Letting kids be kids

Brennan O’Neil, freshman at Bay Shore (NY) High School, committed to play college lacrosse in March of his eighth grade year for Penn State. But my case was different, I didn’t commit to play until July before my senior year. Yet, my journey of visiting and committing to play in college following junior year is becoming the new normal. A major change was introduced to both the men’s and women’s lacrosse recruiting process for college coaches and prospective student athletes (PSAs) April 14. The NCAA Division I Council passed a proposal stating that recruiting contact between coaches and PSAs cannot start until Sept. 1 of the PSAs’ junior year, and all contact through third party sources is forbidden. This legislation went into effect immediately.

This new legislation stops the accelerated cycle of early recruiting that the lacrosse world has supported for so long because coaches found loopholes in the current recruiting rules. Some girls and boys committed to colleges in eighth grade, like Caitlyn Wurzburger, a freshman from American Heritage School in Florida, who committed to Syracuse University in January in eighth grade. She became the youngest lacrosse player to ever commit to a school.  According to the Recruiting Rundown, as of March 2017, there are nearly 100 boys’ commits for the class of 2020 and already two girls’ 2021 commits to Penn State University and University of Maryland-College Park.

The PSAs will actually have time to be kids and not stress over making the biggest decision for the next four years of their lives in eighth grade or freshman year.[/pullquote]As someone who had to navigate the process as a Midwesterner, as most colleges recruit heavily from the East Coast, this legislation gives girls from non-traditional areas (the Midwest, West and South) the ability to practice and learn the traditional East Coast game. Lacrosse is still considered a new sport in the South, Midwest and West.

I didn’t start playing lacrosse until eighth grade so I had to try to rapidly catch up with girls who had been playing the game since elementary school. When I started my recruiting process during club season as a freshman, many schools refused to look at me as I had little experience playing the game. I also did not know what type of school I wanted to attend. I was willing to look anywhere based on their interest in me. As I continued the recruiting process into my junior year, I started narrowing down schools based on size and academic criteria, which I never would have done a eighth grader or a freshman.

Visiting schools only increased the anxiety I had about the recruiting process. I felt like if I didn’t get recruited in my first two years of high school, I would immediately be pulled out of the Division I recruiting process, and that the only schools that would be interested in me would be Division II or III. As the process of recruiting went into junior year, I noticed that I was increasingly visiting Division III schools, but Davidson College, which is Division I, still had positions available.

By the time I committed in July before my senior year, I felt I had full knowledge that Davidson College would be a place I could thrive academically and athletically.  Without my rigorous class schedule and lacrosse growth over my first three years of high school, I never would have had the opportunity to play at Davidson.

The new recruiting legislation benefits the coaches by allowing them to see who is able to develop throughout the first three years of high school. The PSAs will actually have time to be kids and not stress over making the biggest decision for the next four years of their lives in eighth grade or freshman year.