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College recruiting for lacrosse has changed dramatically in the past decade.

We are out of the wild west era of 14 year old high school freshmen verbally committing to schools and are in a better state of affairs now with high schoolers having to wait until September 1st of their junior year to even communicate with college coaches.

Summer will always be the biggest recruiting season, but late fall is becoming just as important with college coaches eager to find the best juniors and late blooming seniors. The players are more than willing to miss fall hockey practice or even a football game for a chance to play in front of these coaches.

Working at a fall recruiting event this past weekend, I had flashbacks to when I was in the current players shoes. It might be 20 degrees out and the fields are frozen or muddy, but you have to find a way to play your best lacrosse as D1, D2, and D3 coaches watch intently ready to put a checkmark next to any players that catch their eye.

Every coach is looking for a program changer.

Superstars attract a lot of attention and college coaches will be circling and underlining their names after a player’s change of direction at X leaves a defender on the ground, an on the run missile singes the net, or a perfectly timed check knocks the stick out of their opponent’s hands. Being flashy is one way to attract attention, but coaches also are looking for the two way midfielders who never take a shift off, the attackmen who show up early to the field, or the goalies you can hear directing their defense from two fields over. Who are the character guys or girls that will make a real difference on a college program?

The players can see what coaches are watching them as they walk by the sideline and see Villanova, Delaware, St. Bonaventure, Princeton, Cleveland St., Syracuse, and a dozen other high profile logos on their jackets. Scoring a goal right in front of them is an amazing feeling. Fumbling a ground ball right in front of them feels like the end of the world.

Some players’ parents even have the audacity to come up to coaches and say “my son is #10 he was all-state last season.”

This might be the last chance for seniors to fulfill their dreams of playing college lacrosse. Most Division 1 and top Division 2 or 3 schools already have their 2020 class filled out, but there are those still looking to add one more key player. Many of these seniors’ friends have already signed their letters of intent putting even more pressure on the ones who are still hoping for their chance to play at the next level.

Looking into the crystal ball coaches attempt to see what a player could turn into. Can the talented, but quiet attackman turn into a captain one day? Can you mold the athletic defenseman with raw stick skills into a star?

There are so many factors of the college student-athlete experience that could turn a high school junior into a captain, a transfer, or maybe even cause quit lacrosse all together. I’ve seen star recruits succumb to the pressures of school, practice, workouts, and getting yelled at by coaches. They last two years and then decide this isn’t the college experience they asked for. It takes a special young man or woman to rise above the challenges of college lacrosse.

It’s impossible to know what will happen, but college coaches continue to journey around the country hoping to find those players on bone chilling days in November who could lead their program to the playoffs and championships.

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