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What type of player does a collegiate coach look for when recruiting?

Questions and Answers

The biggest question most high school athletes ask is, “how do I get noticed?”

‘Coaches are always looking for guys that compete with great energy.’ — Dave Pietramala
While there is no single answer to the question, ESPN RISE spoke with lacrosse head coaches at Denver, Jacksonville, Johns Hopkins and Notre Dame to find out some ways a player can gain a college coach’s attention.

ESPN RISE: What can a player do to get noticed?

Kevin Corrigan, Notre Dame
“There are three different avenues a guy can take. If I were trying to be noticed I would pick my events in the summer and fall. I would do some self-promotion to the programs I was interested in and I would use my 
high school coach to help get my name out there.
“Kids should be smart and strategic about the events, know what the level of play is and what his aspirations are. Every event doesn’t have the same people. You’re going to have different coaches at different venues based on the perceived level of play at that event. Have some good video available and send it out to coaches.”

Matt Kerwick, Jacksonville University
“The summer and fall tournaments are so crucial to the recruiting process now. If you are a sophomore and playing at a 
strong high school program, unless you’re a superstar you’re not going to be playing much. There aren’t many sophomores leading those rosters because juniors and seniors who have earned the right to be starters lead them. So sending out DVD and video clips from YouTube can be really useful. “

Dave Pietramala, Johns Hopkins
“Perform. That’s the most obvious. 
If you find yourself in a game where college coaches are present, perform at a high level. That’s what’s going to catch a coach’s eye first. Coaches are always looking for guys that compete with great energy and enthusiasm. How hard you play is something I find to be an interesting quality you’re looking for, but you don’t necessarily find it as much as you’d like. I’m always amazed when I go to these camps and there is a number of coaches watching and here’s the players, some who are not playing as hard as they’re capable of.”
Bill Tierney, University of Denver
“There are three ways: 
recruiting camps, tournaments and clubs. Lacrosse has moved to the soccer model of clubs during the summer because we can’t see the kids play in the spring. Unlike football, we can’t see kids play in their senior year then wait to make a decision because then it’s too late for admissions. We need to see them, at the very latest, the summer after their junior year. More often than not it’s the summer after their sophomore year or the fall and spring of their junior at the latest. But they’re getting seen mostly at recruiting camps, tournament and once in a while coaches have kids come into their schools and their personal camps.”
Lacrosse scholarships broken down by some of college’s best coaches

‘You’re going to reward the guys who that are doing the right thing.’– Matt Kerwick

Lacrosse is growing rapidly in high school, according to a US Lacrosse report the sport has grown from more than 250,000 participants in 2001 to more than 560,000 in 2009. In contrast, according to, NCAA Division I lacrosse has gone from 50 teams in 1981 to 60 in 2010. The number of participants has grown from 1,600 to 2,500. With more high school athletes vying for a Division I scholarship, the process has grown more competitive. To help make sense of the process, ESPN RISE spoke with coaches at several colleges and asked them to break down the process, from getting noticed to the realities of getting a Division I scholarship. Every Tuesday over the next few months, ESPN RISE editors will release a new story in the weekly series Recruiting Road. We will feature coaches’ and recruiters’ answers to some of the most asked recruiting questions.

ESPN RISE: How does the scholarship process for Division I lacrosse break down?

With Division I programs allotted 12.6 scholarships for their entire team, college coaches rarely give out full scholarships, instead opting to parse out those scholarships in varying increments.
The college coaches ESPN RISE spoke with said the biggest misconception in lacrosse recruiting is the thinking that those 12.6 scholarships are available each year. Programs are alloted that number to use for their entire roster, which has typically 45 to 50 players. So if a player graduates who was given $200, for example, the program can now use that $200 on another player.

Matt Kerwick, Jacksonville University
“When I was at Georgetown we had a couple guys that were getting close to full rides. We had a handful of guys that were getting 70 percent and a lot of guys that were getting 30 to 40 percent. Most programs do it the same way – you’re going to reward the guys who are doing the right thing socially, academically, on the field and as a teammate. As they move to their sophomore and junior year you’re going to reward those guys. They might start with a 20 percent scholarship and by the time they’re leaving their senior year they are getting over half a scholarship.”

Dave Pietramala, Johns Hopkins
“The advice I would pass on is to not believe what you hear. There is a common misconception that everyone gets a scholarship and if they get a scholarship, it’s a full scholarship. The reality of it is that very few players get full scholarships. The rest are broken up. As coaches we find ourselves trying to take care of as many of these talented players as we can. Most young men are getting a portion of a scholarship and there are quite a few that are paying their own way or on some kind of need-based financial aid.”

Bill Tierney, University of Denver
“We’re an equivalency sport, which makes us different from football and basketball where everyone gets a full ride. What most college coaches do is break it up to some full rides, some in amounts of money, some in tuition, room and board or books. You can break them up any way you want, but in general if there is a 45-man team there might be 25 or so that are on some sort of scholarship money.”

Club lacrosse could help you get noticed. As club lacrosse expands, more college coaches are taking notice. Last week, ESPN RISE asked coaches 
what athletes should consider when picking events. Sticking with the event theme and looking at the expanding landscape of club lacrosse tournaments along with individual showcase camps, we wanted to find out what role does club lacrosse and the individual camps play in the recruiting process. Club lacrosse has been expanding the last few years and in many ways models soccer. Regional players gather to form clubs and travel to showcase tournaments. These tournaments are a great way for college coaches to take notice of talent. Many coaches realize the growing importance of club lacrosse, but acknowledge that the high school coach is still their point of contact with potential recruits in many instances.

ESPN RISE: What role does club lacrosse and individual lacrosse camps play in the recruiting process?

Kevin Corrigan, Notre Dame
“It’s become a huge factor because it’s where a lot of kids are spending their summers. I personally like it in a lot of ways. Guys are playing with a consistent team, which is good to see the range of their talent. For our evaluation purposes, I like a team setting because I think you see more of the range of things a kid can do rather then at an individual camp.”

Matt Kerwick, Jacksonville University
“It’s important, but it’s not crucial from my standpoint. I tend to call the high school coaches more than the club coaches. We certainly like to see them play with either one. The club aspect is becoming a huge part of lacrosse, like it or not. There is a hesitation at times with certain clubs, that they’re overselling their kids. You just have to feel comfortable with those respective coaches and be able to take them at their word.”

Dave Pietramala, Johns Hopkins
“The value has continued to increase. Because of the club thing, some of the high school coaches get squeezed out a little bit. You always want to include the high school coach. No one knows a kid better then his high school coach. That being said, club does play an important role now. You’re able to see these guys at tournaments and find out information about the kids.”

Bill Tierney, University of Denver
“It’s becoming more and more important unless you’re one of the stud kids that play in one of the places that is seen a lot. I reluctantly recommend it. I like the old system where you can go to the high school coach and talk to him. Now you get kids that specialize and kids play lacrosse year around. Camps are good in that a kid can do it on his own if he’s not in a good club situation. They can be valuable as an adjunct or in place of. It’s another way for kids to go.”

Charles Toomey, Loyola
“It seems like it’s more difficult for high school teams to field teams in November and it’s a big opportunity for us as coaches to get out and watch these kids play. In the summer we have the ability to see kids from far away areas that are putting together select teams and coming to the East Coast and coming to these camps. With club some kids may be more confident with the ball than others and could show a little bit better in the club program, where in the high school program they might have some more set plays and could look better in that environment.”

What to do – and what not to do – on college recruiting visits. High school athletes should look at the entire picture, from academics to non-athlete facilities, when looking at a school. If you’re considering whether to go on a college visit, paid or unofficial, put aside any reservations. You’re always better off going. Students who make visits before applying tend to enroll more often than those who apply without visiting, so schools keep track of who comes. If college officials think you might not be serious about going there, your admission letter might just wind up with somebody else. Plus, the only way to find out whether a school is a good fit for you is to see it for yourself. But don’t go without a plan.

Take a tour

Coaches will show you around the athletic facilities, but don’t forget to pop into the admissions office and ask to take a campus tour, too. Remember, most of your time at school will be spent outside the lines.“Make sure you see everything you are capable of seeing,” says Oklahoma softball player Keilani Ricketts. Look at dorm rooms, cafeterias and libraries. Don’t base your decision just on the sport and its facilities. Think about whether you like the campus.
“When you go on a visit,” says Notre Dame wide receiver Barry Gallup, “you want to take your sport out of it and say, ‘Could I see myself here if I wasn’t playing?’" 

Ask anything

Meet with coaches and admissions officers, talk to students walking through the quad, pull a professor aside. Ask everyone anything and everything. Don’t worry about being a pest: Asking questions shows that you’re serious about learning more about the school.
“The best questions,” says Katie Holmes, catcher on the Nicholls State (La.) softball team, “are sports-related when talking to your coach, but also ask about the campus itself. What building is that? Are professors understanding of the needs of a student-athlete? Is there a tutoring center? Are there health services in case you get sick? Do you need a car? How far away are the dorms?”

Be a little skeptical

Schools want you to apply. It boosts their admissions statistics and increases their selectivity rating. So when you’re on a visit — especially an official one—remember that most people you talk to are selling something: their college.
And if you visit the day of a big game, think about coming back for a weekday overnight. You can learn a lot about a school when the spotlights are off. “You might go on a game day and it’s really exciting,” says Gallup, “but that’s only a few days out of the year like that. Can you see yourself there the rest of the year?”

Be smart

We know, being courted on campus can be a heady thing. Coaches squire you around, players want to meet you. But make sure you don’t get too caught up. “The number one thing you shouldn’t do on a visit is drink,” says Holmes. “Go out with the team if you can, have fun, but don’t be an idiot.”
She’s right. At this point, all you’ve got is your reputation and if you mess up, the coach is sure to hear about it.

Get fit

“The most important thing,” Bowdoin athletic director Jeff Ward says, “is that you pick a school you’re comfortable at whether you play or not.” Holmes agrees. “You’re at school for nine months of the year. If you aren’t comfortable, those nine months seem like a lifetime.” So explore the campus, talk to everyone, ask your questions. Walk away knowing you learned everything you could about a school. And don’t commit unless you think it’s a good fit.
College coaches want to see more than highlights. Athletes should send more than a five minute highlight if they want to impress college coaches
Getting to play in premier events can be a challenge for some high school lacrosse players. Standing out among the hundreds of players is an even larger challenge. That’s one reason why over the past few years highlight DVDs and YouTube highlights have grown in popularity. It hasn’t reached the critical mass that it has in football, but more high school lacrosse players are using the highlight reel to gain college coaches’ attention.
But what should you know before you send the DVD or YouTube clip? ESPN RISE spoke with five college coaches to find out.

ESPN RISE: What role does the highlight tape play in recruiting?

Kevin Corrigan, Notre Dame
“A good film is huge. I would advise any kid that is interested in playing college lacrosse to put together a good film. We like to see a few minutes of highlights followed by at least a quarter, probably a half of a game. The highlight is good for showcasing what a kid’s particular skills might be, but it’s tough to judge in a vacuum – that’s basically what a highlight is.”

Matt Kerwick, Jacksonville University
“If I see a young man who is competitive, runs hard and has good speed and looks to be a good athlete, then we’re going to pursue him. We don’t just want to see the highlights, we want to see him in the flow of a game and how he’s reacting to the different situations in the game – not just when he has the ball in his stick.”

Dave Pietramala, Johns Hopkins
“Lacrosse is more in person scouting and evaluating. We’re permitted many more opportunities to evaluate in perrson then football and basketball.”

Bill Tierney, University of Denver
“Films, DVD and YouTube clips are more of an introductory piece. If we don’t see a kid during the summer and he sends us a DVD, it can either make or break him, but at least it gives us an idea if we need to see him in the fall.”

Charles Toomey, Loyola
“Lacrosse is exploding and it gives us a great opportunity to see kids from some of the outlying areas. We would say that if you’re going to put a highlight on the front end, make it a five- or six-minute clip, but then put a full game. It can be a game against your biggest rival, a team on the East coast that we’re familiar with or maybe just your best game of the year.” There are plenty of ways to get noticed if you are from a non-hotbed LAX area
Athletes should be proactive if they want to gain lacrosse college coaches’ attention. Baltimore, Long Island and Philadelphia are considered traditional hotbed areas for high school lacrosse, but one look at a college lacrosse roster and it’s obvious that players are coming from other areas of the country, now more than ever. But as lacrosse becomes more prevalent in areas like California, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, players in those areas will continue to improve. ESPN RISE spoke with five Division I head coaches and asked them for recruiting advice for players from non-traditional areas.
ESPN RISE: Is there anything athletes from non-traditional lacrosse areas can do to get noticed?

Kevin Corrigan, Notre Dame
“It’s tougher for kids who are not from traditional areas. 
You’re best bet is to try to get some people to give you some advice. Start with the events and games you’re playing in. If you are in a good league and you’re one of the best players in your league it will help you.”

Matt Kerwick, Jacksonville University
“From the non-traditional areas here in Florida and out in California, a lot of what we’re learning about them has been initiated from them – they send us a link. It’s very important to be proactive and reach out to coaches even if you think it might be a long shot. Don’t be afraid to send an e-mail early. Get their name out to the coaches and schools they’re interested in early.”

Dave Pietramala, Johns Hopkins
“This is a world of technology now and they need to use the Internet. We’ve recruited kids off a link from a website. If a coach is worth his weight in gold, someone on the staff is going to evaluate that footage. If you’re in a non-traditional area and have not been able to get out to the camps, that’s an easy way to put yourself in front of a college coach. We have a couple guys here we recruited strictly off video we received.”

Bill Tierney, University of Denver
YouTube and DVD thing is a double-edged sword. It’s a way for them to get introduced to that coach, but I don’t think there are many coaches out there that are going to say to a kid, ‘yes I have 10 spots, and from your DVD you’re on my list.’ What they will say is, ‘I liked your DVD and where are you playing?’ They need to see them live. The other edge is if it’s not good or not good enough, that will be the end of it. They’re not going to write them back and say ‘I didn’t like your clip, but I’m going to give you a second chance.’”

Charles Toomey, Loyola
“Hopefully they can look into some of the club programs in their area and find out what exposure tournaments they go to. Once they find out about the tournaments, find out what colleges have attended those tournaments in the past. That’s their chance to be in front of those coaches. Take the time to reach out to the college coach and let them know you’re going to be there. Send them an e-mail with your jersey number, game times and where you’re going to be so it’s easier for us to track you once we get there.” Knowing your skills can help determine what level of college lacrosse to play
There are many options outside of Division I for high school lacrosse athletes. Self awareness can be tough. For a high school athlete, it can mean the difference between realizing their talent does not match up with the dream of playing Division I lacrosse. But self awareness can be an athlete’s biggest asset. Knowing your skills and knowing how you match up against players on your team, league and state can go a long way in helping an athlete find a college that is best suited to their talents and future goals. But figuring out what level of lacrosse suits you best can be challenging, which is why ESPN RISE asked five college coaches how players can help themselves determine how good they really are.
ESPN RISE: How do you determine what level of lacrosse you are best suited to play?

Kevin Corrigan, Notre Dame
“Start sending tape out to coaches and see what the response is. Send your tape out to three Top 10 D-I programs and a couple Top 20 programs and a couple of D-III programs. See what kind of response you get. No one is going to tell you exactly where you fit because it’s a hard thing to know – lacrosse recruiting is an inexact science. Outside of attending events, get the film to people who can tell you. There are people in almost every area that have a pretty good grasp on this. It may not be your high school coach, but there’s a guy in your area who knows what the deal is.”

Matt Kerwick, Jacksonville University
“If a kid has aspirations to play at the highest level they should go after that. Ask for the coaches opinion, we’ll be honest – we have a great group of coaches at Division I and I like to think we’ll always be honest with the kids. If you get the information out there early enough so coaches can get out an evaluate you and be honest with you. Also, ask your high school coach where you fit.”

Dave Pietramala, Johns Hopkins
“You have to rely on the high school coaches. Many have placed guys at Division I, II or III. Speak with your high school coach, the guy that sees you every day and knows your work ethic, knows your grades and athletic ability. When you get to Sept. 1 of your junior year, if you’ve been out at camps and seen by college coaches, the interest level you get should paint a realistic picture for you. If you’re hearing from all Division III schools then that should give you a sense where you are, ability-wise.”

Bill Tierney, University of Denver
“They need to recognize and be honest. If they have 20 letters from Division III schools and one from a lower Division I school, they have to look in the mirror and realize they may be a Division III player. One thing kids always forget is that we’re always recruiting. It’s not like high school where you can look in front of you and see who’s graduating and figure they’ll move up. There are kids being recruited behind them as well and it’s a meritocracy and if they’re better, they’ll play.”
Charles Toomey, Loyola
“The first resource should always be the high school coach. Sometimes the kids don’t like what they hear, but I don’t know of a high school coach in the country that wants to put a young man in a tough situation and oversell him. As a high school coach, they get a feel for the kids. Maybe they have a teammate whose father played collegiate lacrosse, so that could be a resource they can reach out and talk to. If they call us as coaches and we’re recruiting them we will certainly give them an indicator, at least for our program. But remember, just because I’m not recruiting you, it doesn’t mean you’re not a Division I player. Recruiting is in the eye of the beholder.” Talent gets you noticed, grades get you an offer. Coaches look for A’s and B’s and high PSAT scores from potential lacrosse recruits. Getting noticed, putting together a good highlight tape and playing in important events will only take a high school lacrosse player so far. If the athlete does not have the grades to get into a school, it won’t matter how talented they are on the field.
As recruiting has accelerated, with players committing before their junior seasons, coaches have started looking at grades during freshman year and PSAT’s to get an idea if that player will qualify. ESPN RISE spoke with two Division I coaches about what coaches look for academically.

ESPN RISE: What academic requirements do coaches look for when recruiting a player?

Lelan Rogers, Syracuse Recruiting Coordinator
“Every kid needs to have a broad base – your four sciences, four English, four math and social science. We like for kid’s GPA to be the higher the better. If a kid is a good high school student we can go ahead and put more time in other areas rather than keeping an eye on (them). If I get a kid around an 1,100 or 1,200 SAT and a 3.2 to 3.5 GPA, I feel pretty good about that.”

Charles Toomey, Loyola
“We all want the best student we can get who fits the admissions profile for our university. It’s important they understand that we’re now looking at their freshman- and sophomore-year grades. We’re also looking at PSAT’s. Those are becoming important years and important tests because it gives us an indication of where they’re going to be when they’re making their commitment.”