A glimpse into September First

S

eptember 1, 2018 may seem like just another day on the calendar to most, but for lacrosse recruits who were juniors in highschool, it was a day which they had anticipated for more than 18 months, ever since the  recruiting rules changed.

For my 2020 twin daughters who had taken many unofficial visits during their freshman year of high school, the whole recruiting journey was quite insane.It all began in the fall of 2016, at a Top 5 D1 school that was just beginning to recruit 2020s. The girls were enamored. They attended Winter Camp and were hoping/waiting to receive an offer from the school, only to suddenly get crickets which happens and is part of the process. Crickets after being told you're on the short list is a lot for a 14-year-old kid to digest and stomach.

A few months after the journey's kick off right before the crickets were churping, the twins went on the best unofficial visit to a mid-major college that had a new set of incredible coaches.  If you can get past the full-day of travel it took to get all the way across the country, it was pretty fabulous. And, it snowed. For my kids, the snow added to the magic of the visit since they hardly ever got to see snow.  The three young coaches, whom we termed the “dream team”, spent the whole day showing us around campus--as in eight hours just the three coaches and my girls. I have Parkinson’s disease so I bowed out of part of the tour since sometimes walking long distances can be a bit challenging. I was glad the girls got to have time with the coaches on their own.  The coaches were absolutely fabulous! At one point in the day, the coaches got a golf cart to transport us easier. The football stadium had just been plowed and was the quickest route to get to the lacrosse stadium. We stopped inside the enormous stadiùm and took some pictures and then headed to the lacrosse field. To get out of the football stadium, we needed to go through the tunnel where all the snow had been plowed. The head coach, who was a total stud, when she saw the snow bank was certain that she could make it over with six people in a golf cart. We got stuck.  It was hilarious! The two assistants who are also incredible athletes (& people) got out and pushed. I think we all ended up pushing the golf cart out of the snowbank. Needless to say, it was a memorable and fun recruiting visit and the girls received generous offers. At 14, they were just not quite ready to commit. 

Every coach that offered my young freshmen daughters a scholarship encouraged them to take their time deciding.  The coaches all told them to visit other schools and make sure that the school was the right fit academically, athletically and in whatever other criteria were important to them.  The coaches were encouraging and handled the girls tremendously well. Spring break was spent visiting a different college every day, meeting the coaches, players...

Then…the Rule Change happened. All recruiting contact ceased and became effective immediately until September 1st of their junior year.  It was quite an unexpected shocker.

The new rule change had the good, the bad and the ugly.  

The good obviously was the simple fact that my kids and most 14-year-old kids are not ready to choose their college . Juniors in high school are flat out more mature to talk to coaches, own the recruiting process and at a point where they're more prepared to choose a college than a freshman.  At 14, my kids were quite immature and had some extremely awkward phone calls with coaches. The first time they sat in a college coach’s office for a meeting —they were so green that the coach had to completely keep the entire conversation going. Through experiences like that, they did learn a lot about how to have conversations with adults.   Recruiting definitely prepared and helped my kids grow up and learn valuable skills -- especially about how to and how not to communicate.

The bad Part of the new Recruiting rule was that all communication was instantly shut off.  Building relationships with coaches was the heartbeat behind choosing a school. Of course, there are many more components than who the coach is when picking a college, but getting to know the coach was important to the girls and suddenly that component was completely removed from the recruiting equation.  Communication is good—no communication was bad. I understand the spirit of the rules is that the communication should begin as a junior and maybe it will get back to that. The absolutely no communication except expressing general interest needs to be tweaked!

Last came the ugly component which was the financial cost to get recruited.. Truly the only way to get to know and talk to a coaches now was to get to their camp. Camps cost a lot of money not just in travel expenses, but multi-day camps typically cost upward of $400-$600 per kid just for the camp. Camps are additional costs over travel lacrosse and showcase tournaments. For our family, it was not an option to go to a lot of camps with every cost times two. In fact, From the summer of 2017 to the summer of 2018, our family went through a lot of changes. We moved 3 times, the girls switched schools twice after having to move away from their close friends whom they’d known since kindergarten. They joined a new club lacrosse team and that is only scratching the surface of the many changes. Having time “off” from being recruited was just what the girls needed with all the many transitions in our lives. They needed time to just be a high school kid. Recruiting was put on the back burner that year.

Fast forward almost two years from the twins first college visit when September 1st of their junior year finally arrived . After no contact or communication except for general interest emails sent to their club coach—they weren’t sure what to expect.   Right at midnight texts and emails started rolling in. The insanity started. One coach literally showed up in person in the morning. It was pretty amazing to have a face-to-face visit with a coach and to receive an offer right away. The girls had never visited that school—so an official visit was scheduled literally 7 days later.  They already had another official visit lined up for the weekend immediately after that 1st Visit. Both girls together received over 50 different emails from colleges, more than two dozen texts and talked to over a dozen coaches just on September 1st. Some coaches were recruiting both girls. Some schools only wanted one of them. It was hard to decide which three schools would round out the five official visit limit.  The first school they went to told the girls that they would need an answer back within a week which would preclude them getting to visit more than 2 schools. After waiting so long and having the opportunity to visit several schools which the girls were interested in, they did not want to rush to make a decision. They wanted and needed the opportunity to check out different schools, get to know the coaches and team and then they’d be ready to respond. We appreciated that that one coach was up front about his timeline.  He did not want to keep other recruits waiting which we sincerely respected and appreciated. It was very hard to turn down a great school due to a short timeline but that is just par for the course. Schools will turn down recruits and recruits have to say no to some amazing coaches and programs. It's not easy.

September 1st was a wild frenzy. Some of the schools from the top of the girl’s list called that day.  Other schools that they thought were calling never contacted them at all. Dealing with disappointment was a hard part of the recruiting journey.  They girls also heard from quite a few schools that they weren’t really honing in on. They had to thank some of them for their interest and make a list of schools to notify if anything changed.  There were many opportunities to consider and think through. Two of the schools who had made offers to the girls as freshman were still in the mix. The dream team sadly had left that school after one year there so that school was no longer an option. September 1st ended on a great note when a fabulous, fun coaching staff face-timed the girls. Talking to those coaches was the absolutely best way to close out the craziness of September 1st.

September 1st became a beginning to the end of the recruiting journey.  Most of coaches still told the girls to take their time, come on a visit and they’d proceed from there. That day didn’t exactly pan out quite exactly how the girls had anticipated but nothing ever seems to.  It was much more chaotic than expected. Thankfully, my kids were surrounded with lots of support. Their club coach loves his players and went above and beyond to help get all his 2020s as ready as they could be for September 1st.   He advocated for them, coached them, encouraged them and he is definitely one in a million who wanted the best for all his girls. Thank you John!! (and Rob! & Rick!) The girls’ teammates encouraged each other throughout the day and were thrilled to hear about each other’s conversations and who had expressed interest. Thank you to Kylie!, Caitlyn!, Megan!, Chloe!, Sandy!… The lax parents from our  club team and from other clubs and high schools were so encouraging to us as parents. (Thank you Vicki! Carrie! Jay! Lou! Molly! Mimi! Janet! Sue! Kerry! … And a big Thank you to Crysti!!—an amazing former college coach that had once upon a time recruited the girls and since departing from the college ranks became an invaluable mentor to not just my kids but many kids and parents throughout the recruiting process. She shared many insights from a college coach’s viewpoint, imparted much wisdom and gave the girls lots of great advice from how to word an email to how to think through which school might be the best fit.  The final support came from the college coaches themselves some whom the girls knew prior to the rule (Thank you Emily!  Mandy! Gabby! Katrina! and Cindy!) and other coaches who they had the priviledge to talk to for the first time September 1st (Thank you new coaches) :o)—so many coaches graciously gave them advice and much encouragement. 

With September 1st, 2019 getting closer, my heart and hopes go out to the 2021s and their parents and as well as the coaches recruiting them.  Those kids are going to have phenomenal opportunities - especially ones from non-traditional areas. At least two to three times a week if not more, I spend time talking on the phone, texting or emailing parents who are stressed, have questions as they wade through this whole recruiting Journey.

Parents—step away and take a deep breath and let your kid “be an adult” and take the reigns and yet at the same time come alongside and counsel and help your teenager as they navigate through how to make a very important decision for their future.  There's no simplicity to this process . However you can help your kids to hone in on their top schools and get to their camp! Help your kid own the process but most importantly encouragé them to enjoy their sport and still have fun.  

My last bit of advice to parents is to find others who can support you like Crysti, find a former or current college coach, a former player or parent who has gone through the process to ask questions of in the beginning, middle and end of the recruiting journey.  It’s so helpful to pick their brains and frankly to simply have someone tell you take a step back and inhale and then exhale and try to enjoy this exciting, crazy time in your child’s life.  

Coaches—thank you!  Thank you for all the many sacrifices you make for the kids you coach—college coaches, club coaches & rec coaches.  Rec coaches help foster the love of the game. Club coaches take that love to the next level and direct your child on the path of recruiting and college coaches take your child through the best years of their lives. All coaches teach the kids how to  grow up and become valuable members of society and better people.  

I hope there will be a way to improve the recruiting process in the future to make it somehow easier on coaches as well.  I can’t imagine what September 1st was like for y’all last year and what September 1st will be like this year!! Thank you for believing in the players you recruit and for investing in their lives and their family’s lives. Coaches impact lives forever!

Players—It's time! Time to own it, love it and work hard for it! Focus on finding the right fit educationally and athletically & most importantly:  Be honest with yourself & with the coaches! When you find a school that fits you best and you commit to that school--THEN you will work harder than you ever have so that when you arrive your freshman year of college that you are prepared to in every way to be successful on and off the field! After all this hard work and the long journey finding the path to your future, make it all count and work harder than ever so that your Years as a student athlete will be the best years of your life!