Hundreds of high school students achieved their dream recently – signing a National Letter of Intent to accept a scholarship to play college football at the school of their choice.

National Signing Day has become a holiday for college football fans – live coverage of student press conferences on ESPNU, dedicated Signing Day Central web pages on pretty much every school’s athletic web site and a veritable frenzy on Twitter with news of last-minute switches. In short, it’s out of control.

But college football is a multi-billion dollar business, so it makes it somewhat understandable.

College lacrosse is anything but a multi-billion dollar business, yet the recruiting process is nevertheless, out of control.

All of the football players that signed were seniors who will be enrolling at their colleges in the coming months. They know who their coach will be. They have a pretty good feel for the depth chart at their desired position. They know how the team has done recently.

Lacrosse? None of that is true.

At the upper levels of Division I, most of the players that commit to schools do so as freshmen and sophomores – many of whom have yet to play a high school varsity lacrosse game.

Do they know who their college coach will be?

Probably not. Take a look at this year’s college seniors in men’s lacrosse. If they had committed as high school sophomores, that would have been in 2009. In 2009 there were 59 NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse programs. One of those programs no longer exists and exactly half of the remaining 58 programs switched head coaches in that time frame, with considerably higher rates of turnover among the assistant coaches.

Do they know who they will be competing with at their position?

Not a chance. The early recruiting landscape has basically forced coaches to recruit at every position, every year. They’re projecting so far out into the future, coaches simply don’t have the luxury of recruiting for need because if they guess wrong on a kid, they need to have someone immediately behind them to address that position.

Do they know the current environment of the program?

Not really. A team that seems hot now, could easily fall off the map over a three-year period, and just as easily as a team could ascend in three years.

All of this is just the reality of the current college lacrosse recruiting landscape. There has been a lot of talk about reform in recent years, but little action. The only thing that has changed is that it keeps starting sooner.

The topic was discussed recently during a session at the 2015 US Lacrosse National Convention in Baltimore. Among the panelists were Ty Xanders of Recruiting Rundown, Jim Stagnitta, an assistant coach at the University of Pennsylvania whose son, Matt, is high school junior that has committed to play at Johns Hopkins University, and Brian Kelly, the head coach at Calvert Hall (Md.), one of the nation’s top high school programs and a club coach.

Here are five takeaways for parents from the coaching duo:

1. Don’t put pressure on your child to get caught up in the race.

“One of the most taxing things is when they see all these kids coming off the board,” said Kelly. “Parents have to be careful not to put additional pressure on the kids.”

2. Don’t give up other sports to focus on lacrosse.

“The myth out there is that you should play one sport,” said Stagnitta, whose own son plays three sports in high school. “We put a premium on multiple sport athletes.”

3. Academics are still important.

The earlier timeline makes college coaches guess not only on what type of player your child will become, but also on how they will do in the classroom over their four years of high school. A verbal offer from a college coach does not guarantee admission – they’re just looking at your child’s GPA and the types of classes they’re taking and making an educated guess. “You still have to perform on the SATs,” said Stagnitta. “You still have to reach a certain GPA.”

4. Make sure your high school coach and club coach are on the same page.

Both coaches can play a role in helping college coaches evaluate your child, but they’re not always rowing the boat in the same direction. “There are a lot of good club coaches where you can work together, but it doesn’t happen as much as you think,” said Kelly.

5. Be involved, but only to a point.

Early recruiting has changed the role of parents in the recruiting process. With kids at younger ages, parents are more important and influential in the process. “We’re recruiting the parents just as much as the players,” said Stagnitta. But it comes with limits. Coaches want to get to know your child, see how mature they are and how they handle themselves in various situations. “Parents have to be involved,” said Kelly, “but they have to get out of the way.”

Guidebooks

So, you want to play lacrosse in college? Download our free guidebooks for men’s and women’s lacrosse that present hard facts, dispel the myths and promote the essentials of recruiting.

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