Dom Starsia, the former Men's Lacrosse Head Coach at the University of Virginia and his take on the current recruiting landscape:
Somehow, we seem to have survived the apocalyptic coming and going of Sept. 1. Almost hard to imagine we are still going to have college sports and a lacrosse season and that colleges themselves are still standing after the seismic eruptions predicted by the change in the recruiting legislation. Let me go so far as to offer this suggestion….if the initial date for recruiting contact was Dec. 1 of their “senior” year, most of the best prospects would still be going to UNC, Duke, Virginia and Notre Dame, the majority of the “next level” players with solid grades would be looking at the Patriot League, and the best Upstate New [lacrosse] prospects would still think that the Dome was the center of the lacrosse universe.
I have always considered that most players would find their way to the same schools if the recruiting was even more severely limited. The subtle, but not insignificant, shift that accompanies this current change is the that the recruiting will not continue to get earlier and high school students should enjoy an uninterrupted freshmen year.
I have also been hearing that these new rules will accelerate a scenario in which prospects need to attend lacrosse events in the fall in lieu of participation in football and soccer. Let me suggest to high school players and their parents that every reputable college coach that I know would prefer you play a fall sport. There is nothing you can do for your development as a lacrosse player on your own that is better than going to football and soccer practice every day. You learn and strengthen the fundamental understanding of lacrosse team offense and defense on the football and soccer fields, the basketball courts and hockey rinks of your youth.
The spring and summer following your sophomore year of high school will give the college coaches ample time and opportunity to make a thorough evaluation of your potential. Do you have a school or two that stands head and shoulders above the rest in your plans? Give up one of your club tournaments and go to camp or a prospect day at that institution. That is still the best setting for college coaches to appreciate the subtle nuances of your game.
To the college coaches, I am going to make this thorny recommendation: Do not contact players who are committed to other schools. These commitments will come a little later now; let’s consider them at least slightly more mature decisions than before the new legislation. This talk about an increased frequency of “poaching” seems to carry an air of inevitability. It does not have to be that way. Men’s and women’s lacrosse has already taken a leadership role on the college landscape with an uncommon cooperation and creative spirit that distinguishes the new rules. The college coaches could also decide that they simply will not make an initial contact with a committed athlete. Could a young man change his mind in his junior or senior year?...yes, of course, but don’t initiate that contact and let common decency and an “honor among thieves” carry the day.
Why bother stepping up to this complicated issue? I have always felt strongly that it does matter that the college coaches respect and trust each other. You could make an argument that Alabama football or (to a lesser extent) Duke basketball affects every aspect of life at those respective institutions. Virginia Lacrosse does not. The primary consideration for a college lacrosse program is to provide a life-changing/sustaining experience for the participants. Did they grow up in their four years? Did they become better citizens? Will they be better husbands and fathers because of their relationship to you and the experience playing college lacrosse? If there is any truth here, college coaches need to use every opportunity to strengthen the core values that will characterize this development. The relationship that begins with the encouragement to break your word and the premise that disloyalty has no consequence is without foundation and will likely have a contagious effect throughout your program.
If you stood up at the next coaches meeting and humbly declared that “I’m not going down this road,” I believe you would feel better about yourself, build respect among your peers, be an inspiration to your players and, in the end, be even more of a winner.