Whether they are sitting in lawn chairs every June and July constantly reapplying sun block and suffering from the sweltering heat or layering their clothes each November dressed in parkas and finding a way to take notes on players after shaking their frozen pens, the life of a lacrosse coach is more than a full time job; it’s a lifestyle.
Lacrosse recruiting is a complex process as colleges and universities compete against one another to sell their program to the most talented players across the nation.
At Cabrini College, the men’s lacrosse program has been extremely successful, winning seven straight Pennsylvania Athletic Conference Championships and earning six straight National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament bids.
“Recruiting is probably the most important thing we do. I could have the greatest playbook in the world but without talented players that would mean nothing,” head men’s lacrosse coach Steve Colfer said.
As the game of lacrosse continues to grow in popularity across the United States more and more players fight to earn the interest of college coaches.
“The majority of the players we are going to see are at lacrosse tournaments during the summer but now as the game is growing we attend tournaments in the fall,” assistant men’s lacrosse coach Brian Felice said.
These tournaments usually run on a Wednesday through Saturday basis at high schools, colleges and other sites with multiple fields where the majority of lacrosse talent is found in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York and New Jersey.
“You have to have a good strategy going into a tournament. First, you want to see the players you already know and judge their play. From there our coaches will split up and cover other games. In one hour two coaches can watch eight games going from field to field,” Felice said.
With players running up and down several fields, lacrosse balls flying in every direction and players laying picture perfect hits on their opponents, it’s difficult for coaches to judge talent.
“It is important to make an accurate assessment of high school players. Being able to calculate a player’s ability and seeing whether they can fit into our program is vital,” Colfer said.
“The number one thing we are looking for is athleticism. Then we need fundamentally sound players either offensively or defensively with field smarts. Each position (attack-man, defensive-man, midfielder and goalie) is looked at differently but good stick skills and vision are vital,” Felice said.
After scouting a player live the coaches review their notes taken from the tournaments and send select few information about Cabrini and a lacrosse questionnaire asking for information regarding everything from their high school lacrosse statistics to their grade point average.
Then in late August the coaches start calling players to introduce themselves, talk about their program and invite them to Cabrini for a day and possible night visit.
“I’d have to say keeping in consistent contact either by phone or email and getting a player on campus are essential to earning a player’s commitment,” Felice said.
The majority of the recruits commit during the fall often after coming to watch the Cabrini fall-ball tournament, while others wait till the spring.
“We limit our recruiting class from 12-16 players. We are not going to spend all the time recruiting someone we are going to cut,” Felice said.
Each year the team loses major position players and leaders.
“Yes, we are looking at the seniors that are graduating but in order to stay consistent and successful we must not only focus on replacing the seniors but the juniors as well by looking two years ahead instead of one,” Felice said.
To be able to persevere in college sports is not easy task as each individual lacrosse program at the Division I, II and III levels do their best to persuade recruits to come to their school. While Division I and II schools can offer athletic scholarships, Division III athletes can only receive financial aid packages.
“Every school has its advantages. There is no one thing you can say to get a student to commit. We face the same challenges ever college has. Winning helps and in result our record has helped us recruit higher level players that maybe in the past would not have chosen Cabrini,” Colfer said.
“If you are honest and informative to others about Cabrini College then they can make up their mind distinguishing Cabrini lacrosse from other programs,” Colfer said.
As colleges compete to find the best recruits and coaches face immense pressure to earn success on the field unfair recruiting techniques occur including under the table incentives such as money, talking to a player during an inactive recruiting time, even sending players constant text messages showing interest in their game.
“We want to be available and honest to our recruits. We want them to come for the right reasons,” Colfer said.
“Coach Colfer was very professional while recruiting me. Everything was very business like but he was welcoming at the same time,” sophomore Dan Drudi, a finance major and midfielder, said.
“He didn’t really have to sell Cabrini to me. Winning wise this was the best school recruiting me. Other schools including a Division I and II program were interested in me but Cabrini has been nationally ranked for the past few years and that’s huge,” Drudi said.
Cabrini recruits student-athletes not only with great lacrosse skills but with an overall package.
“The better the student-athlete the easier my life will be the next four years. We look for students that are academically prepared for college. It can be tempting to take a risk on a talented player with bad grades but overall it’s better to recruit players that will stay on the field,” Colfer said.
Although recruiting is extremely competitive, nerve wracking and at times frustrating the Cabrini lacrosse program has a winning solution.
“We have to understand each year is a new year. We can build on the prior year’s success by working hard day by day. To be successful you have to have a building block mentality by not looking to far ahead,” Colfer said.
The 2008 season kicks off on Sunday, March 2 in Roanoke, Va. with Cabrini facing Roanoke College.
“We are as talented as we have ever been. Our strength of schedule and traveling is very tough this year. We are excited to see what we are made of,” Colfer said.