit, securing a future, validating years of hard work.  Therefore, it is important to remember that the college lacrosse opportunities extend far beyond the teams that you will see on ESPNU, and many of those opportunities are much closer to home on the West Coast.

For the truly gifted and elite athletes, the recruiting game may seem easy.  The player goes to a few recruiting events after his freshman year in high school, he accepts an offer from Denver or Maryland or Notre Dame, and almost before it started, mission accomplished! For the rest, the road to getting recruited isn’t a straight path, nor is it a windy road; it is a foggy marsh that only holds a dim light as a beacon to follow.  Parents will be faced with questions like how much do I want to spend?  How often do I want to fly back east for a few lacrosse games?  My son is a 15-year-old sophomore and does not have a single offer, should I start giving him tennis lessons?  You don’t know where you’re going or what your stepping in but you know you want to get to that light.

My goal in this series articles is offer some insights that may help  guide you through the foggy marsh. The recruiting process is a game. Like any game (including lacrosse) it takes the right mixture of planning, skill, and even luck to win.  Winning this game should be defined by finding a college that wants you just as much as you want it.

So I am offering my advice and experience as someone who went through the process, chose a path, and listened close to many friends that ended up everywhere on the lacrosse spectrum. What I offer isn’t a sure-fire 12-step guide to guarantee getting recruited by Denver Coach Bill Tierney, but it is a “take it from the guy that just went through it” that will surely increase your chances of being seen, raising your stock, and sealing the deal to play collegiate ball.

Before you can know what you want in a collegiate lacrosse experience you need to know what each experience has to offer.

NCAA Division 1 (DI): Division 1 schools offer the highest level of competitive lacrosse. The NCAA allows these schools to split up to 12.6 athletic scholarships per team (roughly 3 scholarships per class). These schools are regarded as the “Holy Grail” of the collegiate lacrosse realm.  Generally, the top recruits will be offered athletic scholarships of 40 or 50% while those at the bottom of the recruiting class may be walk-ons or get as little as a couple thousand dollars.  This does not include academic scholarships or other types of financial aid.

NCAA Division 2 (DII):  Although these schools are usually smaller in terms of number of students, the top end of D2 schools play extremely competitive lacrosse. Teams like LeMoyne, Mercyhurst, Limestone, and Adelphi would give most Division 1 teams a run for their money.  The NCAA allows D2 schools to offer up to 10.8 scholarships per team.

NCAA Division 3 (DIII):   D3 schools are not allowed by the NCAA to offer athletic scholarships.  Many of these usually smaller liberal arts schools, offer a student athlete experience that can be every bit as enriching as the to Division 1 schools on the field and off. Schools like Amherst, Middlebury, and RIT compete academically with the  Ivy Leagues. Teams like Stevenson, Salisbury, Tufts, and Cortland consistently play top level lacrosse.

MCLA D1: MCLA is known as “club ball” around most lacrosse communities. There are no scholarships and only a few schools have coaches that have any influence in admissions. MCLA teams are almost all west of Denver and South of UNC.  There are over twice as many MCLA D1 teams than NCAA D1 which offers advantages in the variety of level of competition, school size, and academic rigor.  The Southwest Lacrosse Conference Division 1 is made of teams from San Diego to Santa Barbara and includes Chapman University, a perennial national champion contender.

MCLA D2: MCLA D2 gives the opportunity for a wide range of players to participate at a competitive level. Not as competitive or organized as MCLA D1, MCLA D2 travels and practices just as frequently as MCLA D1 schools. Most MCLA D2 schools operate in the West and are smaller schools and newer to the lacrosse scene.  The SLC D2 includes Cal State Fullerton and Concordia University (Irvine).

NJCAA: This league consists of junior and community colleges. It is mainly used for players that may not have had enough exposure to get recruited or enough time to reach their full lacrosse potential. Most of the time the players who participate in the NJCAA use it as a stepping-stone to get recruited to a NCAA D1, D2, or D3 school.

Each level of lacrosse has its advantages and disadvantages. Just because NCAA D1 lacrosse offers the highest level of lacrosse does not mean it is for everyone. It is my opinion, that as each player considers his possible future that they keep in mind that college is about being a student first. Few players will emerge with a championship ring but everyone has the opportunity to emerge with a degree that will open doors for the rest of your life.

Next Up in this 5 part Series: Making the Grades.

About the author: CJ was a 2009 All-American Middie out of Los Alamitos High School in Orange County. He attended Champ Camp in Baltimore, MD from 2007-2009, Adrenaline Shootouts in Temecula and Sonoma from 2007-2009 and through these camps was recruited from a variety of programs including Brown, Army, Manhattanville, UCSB, UC Berkeley, and Chico State. He attended MCLA D1 UCSB and was a 2013 1st Team All-American and 2012 3rd Team All-American Midfielder. Attending UCSB was the best decision of his life.