Last week, Dom Starsia, coach of Virginia’s men’s lacrosse team, wrote an open letter for US Lacrosse on the role of club teams in lacrosse. While many sports have club or travel teams, and some athletes have to train with a club because their school doesn’t offer their sport at all, lacrosse players sometimes find themselves in one of two unenviable positions: deciding between conflicts in a fall or winter high school sport (like football, soccer or field hockey) and appearing at a tournament or prospect day, or even choosing whether to play for a club or high school lacrosse team in the same tournament.
“If there is a choice that needs to be made, my personal preference would be to encourage someone to play with his high school teammates first and foremost,” Starsia said.
(Ed. note: Starsia speaks exclusively about boys exclusively since he is, after all, a men’s coach. But these issues are definitely important for women’s lacrosse, too.)
It’s worth a look at everything Coach Starsia writes. After all, any time we can hear directly from a college coach about what they look for in a recruit, it’s a good thing. For example, would you have assumed, without reading Starsia’s letter, that he agrees with Charlie Adams that we should all strive to be talented multi-sport athletes?
I absolutely wince when a young player tells me that he is giving up football or soccer to “concentrate” in lacrosse. You develop a deeper fundamental understanding of the team concepts involved in the sport of men’s lacrosse on the football and soccer fields, the basketball courts and hockey rinks of your youth.
YOU WILL BE A BETTER LACROSSE PLAYER BY PLAYING OTHER SPORTS.
And when a family does choose to pursue a club lacrosse team, Starsia writes, they should look for a team that has a coach with a good track record, “Someone who will conduct some practices and coach your son in a reasonable manner,” a team whose practices fit into the family’s schedule and which isn’t so expensive that you have to dip into a college fund to afford it.
Starsia’s letter fits in with a piece that Lacrosse Magazine covered earlier this year, after Deadspin published an email exchange between a family and a club coach when the family was leaving for a new club team, which included a promise by the club coach that he would ensure everyone in his network knew “they are getting a quitter who is ungrateful and soft who can’t take criticism… You have no clue how this lacrosse world works.”
First of all, woah. We wouldn’t want to be on that coach’s team, either.
But second, as numerous travel coaches told Justin Feil for the article, that coach preys on families’ fears and ignorance of the recruiting process.
There’s no memory in recruiting,” Hofstra men’s coach Seth Tierney said. “Every year, there’s an all-new set of ninth-and 10th-grade parents coming through recruitment and don’t know the potholes. There’s always new people in and new clubs in it.”
Club lacrosse should be a way to play and get better at the sport you love.
The vast majority of club coaches are out there because they enjoy the sport. But, as Terry Foy wrote in an Inside Lacrosse staff round table discussion, lacrosse recruiting is a “competitive (nearly free-market) environment that hasn’t caught up to a lot of the consumer protections that exist in other parts of the American economy.” There are always some bad apples.
Which goes back to Starsia’s point to find a reputable coach who fits your lifestyle and your budget.
And as lacrosse continues to grow rapidly, it’s equally important not to fall into the fear traps: there are recruiting opportunities outside of any individual coach’s personal network. Unlike the nightmarish coach’s claim in the Deadspin article, one bad coach experience doesn’t mean that your lacrosse recruiting days are over. There are so many ways to get your highlight videos and information out on the web and connect with coaches at schools that fit your dream major and lifestyle (even if they aren’t DI).
Do you have questions about your experiences on club or high school lacrosse teams? We’re here to help.