“Seek opportunities to show you care. The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference.”
John Wooden

Saturday, May 21, 2016

It’s Time for the NCAA to Stop the Early Recruiting Insanity


"The lacrosse recruiting process is a broken system that fails kids and their families," writes former U.S. U19 coach Kim Simons. (Kevin Tucker)

"The lacrosse recruiting process is a broken system that fails kids and their families," writes former U.S. U19 coach Kim Simons. (Kevin Tucker)
I recently received a phone call from a friend who is one of the national directors of coaching for a major US sport governing body. He told me the story of a recent phone call his office received from a distraught parent:
“We just had tryout for our local club and my son was placed on the B team. I need someone from your office to contact our club and demand that my son be placed on the top team. There is no way he should have been cut and he is going to miss out on going to the right events these next few years,” said the distraught mother. “My son is a Division 1 prospect and he is being cheated out of that opportunity.”
“Here is the kicker,” said my friend with a chuckle. “Her son was 9 years old!”
Has this parent lost the plot? Yes. But here is what is scary.
That mom might might have a 13-14 year old who has already been asked to make a verbal commitment to a college! She might have an 8th or 9th grade daughter playing lacrosse, soccer, or a number of other sports on a weekly basis in front of college recruiters. She is not the only one who has lost the plot.
The recruiting scene in youth sports has gone completely insane. It is hurting families. It is ramping up pressure on parents, coaches and kids. And it is terrible for universities that have freshmen on campus who have sometimes committed to a school they never visited, playing for a coach that didn’t even recruit them, and over their heads academically, athletically, even socially.
I feel for parents and athletes in the current environment. Mom and dad are scared their child will miss out on a scholarship because they hear about 8thgraders being recruited and 9th graders verbally committing. I cannot imagine what it feels like for a kid. When I was a high school athlete, if you committed to a college in September of your senior year, before you had even applied, people looked at you with a look that said “why are you in such a hurry?”
Today, kids who have not committed by spring of their sophomore year are told “what are you waiting for?” This is insane.
I have yet to meet a college coach who likes it.
I have yet to meet a student athlete who benefits by it.
I have yet to meet a parent who isn’t stressed out by it.
Most importantly, I have yet to come across an institution that so blatantly disregards its mission statement to serve student athletes as does the NCAA. They allow this environment to exist with a shrug of the shoulders, claiming this section of their 500-page recruiting rule book is “unenforceable” and might limit student opportunities to gather information about schools. Meanwhile, they march off to the bank to cash that next billion dollar TV contract. It’s not only sad; it’s a complete abdication of their responsibility.
In her excellent piece about the recruiting nightmare in women’s lacrosse former Georgetown head coach Kim Simmons Tortolani does a fantastic job outlining the detrimental effects on her sport caused by the accelerated recruiting calendar. She points out how it encourages early sport specialization, parents holding kids back a year to get an athletic advantage, year-round lacrosse, and high cost travel and club sports at younger and younger ages that kill participation numbers. These same issues exist across all sports.
Early recruiting also contributes to the high transfer rate among sports with early commitments. Michigan St men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo recently commented on the alarming transfer rate among NCAA D1 basketball players which has risen from 200 transfers a decade ago to nearly 800 this year. He states that players lack resiliency, but at the same time, how many kids transfer because they get to a school they committed to years prior when they were a different player, and a different person?
Finally, many athletes simply quit playing after their freshman year, burnt out on a sport they went all in on way too young, no longer willing to commit the 30 plus hours a week to their sport required in college. In its recent study of its athletes, the NCAA found that the number of athletes who committed to a single sport prior to age 12 was on the rise, and that the number one regret of athletes was that they did not play more sports growing up.
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