Help me help my S22 with recruiting

Hi all! New here and looking for some advice. S22 hopes to play lacrosse at the D3 level (maybe D2?) He has a solid GPA (3.98) and is awaiting his SAT scores from his March test date. We expect he’ll do reasonably well based on his PSAT and practice tests but we’ll see.

We had asked him in the fall to develop a list of schools based on criteria important to him (location, size, major options, etc) and then further narrow the list to those that have his sport. He had a list of 5 in the fall. It was a good start, but we obviously wanted to see that expanded.

After attending a winter showcase, he received strong interest from one of the schools on his list! Emails, phone calls, and texts were exchanged and he then visited in February for a tour, talk with coaches, general admissions info. After the visit,
he received verbally and in writing, a “roster spot” from the coach. Of course, this means very little as he still has to apply. They have encouraged him to do EA which is fine since it’s not binding. I am very familiar with the college since it’s near where I grew up. Admissions are not competitive and I’ve no doubt that he will be admitted. Based on their merit aid offerings, he is also likely to get a very generous package which will bring cost to public, in state. He fell in love with the campus and the people. The coaches were very specific about how he could fit into the team and it aligned well with what he’s looking for. They asked about other schools he was interested in and whether he has been recruited by them. He was honest (no but that he plans to reach out to them) and of course, they proceeded to sell him on why they are the better fit than the other institutions (3 of the other schools are in the same conference).

Very long context but all that to say he has now eliminated those other 3 schools from in conference! This is strictly based on what the coaches told him. I am trying to convince him that he needs to see those other institutions through – reach out to the coaches, us do some visits, etc–but he has made up his mind that those aren’t good fits.

The one other school on the list is a D2 from out of state. He visited during a prospect day in the fall. Reached out to coach who wrote him a very personal email (mentioned specific things S22 had done during games) but communication fell off b/c S22 perceives no interest after coach didn’t reply to last email. Don’t get me started on this. So, I fear he’s written off this school too.

I think he’s made up his mind that he’s attending the school that has offered him a spot.

There are so many concerns swirling around in my head and I’m trying to figure out how to best help him. One concern is how to help him identify other schools. I’m going to force the issue and ask for another list but he just doesn’t seem motivated now to do any research. I could make a list for him but I feel like that’s his job.

Another concern I have is that all the schools he has chosen are academically competitive. I am not chasing prestige at all and firmly believe that fit is critical in his choices. However, I know there are other schools that are more academically competitive and have lacrosse who could be interested in him.

I was a 1st gen college student whose parents did not have the knowledge to help me navigate this process and I’m trying to balance helping/guiding and letting him lead.

If you got through all of this, thanks! If you have any experience or advice, I’d love to hear it.

1 Like

Where to start?!

My experience is with men’s soccer, but I think the process is similar.

I took a fairly active role in organizing the recruiting, and I would recommend that because junior year my son was focused on getting the best grades he could, and being the best soccer player he could and that didn’t leave a ton of time for the nuts and bolts of recruiting, and those nuts and bolts, if you want to be thorough, are very time consuming.

I always recommend THE ATHLETIC SCHOLARSHIP PLAYBOOK (about $15 on Amazon) even though you aren’t shooting for a D1 scholarship as it sets out very clearly the recruiting process. I would also spend some time in the Athletic Recruiting forum here as it is a wealth of knowledge, although very disorganized (which is why I like the book, as a framework).

I think it is reasonable for you to do the initial research on possible schools, especially if you don’t want him only focusing on the one school. I read about kids doing all the research, but my very bright son would have no way to put a school in context – no idea if it was even accredited let alone what its reputation was. He just wouldn’t have done a great job with an initial cut.

There are many ways to do recruiting, so you’ll pick and choose. What we did was I created a spreadsheet of all the schools that could possibly be of interest and that had men’s soccer. Then my son reached out to most of the schools on the list and started a conversation with some of the coaches. Early on I helped keep track of the communications as there were at least 25 schools in the pool at that point. As coach communications migrated to texts and phone calls my role diminished. Given COVID I would tell a recruit to cast an even wider net (because there are fewer roster spots for '22s due to current students taking a gap year, or '20s deferring etc). So recruiting is going to be even trickier than previous years.

I would say the other thing to get clear on, early on, is what the purpose of recruiting is. Is it to play at the highest level he can? Or to get into the most academically selective school he can? Or some other goal? That will inform your strategy.

Athletic recruiting is so difficult and so time consuming that I think it is entirely appropriate for a parent to take a fairly large helping role. The kids whose parents helped navigate the process seemed to have a better outcome, though of course it is not necessary. I probably don’t need to say that all communication with coaches should come from your son alone.

Good luck, recruiting is a roller coaster, but it can lead to really great outcomes.

5 Likes

You’re describing my S21 to a T - lol.

He recently chose a school despite having roster offers at schools he never visited. Coaches wanted him to come for visits but he turned them down because he really liked the school he chose. It’s an academic safety, but he wasn’t chasing prestige and the merit award makes it extremely affordable.

The parent in me wanted him to have options so I encouraged visits to the other schools, but he wasn’t interested at all. At first it drove me nuts, but now I’ve come to appreciate it because he’s all-in on this school and you can see and hear his excitement when he talks about it. We couldn’t be happier for him.

My thoughts - your son found a great school and will be extremely happy (“He fell in love with the campus and the people. The coaches were very specific about how he could fit into the team and it aligned well with what he’s looking for”). You should count your blessings that he feels this way and would be comfortable with his decision.

I’m happy to chat more if you’d like to message me.

1 Like

cinnamon1212’s advice is great. I will go in a different direction (but follow her advice too).

I suggest you start over by examining your son’s career interests – NOT what he would major in at XYZ College. The low end is talking to him about what type of career he would like and the high end would be finding someone to administer a Strong Interest Inventory. Then this Summer, require that he explore at least one of his top two areas of interest. My first son did a two week on-campus business program (well before covid). He decided he did not really want to major in business, saving at least a year of wasted time in college. My #2 really liked the small liberal arts college environment and was a top recruit at the D-3 level. He took a series of online Wharton business classes through Coursera for about $150 and confirmed he loves finance, which ruled out 90% of liberal arts colleges (which he otherwise liked very much). Whether the kids rule out an area of study or love it does not matter, either way they make a better decision about college or college majors.

And, this is where I definitely step over the line (so I will apologize in advance) – For a recruited athlete at the D-3 level with a 3.98 GPA and expecting good test scores, it does not sound like a big win to pay the same price as an in state public university for the opportunity to attend a private college without competitive admissions. The college gets an athlete they really want and $100K from you over four years. Your son gets a roster spot, 4 years with a coach who spoke so negatively enough about the competition that your son does not even want to visit, and admission to a college where he does not need the coach’s help to get in. For a D-3 athlete, a “roster spot” alone is not a good enough reason to choose one college and refuse to consider the 247 other colleges with D-3 lacrosse.

There were a couple of instances in my son’s recruiting where a parent stepping in to play “bad cop” was needed. You might call the coach for a friendly conversation (without expressing your concerns) and ask if he thinks it makes sense for your son to visit the other colleges and talk to their coaches. If the coach says “yes,” use that as leverage to get your son re-engaged. If the coach says “no,” are you going to pay $100K so that he can have more influence on your son’s education and development over the next four years than any other person? If your son’s best interest is not this coach’s top priority now, why would it be later?

1 Like

I appreciate your perspective that we should be thankful he found a nice fit! I think you are right that the parent in me wants him to have plenty of options. At the end of the day, he still might pick this school but it’s not knowing what else could be a good fit!

I agree on starting with career interest. Right now, he is interested becoming a DPT. While Biology is always an option for undergraduate studies (and nearly every school offers it), he prefers to do exercise science or kinesiology, so he is looking at schools that offer that. He’s dipped his toes into the coursework (anatomy and physiology) but we’re encouraging him to consider some job shadowing to really get a feel for what the DPT does!

I should probably clarify that the coaches didn’t say anything overtly negative about the other schools (didn’t mention academics at all) but instead highlighted why their lacrosse program could be a fit. An example is that the coach talked about how large one of the rosters is for the other school and why they try to keep their roster size a bit more manageable. I get that they are trying to sell their program.

I agree with your statement about this not feeling like a big “win”. I guess that’s what’s nagging at me. The win is that my son loves the school (insists he would be happy there even if he can’t play his sport), they have several articulation agreements for graduate studies if he did pursue DPT, and of course, he loves the team/coaches. But it’s hard for me b/c I’m afraid he’s fallen in love with the first thing that came along, you know?

Very good advice and something I need my son to think about!

1 Like

I know EXACTLY how you feel. That’s the same boat I was in his Jr. year and beginning of Sr. year. But I can’t stress enough how great a feeling it is now knowing that he really likes the school he chose. Some people just know when the know, they don’t need to see 40 schools and apply to 20, as much as many posters on CC would have you believe. Again, just be thankful you don’t have to deal with all the stress that inevitably comes from the recruiting and application process. The school sounds like a great fit for your son. This is a HUGE “win”. Congrats!

1 Like

I was in the same position as you a couple of years ago, although my son is a track athlete, and I learned that the people on CC are both incredibly knowledgeable and incredibly generous, so it’s good that you’ve come here. It sounds like your S22 loves this particular school for reasons that go beyond lacrosse, but it also seems crazy for him to narrow down his options at such an early stage, particularly as it seems his academic stats will be strong. In our case, my son looked at a wide range of D3 schools, and in the end he found a school where he really liked the coach and got a good vibe from the team but where he also found the academics to be a good fit with his interests. My son is also interested in doing something involving sports as a career, so we tried to find schools that have relevant programs. There are not that many at the D3 level, but he found a terrific program at Denison, which has a Health, Exercise and Sports Science department and major. He’s probably going to double major in HESS and Psychology, with a view towards perhaps becoming a sports psychologist. Denison emphasizes athletics as an integrated aspect of the academic experience, and in our experience they have delivered on that. I don’t really mean to be pushing Denison (although LAX is strong there!), but just wanted to make the point that there are schools like this that might be a good fit for your son. Also, Denison and many of the other D3 LACs we looked at are very generous with merit aid and also meet full need.

3 Likes

My daughter (also lacrosse) was recruited by several schools in all three divisions. She was excited to be recruited, but just didn’t show a lot of interest in those very high ranked schools (academics, not lacrosse). She was only interested in math and science, and while Smith has an engineering degree and Kenyon has math classes, everything changed when she found a school that had engineering and a lot of other nerds just like her! She loved everything about the school and had no interest in any other schools once she found ‘her’ school. The lacrosse team was just forming so we knew they’d lose a lot but that she’d also get a lot of playing time (she played almost every minute of every game for 4 years). And it worked out that the team actually became good and went to the NCAA tournament for 2 years.

She did not have the option of going to the state school AND playing lacrosse (UF is a top program and she wasn’t that good coming out of high school). She had a lot of options, but that wasn’t one of them. She could have played D1 at some of the lower ranked programs but she didn’t like the academics at those schools. She could have played D3 at some schools and been the superstar player, but not at the top ranked programs (Middlebury, Gettysburg) but she wouldn’t have liked those schools either (not an LAC fan).

We also needed a good financial package and because she picked a D2 school she could get an athletic scholarship. The school worked out academically, athletically, and financially.

She did put all her eggs in one basket. She signed her NLI in November, had already been accepted to the school, and never applied to another school. She accepted that if something went wrong (and it almost did because the financial package was incorrect when we received it in Feb), she’d have to take a gap year. She was okay with that.

She’s a kid who doesn’t do well with choices. She worries and frets over little things, so for her it was good NOT to have to make choices after being accepted to a lot of schools. She made a decision and stuck to it.

2 Likes

I do think it is tough to go through athletic recruiting without a good deal of parental support. There is just a lot of planning and work to do between camps/showcases, OVs, coach interviews, etc. I know of one family that went through the process with minimal parental involvement, and their kid had decided early on on just one school. They later admitted that it was a good thing their kid was admitted to that D3 of choice (with very competitive admissions) because there was no back up plan and their kid would have been devastated if things had fallen through. You know your kid best. If you think he should be looking at different schools, work on getting some coach meetings with schools you think he should be considering (of course, your son should be making the arrangements). We had a lot of luck by sending video to coaches at schools that we liked without athletics, and then requesting a meeting with the coach.

The point here is not that your son should not attend the school that he currently likes, but that the only way to be sure is to visit a number of other schools. That process may only solidify your son’s decision - which is not a bad thing. Or, it may convince you that his choice is the right one. Either way, considering other schools will be confirming.

A few things to remember: First, coaches have lives. There can be any number of reasons why a coach does not immediately respond to emails. There may be no interest, but then again the failure to respond may mean nothing. One coach at a recruiting session told us: “show me some gumption. Keep at it.” Second, you probably should get some confirmation of the promises made to your son, like an admissions pre-read and a financial aid pre-read. Third, things can and frequently do change. Coaches leave. Teammates graduate. Your son should be completely happy with his choice assuming that he will no longer play his sport.

3 Likes

You know, I probably should have thought a bit about my kid also NOT doing well with choices. He suffers from analysis paralysis (he gets it honest). That is probably why a smaller pool of choices might be better for him and why he is dragging his feet on expanding his choices.

This has been hard for me. I agree there’s so much involved in choosing a college but when adding the extra layer of athletics, it is a lot of planning and work. I definitely want to be supportive but also don’t want to be a helicopter parent.

He’s our only child so it’s our first/only time of navigating all of this. It is both exciting and stressful!

2 Likes

My daughter would not have been happy without playing her sport. Yes, sometimes students can no longer physically play, but many athletes will do anything to stay on the team - redshirt a year for rehab, become a manager, or transfer. A woman on the Wisconsin hockey team transferred from Princeton to Wisconsin in January this year because the Ivy league isn’t playing sports. I’m sure she could have ‘been happy’ at Princeton without hockey, but she didn’t want to be so she transferred. And she got a national championship out of it.

She isn’t the only one. I’ve watched several lacrosse games (men and women) and there are a lot of Ivy transfers playing on them this year. Sports are as important to some kids as the academics and many schools have good academics.

It is hard to balance all the choices but there isn’t one perfect choice. I would encourage your son to keep options open, at least through the summer of senior year, but if he’s found somewhere he’s happy, maybe that’s the right choice. Not too many years ago, lacrosse players were committing as sophomores in hs and there weren’t any places left on the top teams for those who needed more time. My daughter didn’t decide she wanted to play until spring of junior year and many options were closed to her, including any D1 team ranked in the top 50 or D3 team in the top 30; they were full. Now lax players can’t commit until junior year, but most DO commit that early. D2 and D3 tend to be a little later in the cycle, but not that much later. There is some shifting in the fall of senior year (more with boys than girls) but usually among the superstars more so than the mere mortals.

1 Like

This. Plenty of kids (athletes and non-athletes) have a first choice school and don’t visit any/many others. This school sounds like a place he wants to be. I really do understand wanting him to have options, but if he’s excited to go there then embrace that.

That made me laugh. I am sure many of our kids have spent a little too much time with the PTs already!

1 Like

My last $0.02 (and based on a struggle with my own son). Your son might have no interest in chasing prestige, but he may owe it to his parents to chase merit scholarships. Some flexibility apparently exists for colleges to match competing financial aid offers (both merit and need based) from similar institutions. Applying to a couple additional colleges could give you ammunition to negotiate a better aid package at this pre-chosen college.

An explanation might be that he has to play poker with the admissions/financial aid offices, even if the coach knows the college is his first choice.

Thank you for this! Yes, we certainly want the best merit aid we can get. I can see how having more than one merit offer could be used as leverage to possibly get a better package from the institution he has chosen!

Some D3 schools (generally the more selective) don’t offer merit aid, just need-based aid so keep that in mind.

Also, I know you said you don’t want to be a helicopter parent, BUT when it comes time to make the final decision the parents should be involved in those coach calls to understand whether the coach is offering full support, as well as the finances. Some schools will do a financial aid pre-read, some won’t, but definitely ask.

1 Like

In our experience, the “extra layer of athletics” requires more early parental involvement than the traditional college process. It is just the nature of the beast, because your son is picking “the school” and you need to ensure that it is the “right school” (fit and financial) and that the school will (to the maximum extent possible) admit him. But, having watched our non-athlete and athlete children go through the college admissions process, I would take the athlete route over the non-athlete route every single time. When it was all said and done, we realized that our athlete child essentially time shifted the college process about 6 months earlier than our non-athlete child, traded (hated) application essay writing time for time talking to coaches, and had early college certainty instead of waiting for late random acceptances. Good luck with your process and enjoy the ride!

5 Likes