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A Letter to Santa: My Grown Up (Lacrosse) Christmas List

December 19, 2013    6562 Views

Spike Malangone | @spikemal

Lacrosse Christmas List

This is a guest post from Spike Malangone, news director at Visit LRNews for more content on the realities of recruiting.

Dear Santa,

Hope all is well up at the North Pole (In the North Pole? On the North Pole? Not sure how that works).

I’m sure you are busy avoiding soy milk and dodging police interrogations, so I’ll try to be brief.

This year, I am asking for some things that could be beneficial for one of my favorite sports, lacrosse. Hope you can bring some of them when you visit Christmas Eve!

Here we go:

  1. A greater focus on academics
    I hope that players know lacrosse is simply a vehicle that should be used to get into the best school possible. With so much commotion in the recruiting space, it can be easily forgotten that lacrosse alone won’t get you into school, and that grades are of paramount importance.

    This gift would not only open more doors at the next level for high school players, but will prepare them for college and beyond (which, by the way, happens fast).
  2. Multi-Sport Athletes
    Back in my high school days (2001-2005, you know, when you had to walk uphill to school barefoot, in the snow), lacrosse was not a year-round sport. You played in the spring, maybe some in the summer, but also were encouraged to play other sports.

    I learned plenty of lacrosse by playing other sports. Football assisted in terms of strength, physicality and playing as part of a unit. Basketball concepts (especially defensively) are so similar to lacrosse, as are the footwork and communication aspects. I can say with complete confidence parts of my lacrosse IQ came in no small part from playing basketball.

    This gift of playing other sports may be more beneficial for players in the long run than they realize. If nothing else, it can help them from burning out via specialization, while also showing college coaches their athletic versatility.
  3. Reason
    One of the many things I learned this year is how…intense…parents can get on the sidelines. I understand these were important moments for their children, and that events are very expensive, never mind travel and other costs.

    Cheering and encouragement are great, but too often it was anything but, manifesting instead as sideline coaching, yelling and screaming. Forget the poor example that is being set (frankly, that’s none of my business), but parents may not realize they are potentially hurting their child on the field. How?

    Well, college coaches in attendance can hear them berating officials and/or coaches in summer settings. If it is this bad now, what happens in the spring and/or at the next level, when the score matters?

    Fair or otherwise, coaches tend to recruit families – not just athletes. You build teams with players, but you build programs with families. That is a distinction too often forgotten. Hopefully, this gift would help cooler heads prevail, especially in the summer, when it is hot enough.
  4. Culpability
    There was no grip on the ball. The strings were messed up. A teammate didn’t go to the right spot. The list of excuses I witnessed this year were too numerous to count.

    Mistakes are part of the game. Maybe the ball was terrible and sailed away. Maybe the rain ruined a pocket. Maybe there was some miscommunication. But whatever the cause, it matters not.

    Hopefully, this gift would help players recognize that most important play is the next one, and the best way to make up for a mistake is to hustle back and play hard to rectify it on the field.
  5. Proactive Attitudes
    At many events, I noticed droves of parents and players obsessing over the “Coaches in Attendance” list the camp organizers would put up.

    I have discussed this topic in depth, noting how the list is largely irrelevant. Coaches attend events to see players they already know about, but want a closer look. Going into an event with no prior communication with a coach is nothing more than a roll of the dice.

    Hopefully, this gift would allow players and their families to breathe a bit easier at events, because by being proactive they will know which coaches are there to see them, and will know that list is simply a bonus.
  6. Perspective
    Making the “All-Star” team at events is not going to make or break a player in the recruiting process. It can be a help, sure, and players should strive to be the best wherever they are.

    But too often, I saw uproar and outrage that Player X was not included, or Player Y left off.

    While it seems like a big deal at the time, players are playing enough to be seen. If they are proactive in the process, they won’t be relying on one “All-Star” game as the key to their collegiate dreams.

    In the moment, it seems like the World may come to an end if a player does not make one of these teams. But with the gift of perspective, maybe cooler heads can prevail (and save some grey’s for event organizers that deal with the vitriolic backlash).
  7. Fundamentals
    I get players are trying to show what they have and gain an edge on the competition at a recruiting event, but trying to make a fancy play is not the way to do it. At best, the play is made in spite of the poor technique employed. At worst, there is a player who stabs at a ground ball with one hand, or sails a shot over the cage underhand. That’s a lonely place to be.

    Hopefully, this gift would help players realize they can stick out by doing little things well too, like showing athleticism as opposed to fancy stick work. In fact, we asked some coaches at Notre Dame and Wesleyan what they looked for in recruits, and they seemed to be searching for the little things, not the “wow” moments.
  8. Extra passes
    As a long struggling fan, too often I felt like I was watching a Knicks game at some of the events this past year: Ball hogs. Terrible Shots. No game awareness. Too many heads down. Too many dodges through three defenders. Too many selfish plays.

    What happened to the hockey assist, because it’s the right situational play? Athletes should know they can’t run through defenses in college by themselves – it just won’t work. So there is no reason to do it now.

    With the gift of extra passes, I won’t hear Walt “Clyde” Frazier in my head saying “stumbling and bumbling” in 2014 (unless I actually am watching the putrid Knicks on MSG).
  9. Restraint
    Lacrosse is a game that one has to play with emotion, and natural excitement is not only necessary, but should be very evident.

    However, elaborate celebrations are getting out of hand. I understand it’s a game, and players should have fun. I am absolutely for excitement and teammates celebrating goals.

    But the “LOOK AT ME I JUST SCORED AREN’T I THE GREATEST THING TO EVER HAPPEN TO THE GAME” stuff needs to stop. Immediately. Hopefully, this gift helps everyone to “Do Less.”
  10. Modest apparel
    I saw some bizarre things in 2013, led by some of the intentionally “outrageous” gear on lacrosse fields. I guess this is a just a part of the “look at me” culture we live in, but man, I saw enough neon to last a lifetime.

    Looking “cool,” having “fresh” gear and similar trickle downs of the regrettable “bro” culture will do nothing to get a player noticed by a college coach.

    As lacrosse continues to grow, fans of the sport want to see it taken seriously on the national stage. Maybe this gift will help them take it seriously themselves first.

What one “gift” could the sport of lacrosse use this holiday season? Let us know in the comments section.

Photo Credit: Allie Towers

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