Parents & Players,
I have been overwhelmed with questions and calls about the upcoming recruiting process for the HS Class of 2022, which kicks off tonight at midnight. More than anything, I realize that there is not a lot of quality information available surrounding what recruiting will look like during the pandemic. What I am sharing below is free & unsolicited help on the Division 1 recruiting process during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is simply my opinion, based on what I have been able to learn over the last couple of months. The information below is based on my own observations and many, many conversations with college coaches. Your own experiences may vary and this information should be regarded as “one man’s opinion”. It is up to you whether or not you want to read every word or delete it immediately…either one is OK with me! If you decide to read it, I sincerely hope that it helps you and your son as you navigate the recruiting process!
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things over the last 6 months. College lacrosse and recruiting have changed just like everything else. For program director’s and HS coaches who have dealt with the recruiting process for many years, the upcoming recruiting period will play out in an entirely different way than what we are used to.
OWN YOUR PROCESS: NO ONE will care more about your child’s recruiting process than YOU. You need to own that. Yes your club director cares and wants to help you. Yes your HS coach cares and wants to help you. But at the end of the day, they are responsible for many, many players and cannot spend all of their time on your kid and your kid only. So, get organized and take charge of the process. Make sure your son has a highlight film. In this recruiting landscape, not having film is a deal breaker. Sit down with your son and write an email that introduces your son to a prospective coach and includes a link to his highlight film (I like Youtube) and his unweighted GPA. If you have his HS transcripts, you can include those as well, although they may not want those right off the bat. I prefer to make it personal (use the name of each coach) and include all 3 members of the coaching staff on each email. You might want to “cc” your club director or HS coach on each email, but ask their permission before doing so. Send away! Shoot for the stars, it’s just an email! Remember, up until September 1st they cannot respond to your email!
FILM QUALITY MATTERS: All film is NOT created equal. The quality of the film itself and the type of plays you include in the highlight reel matter. There is a difference between a “highlight” and your son simply touching the ball, don’t confuse the two. It’s OK for the film to be short. Include a variety of plays that show a depth of talent and multiple abilities whenever possible. I tell my defensive players that if they can demonstrate a really well executed “2 slide” in their film, it doesn’t look like much but it shows that you understand how to communicate and execute “team” defense and that can be more impressive than a ‘takeaway” check. Grainy film that is filmed from a poor vantage point or from too far away is a turn-off for coaches….if you have to include those types of clips, highlight your player using a “spot shadow” before the play and put those clips at the end of the film.
REWIND: The REWIND button is an actual thing. Because most coaches are relying heavily on film to make evaluations, they are watching many plays over and over and over again. Seeing a play one time might make it a highlight, but seeing it 4 times might expose something else. A lack of hustle, a “palms up” moment, or worse. Make sure the clips you include are what you think they are and will withstand the “rewind” button and further scrutiny.
4 TIERS or BANDS: My opinion is that the recruiting process for the 2022 class will unfold over the course of 4 bands or tiers. It is important to note that all bands would be impacted by a potential cancellation of the upcoming 2021 college season and how the NCAA handles additional eligibility for all athletes in the future. If all current NCAA players are granted another year of eligibility as they were this year, you can expect that the overall size of the 2022 and 2023 recruiting classes will continue to shrink. Most schools have a hard cap on the number of players they are allowed to keep on their roster due to budget and travel restraints. If their current players decide to use that additional eligibility, this will have a direct impact on the number of roster spots available to each incoming class in the immediate future.
- First Band: The top recruits in the class that have had a good deal of HS success already and/or have excellent highlight films from their summer of 2020 club lacrosse season. Many of these guys are already household names and will be getting recruited right out of the gate. Because official visits and campus visits are currently not possible, many of these players may actually decide to commit earlier than their peers did in previous years. If they love a school and coaching staff, their grades are in-line with the admissions requirements and the scholarship money is right, I anticipate seeing quite a few ‘first week” decisions being made. I think this first band of players might be in the 80-120 player range and will likely play out over the first month of the recruiting period (Sept 1-Oct 1).
- Second Band: The second band of commits will ultimately be the beneficiaries of other players early decisions. As players above them on each school’s “boards” (see below) make their decisions, there will be a shift in the “hierarchy” at each position. When player after player in Band 1 makes their decision, they will come off of every other schools recruiting board and create a new opportunity for the players ranked below them at that position. Players in the second band will likely have good quality film and club/HS coaches advocating for them as the process unfolds. I think the Second Band is also in the 80-120 player range and will stretch from Oct. 1 through January 1, 2021.
- Third Band: The third band will have a common denominator among them. That denominator is their film, or lack thereof. Players in the third band will either have relatively low quality film with a smaller number of highlights than other players based on the volume of plays or they will have plenty of film, but the college coaches who have watched it have not been as impressed with their film as they were with players in Band 1 or Band 2. For some players, this might mean they need to adjust their expectations and their list of realistic schools. For others, they may need to simply get back on the field ASAP and create more and/or better highlights to send out. As expectations are adjusted and/or new highlight film is created and sent out to coaches again, the third band will stretch from January 1 of 2021 all the way through the Spring HS lacrosse season (assuming we are able to have one). This band is likely to include another 150-200 players.
- Fourth Band: The fourth band is likely the second most interesting time of the year as the final pieces of the 2022 HS recruiting class fall into place. This band will include both players who are “poached” by other schools and their replacements, players who have simply developed and grown a ton over the course of the 2020/2021 school year and are completely different than they were on September 1st of 2020, and those players who once again adjusted their expectations are decide to accept a roster spot at a school that might have been below their anticipated level of play earlier in the process. This fourth band will include the rest of the 2022 class and will likely last all the way through the summer of 2021. It is important to note that there will be plenty of really good schools looking for quality players in the fourth band! Be patient and keep grinding!
HIERARCHY: Every overall recruiting class and every individual recruiting board has a hierarchy. All players fall into a ranking system from the top of the class to the bottom of the class in a very specific order. Of course, that order is up to each individual school and is rarely the same for each coaching staff. What a particular college staff values has a huge impact on their ranking system and can make one schools top player another team’s second or third tier list. The hierarchy is also heavily impacted by a player’s grades and their ability to gain admission to each school. It’s important to realize that the number one player for the University of Maryland may not be the number one player for Notre Dame based on academic standards alone.
UNDERSTANDING “THE BOARD”: I think it’s safe to say that every single Division 1 school has a “recruiting board”. In many cases, it is still a giant white-board in the lacrosse office that the coaches use to make player lists by position, discuss and make changes to on a weekly basis. It is simply a list of players, by position, that are ranked from top of their class to bottom of their class. While there is a lot of back and forth and shuffling of players throughout the year, it is safe to say that as of today, the boards have settled down and the players on the board are in their final order until some calls are made and decisions are reached by players in the 2022 class. Being on ANY board is a tremendous achievement, but it doesn’t guarantee that you are going to be recruited by that school! It just means you were good enough to crack their board and to be in the running for a roster spot. Some schools have boards that are fairly deep and might include 100 players or more (total). Some schools have much thinner boards and might start off the process tonight with only 40-50 players on their board. The depth of each schools board is based on many things, but mostly it’s based on the coaching staff’s experiences throughout the years and how many players they will need on their board to fill a specific number of roster slots. A place like UNC or UVA might have a much smaller number of players on their board because the school and lacrosse program are so desirable that they don’t hear the word “NO’ from very many recruits. Quite simply, they can expect to fill their recruiting class with a smaller overall number of players in the mix.
RECRUITING CLASS SIZE: Before COVID-19 struck, many schools were taking anywhere from 11 to 12 players per class, some more and some less, but 12 was a pretty safe number. With the 2020 season being canceled and the NCAA granting players an extra year of eligibility, the water got murky in a hurry. While the Ivy League didn’t allow players to use that extra year, many non-ivy players have opted to return to school for an additional year. This uncertainty and increase in the number of players remaining on their rosters is causing the college coaches to reduce their 2022 recruiting class significantly. Some schools have said they are looking for 7-8 players in the 2022 class when the classes before them were 11 or 12 players deep. If the 2021 college season does happen, I expect to see a couple more roster slots added to each team’s recruiting class. These additional slots would be represented in band three and band four commitments as the coaches will know that they won’t have to accommodate any other ‘additional years of eligibility’ for their current players.
GPA: Once you get past playing ability, a player’s GPA is easily the single most important factor in determining how many opportunities might be available to them. Most colleges will start with a player’s unweighted GPA as a baseline for admission to their respective schools. From there, academic “rigor” and difficulty of classes will play a role in determining if a player will be admitted to their school of choice. Admissions offices want to see that students have challenged themselves and taken some honors or AP courses while still earning a respectable GPA. Players with a 3.5 GPA or above and good academic “rigor” will find themselves pleasantly surprised with the number of opportunities available to them if they are also excellent players. And, believe it or not, the highest required GPA to be considered “recruitable” does not belong to an Ivy league program!
FINANCIAL AID: This is not my area of expertise and I will not pretend to know anyone’s financial situation. I will just say this…if you have a strong GPA and are an excellent lacrosse player, do not rule out the Ivy League schools because you believe they will be too expensive and can’t offer any aid. If your family income is below $200,000, you might be surprised with how much financial aid you will receive and it makes a ton of sense to do your homework on this option! Again, don’t take my word for it but do your homework and be diligent about asking questions and using each schools financial aid calculator.
SCHOLARSHIPS: This might be the single most misunderstood factor in the entire recruiting process! First of all, it is important to know that Ivy League schools cannot offer ATHLETIC SCHOLARSHIPS. Period. Secondly, there is a major difference between an athletic program that is “fully-funded” vs. not fully-funded. A “fully-funded” lacrosse program is able to offer the full compliment of 12.6 athletic scholarships to their lacrosse team. A program that is not “fully-funded” might have significantly less scholarship money available. It is important to know whether a program is fully-funded or not before you make any assumptions about receiving an athletic scholarship. The 12.6 athletic scholarships is a number determined by the NCAA and cannot be exceeded by any school. The 12.6 scholarships can be broken down in a large variety of ways in order to provide athletic scholarships to players on a respective team. For the sake of simplicity, I will simply break down three scenarios for you with regard to how that scholarship money might be used by 3 different programs. Let’s use round numbers in order to simplify the math for each scenario:
- 12 full scholarships available. (it’s actually 12.6)
- 48 players per team (it could be as many as 55)
- 12 players per recruiting class (could be more, could be less)
By breaking down the 12 scholarships into each class, a coaching staff would have 3 full scholarships to offer to each class (3 for the freshman class, 3 for the sophomore class, 3 for the junior class and 3 of the senior class). As the senior class graduates, that scholarship money becomes available to the new incoming freshman class. The number of scholarships awarded cannot exceed 12.6.
Scenario 1- Coaching staff decides to offer 25% scholarships to all 12 players in each recruiting class. This results in 48 players on the team who are each given a partial scholarship (25%).
Scenario 2- Coaching staff decides to offer 50% scholarships to 6 out of 12 players in each recruiting class and will then find 6 players who are able to pay their own way for their education. This results in 24 players on the team who are each given a half scholarship (50%), while the other 24 players pay their own way through school without any athletic scholarship.
Scenario 3- Coaching staff decides to offer full scholarships to 3 out of 12 players in each recruiting class and will then find 9 players who are able to pay their own way for their education. This results in 12 players on the team who are each given a full scholarship (100%), while the other 36 players pay their own way through school without any athletic scholarship.
There is no right or wrong way to do this, and there are countless ways that a coaching staff might divide their scholarship money in order to successfully recruit a competitive team.
VERBAL COMMITMENTS: A verbal commitment is simply a non-binding agreement made between the athlete and the coaching staff that they would like to commit their services to each other. The player wants to attend their school and the coaches want to recruit this player. This commitment is non-binding and can be terminated by the coaching staff or the player at any time for any reason. The agreement becomes binding when the player signs the National Letter of Intent in their senior year.
GET ORGANIZED/KEEP RECORDS: SEE ATTACHMENT. This is just a simple form I put together to help keep track of the process. You may feel more comfortable using your own version or simply using a notepad. Whatever it is, keep track of the process and the conversations you have with each school! Here are a few tips that I generally share with my own players for the September 1st recruiting period:
Getting prepared for Sept 1-
1- Make sure your phone has plenty of room for messages.
2- Make sure your voicemail message is clear and professional.
3- Have a notepad and pen with you at all times so you can take notes on what you speak about with each coach.
4- Thank each and every coach for their phone call and their interest in you as a player.
5- Be prepared to say “thank you so much for the offer, would you mind if I talk it over with my parents and call you back?”.
6- Be prepared to say “thank you so much for the interest, do you have an idea of your timeline for making a verbal offer?”
7- Prepare a couple questions to ask when the conversation ends and they ask if you have any questions. I.e- “how do you see my playing style fitting into your system?” Or “how many players will you take in this recruiting class?” Or “what are the next steps in this process?”.
8- Make notes and have a list of your top schools- I recommend having a top school, a second choice and then 3-4 other schools you would absolutely consider if 1 or 2 don’t work out.
9- You and your parents need to discuss your financial situation and expectations before 9/1. Do you need scholarship money to make a particular school work? Are you hoping for financial aid?
10- You and your parents need to decide if you should verbally commit to ANY school on day 1, including your top school. I can’t answer that for you....it’s based on your comfort level with that school and how much information you are going to need from them.
11- Ask about how you will get to know the players and coaches on the current team in the Covid-19 environment- will they do a Zoom call so you can ask players questions? Will you be speaking to any other members of the coaching staff including the offensive or defensive coordinator?
12- HAVE FUN- ENJOY THE RIDE- THIS MAY BE STRESSFUL BUT IT SHOULD ALSO BE A LOT OF FUN!!
EXPECTATIONS: Your club coach, club director or HS coach can probably help you with setting realistic expectations throughout the recruiting process. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to ask what level they feel you can play at. There are a lot of great schools that also play Division 1 lacrosse. Once you have a sense of your ability level, begin to research the schools that offer an academic program that fits your needs.
CALLS/TEXTS/EMAILS: Similar to a game of game of poker, there is a simple hierarchy to each of these methods of communication. Again, this is just my opinion of what each might mean and the difference between them. We are all looking for signs, good and bad! But understand that every program uses their own system!
• A call beats a text, unless it's a text to set up a call!
• A text beats an email, unless it's an email to get your cell phone so that they can call or text!
• An email beats no contact at all!
These coaching staffs understand that their number two prospect today can easily be their number one prospect tomorrow. They want to call the players at the top of their lists and get a sense of that player and his immediate interest level. They probably aren't calling 50 kids right off the bat so a phone call is a very positive sign. A text is the next best thing as they are connecting directly with the student-athlete and opening up the lines of communication. A text message is a good sign as it means they want to interact with you sooner than later and you are likely in the middle of their board. An email probably means the least, but it could potentially mean that you have made their "board' and they think enough of you as a player to keep you in the loop. That being said, it's unusual to go from an email to an offer. The next step of a text or a call could mean that you are moving up the board for a number of reasons. Players committing to other schools or additional conversations with coaches could be two reasons you might be on the move.
WHAT TO EXPECT TONIGHT AT MIDNIGHT/TOMORROW/ETC: I don't expect every Division 1 school to stay up from midnight tonight until 4am making phone calls. I believe they will call or text their very top prospects as soon as they can, but they may not be calling tonight at 12:01am. Some schools send out a first communication to their entire board via email at 12:01am to essentially introduce themselves and maybe ask their prospects to fill out a questionnaire. Some may send a quick text to their top guys to let them know they are thinking about them and to set up a time to speak in the morning. Every single school has a different plan/strategy. Be patient! It may turn out to be a marathon and not a sprint!
WHICH PROGRAM WILL DO WHAT? This is the question I get the most. What do you think "X School" is going to do? The honest answer is I don't know what to expect in the COVID-19 era. It's going to be different for everyone, regardless of their previous model. If a school doesn't contact it's prospects on September 1st, it might just mean that they are not comfortable using video analysis to pick their roster for the class of 2022. They may just need more time or may want to wait to see guys in person. On the other hand, I had a high level ACC coach tell me he had "absolute confidence" in picking his roster based almost exclusively on video analysis. He said that many D 1 football programs have been using film alone for years and it has worked well for them. The other thing to consider is that some schools might prefer to let some of the pieces fall into place before they start spinning their wheels. There is a "pecking order" that seems to follow a pretty consistent path from year to year. The top 20-30 schools seem to race out of the gate while some the mid and lower level (ranking wise) schools seem to be OK with allowing some of the domino's to drop before they start getting crazy about recruiting their own classes. I anticipate the ACC, Ivy, Big 10 and top Big East schools to hit the ground running ASAP while some of the other conferences may take a little more reserved approach to the first few weeks of their recruiting process. Again, I am trying to provide some general information and certainly can't say that there won't be plenty of Patriot League schools on the phone tonight at 12:01am! As a rule though, the ACC, Ivy's and Big 10 are more aggressive from the start.
IF SCHOOLS ARE TAKING SMALLER CLASSES, WHAT DO YOU THINK THEY WILL TAKE AT EACH POSITION? Again, it's impossible to know what each school would do with their roster spots in a position by position breakdown. But if it was me, I can imagine in a recruiting class of 8-9 players I am taking the following:
1 Goalie, 1 FOGO, 1 LSM, 1-2 Close Defenders, 1-2 Mids, 1 Lefty Attackman and 1 Righty Attackman.
CONTROL WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL: It’s easy to get carried away with the process and what you are seeing on social media and hearing from other players or other parents. Every process is different and every process has it’s own timeline and set of circumstances. Be patient. Control what you can control and try not to worry about the rest. Your club coach or HS coach can’t MAKE a school recruit your son. There has to be MUTUAL interest before anything else is possible. Commit to working hard and being organized. Commit to the process of improving as a player and as a student and keep grinding. Your dream school commitment might be 12 months away from where you sit right now, but you won’t get there if you don’t continue to work and act like a professional.
GOOD LUCK! As a prospective student-athlete, you have likely spent hundreds and hundreds of hours and thousands and thousands of dollars pursuing the dream of playing Division 1 lacrosse. Your dedication to the game of lacrosse and to earning good grades is about to payoff! Take the time to enjoy the unknown and to soak in the process a bit. Look back on all of the hard work that you have put in and all of the support that your parents have given you as your family has made sacrifice after sacrifice to make your dream a reality. I wish you the best as you embark on this exciting chapter in your life and I wish you nothing but the best over the next 12 months!