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Sunday, October 27, 2013

One and One Does Not Equal Two

As many of you gear up for the recruiting tournaments, the question inevitably arises...
 

How do we make sense of what is to come with respect to the process as it relates to our son/daughter?
 
The answer is that you can't make sense of it unless you study it and constantly re-assess what is or is not happening in the way of "communication."  You need to pay attention to every little detail, every correspondence, every phone call.  The devil is in the details so they say. This proverbial adage holds true for most things we do. Kind of like…take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves...
 
WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! There is nothing logical about this recruiting process and the details and or little things can in fact be meaningless and or significant.  One thing means another and what you heard today, may mean something ELSE in two weeks...confused? Well, you should be.
 
The good news is that you are not alone.  Show me a parent who said that the recruiting of their child was a logical, easy to understand endeavor and I will tell you that they are in a very, very, small minority. This past recruiting year had me dealing with some extraordinarily complex situations.  The fact that the talent pool is exploding, made it even more difficult to make sense of where a student athlete stood with a particular school.  Then take into account the complexity of admissions jargon and obfuscation and...reach for the Tylenol.  Don't believe me?  Well, read this great article about the nature of "communication" the Ivy League schools offer up to potential recruits.
Talk about confusing...
 
 
 My experience in dealing with the recruiting process, from beginning to end, for multiple families, affords me an interesting vantage point.  I assume nothing in the way of success on the behalf of my clients until the acceptance letter is firmly in hand. At that point and ONLY at that point, should you and your FAMILY feel a sense of relief.

Who Do You Rely On?

I just finished the college recruiting process with my twin daughters. This will be the 7th time I labored through this crazy process in my own household.

The confusion, the ambiguity, the uncertainty is maddening.

Even though all my children were highly recruited, there was not one moment of tranquility until the acceptance letters arrived...or they signed the N.L.I. However, I knew I had a distinct advantage because I have gone through this with over 100 families as the Director of Everest Recruiting Consulting and The Sting.

One thing I was certain of during my daughter's recruiting...I could never let my guard down. The process simply does not lend itself to predictability...that much I was sure of.

People often ask me when they should begin preparing for the college search. The answer is absolutely the Sophomore year. Many of the most competitive recruiting LAX camps  now have sessions for rising Sophomores! Coaches are ever more aware of the need to identify talent earlier. The talent pool is so big and the sport is growing so fast on a national basis, that you would be hard pressed to find a reason to wait until your son's Junior year to begin making sense of what you are up against.

Read some of the testimonials from parents/players who have relied upon us. You will come away with a sense of how emotional the process is. You will also hopefully come away with a sense of how dedicated we are when a family retains us to be their advocate and guide in understanding the complexities of the recruiting process. These testimonials come from an incredibly diverse group of families and locations.  They are blue collar, they are Wall Street executives, they are Doctors, Lawyers, they are single parents. They come from Texas, New Hampshire, Carolina, New York, Maryland and more. They all came to us through referrals.

We are proud of our accomplishments in helping these Lacrosse families.  They knew they had an ally in helping their son make the most important decision in his life.

Start Early Or Arrive Late

We all wish we had more time. We live in a world of information overload and ever increasing demands on our families. We race from work to athletic events hoping to capture quality time with our children as they grow older. Then we race back to work the next day trying to ready ourselves for the next rush to the field or the next tournament or showcase.
 
As we do this , another race is gearing up around us. It is not a race for the faint of heart or the unprepared. It is a race packed with hypercompetitive families from across the country who are all determined to gain a competitive edge. It is a race that has no specified start time, no boundaries or course, no rules, no officials, and certainly no helpers lining the course when you need assistance.

There is one one rule that applies to this race...every man for himself.

Not a race you want to enter ? Guess what - you and your son are already participants.

This ULTRA MARATHON is the recruiting race, and it is in full swing as we speak. Those who wait for the the perfect starting point will lose valuable time.

"Too little, too late" is not a refrain you want to apply to this situation.

I believe early in the sophomore year is the best time to get active in the race. Trying to familiarize yourself with the process during the summer of the junior year is a major mistake. This is ever more evident with the increased number of sophomore DI commitments. This is not a trend that is going to abate...the landscape is changing before our eyes. I SUSPECT THAT IN SOME POINT IN THE NOT TOO DISTANT FUTURE, WE WILL SEE AN ACCELERATION OF THE D3 TIME LINE AT THE UPPER TIER SCHOOLS.

Campus visits are one important aspect that you need to address. Taking campus visits is a critical part in determining the environment in which your son feels most comfortable. In many cases these visits afford you the opportunity to meet a particular coach and his staff. You should also try and schedule a visit with an admissions counselor and or a school representative to get a better sense of the catalogue of studies offered at the school.

Pick 10-12 schools based on your son's academic profile and perceived ability and create a grid of potential schools. The next thing to do is call the coach at each school and let them know you are visiting on a certain date and ask if he or a member of his staff can spend a few minutes with your son before you tour the school.

Best case scenario, you will have the opportunity to actually attend a practice or a game.

One of my responsibilities when hired by a family is to help make sense of what schools to actually focus on. It is no easy task for any family to make this determination when looking at all the schools that offer slots for lacrosse players. As always, the focus should be the academics....lacrosse should be a secondary consideration. If positioned properly, your lacrosse skills can be an entre to a great school .

I have the advantage of being able to suggest certain schools based on my experience when considering the academic and athletic profile of a potential recruit. Often times, the hardest part of my job is telling a recruit that he is not likely to be recruited by a certain school[s] , either because of a lack of athletic ability or his academic profile. I believe that it is better to join this race with a realistic goal in mind. It is not often that I am wrong about the upside of a potential recruit as it relates to specific schools.

I try to be pragmatic rather than perpetuating unrealistic assumptions about where a player is likely to generate recruiting interest. I SUGGEST specific schools based on a grid that I have created. I have participated in this race time and time again over the last ten years.

I also encourage the player to take responsibility for the subsequent steps to follow. The sooner the student athlete accepts the fact that this process is about his future the sooner he will come to the conclusion that dedication in the class room will dramatically affect the choice of schools he can put on his grid. Coming to this conclusion during the junior year may not afford the student enough time to develop the habits he needs to raise his academic profile.

"Too little, too late" in the classroom is an unfortunate refrain.

There are no second chances in any race. Your status at the finish line is a direct function of how early you started serious training with a specific goal in mind. Don't make the mistake of watching the race pass you by. Enter it with the confidence that you are well prepared and have time to adjust your strategy if the unexpected occurs.


One thing I can assure you... the recruiting race is all about expecting the unexpected.  

Recruiting 101: The Arrival of The First Recruiting Letter

The letter arrives from a school that your son told you is his dream school. You dare not open it.  You, instead, hand it to him when he arrives home from school. You watch as his eyes light up and you know this is the beginning of something. You are just not sure what. Your son insists that the coach must really want him since he took the time to write him a letter. 
 
IS THIS IN FACT TRUE? Did he write other kids and if so how many. How would you know? So what do you do next? Do you call the coach?  Do you schedule a visit? Will he call us? The questions go on and on and on.
 
The simple fact of the matter is that you can read very little into that first letter. Coaches cast a wide net in the first few phases of the recruiting cycle. That letter may, in fact, be the first and last time your son ever hears from that particular coach. 
 
Think about it... if he has not seen your son's transcripts or his standardized test scores;  if you have not visited the school;  if he has no knowledge of your financial needs, can it be anything other than preliminary?
 
 There is a great divide between that letter or any kind of correspondence and an eventual offer of THE MUCH COVETED  'Slot."  Much in the way of confusing information may come your way before your son ascends to that final spot on a recruiting board in a coach's office. It is the nature of the beast.
 
So...how do you treat these letters or email? Is there some formula you can apply.?..say for instance...three letters mean real interest...or three letters and a call means a greater degree of interest? My experience has been that you have to become good at reading tea leaves. 
 
 
What Should You Do?  
 
Do your best at ascertaining from the coach the following: 
** Is my son a top recruit in your mind?
** When and where did you see him play?
** Are you aware of his academic profile?
** Will you be inviting him to a Junior Day visit? Or an official visit?
** How many players at his position will you be recruiting this year?
** How many players do you intend to bring in from his graduating class?
 
By asking these simple and direct questions, you, as a parent, will have established a dialogue and hopefully ascertained how much interest , if any, really exists. Here is the challenge. The impression you are left with, either good or bad, is a moving target based on the coach's success with the other athletes, who, in fact, received that same letter. One week your son may be number three on the recruit depth chart and the next week he could be number six and fading fast. The change will not necessarily be communicated to you, and the coach has absolutely no obligation to do so.
 
 In fact, why would he? He is fighting a similar battle ON MULTIPLE FRONTS. Recruits and parents are often intentionally vague with coaches about their intention and level of interest all the time. Remember that a coach often has to negotiate with admissions, and is often prevented from giving you the answers you may seek.  The coach's situation is no less confusing than yours. How can he gauge interest from a 17 year old who is possibly intimidated or unsure how to respond?  Would you like the coach's job? There is little clarity on either end.
 
Is this any way to begin a relationship? How and why does this incredibly inefficient system perpetuate itself? Guess what.. it is what it is. The sooner you as a parent assume that there are no guarantees and that this process will be long, confusing and drawn out, the better off you will be. Remember, you are your son's advocate. 
 
Commit to taking an active role in following all communications your son receives. And whether or not he likes it, you better get involved. If not, you run the risk of setting him up for heartache and confusion.  
 
Some of the inevitable confusion can be avoided by setting up a family email account dedicated to all lacrosse correspondence so everyone in the family has access. This will facilitate a team effort at home with your son taking an ACTIVE ROLE. THIS IS NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH AN AUTONOMOUS ROLE.  Remember: you are your son's advocate. 
 

Enjoy that first letter. Let's hope it is one of many, and let's hope you apply a bit of pragmatism with a bit of wishful thinking about how happy your son should be when this is all over. 

SAT VS. ACT

Time is of the essence…a refrain that applies to not only SAT/ACT, but also similarly to the consideration given to constructing your recruiting grid and timeline.

"Early and often" has been told to me by coaches when planning how athletes should integrate standardized tests into their hectic schedules. The priority for the athlete should be to make it easier for a coach to make sense of where you stand as a recruit by getting your tests in as early as possible. The longer you wait the more likely it is that another recruit reports in SAT/ACT scores that will allow the coach to formulate a favorable opinion of your competition.

ACT VS. SAT

Student athletes often ask us which test is better to focus on. There are sites that will give you SAT and ACT conversions, so you can tell which test would be more appropriate for you based on preliminary practice tests. It is important that you take practice diagnostic tests early enough to afford you the hard data to point you in the direction of the better format. www.act.org/aap/concordance
SAT Structure and Content
 
The SAT consists of 10 sections: a 25 minute Essay, 3 Critical Reading sections (two 25 minute and one 20 minute section), 3 Math sections (two 25 minute and one 20 minute section), 2 Writing sections (one 25 minute and one 10 minute section). The Critical Reading section is made up of 19 Sentence completions and 48 Passage-based reading questions. These sections test vocabulary and reading comprehension. On a given test, roughly 600 nontrivial words are tested in the questions, reading passages, and answer choices.
The Math sections are made up of 44 multiple choice questions and 10 free response questions. The content tested includes Arithmetic, Algebra I and II, Functions, Planar and Coordinate geometry, data analysis and probability. Calculators are allowed, including the advanced ones such as TI-89 and TI-nspire.
The Writing sections include 49 multiple choice questions. Twenty-five of these are sentence improvements. Eighteen are identifying sentence errors. Six are paragraph improvements. The writing score will also include the grade you get on your essay. Two readers will grade your essay. Your score on this can range from a 2 through 12. Many schools still put less emphasis on the writing section when doing pre reads on a recruited athletes file. It is incumbent upon you to ascertain what portions of the test a school may assign a higher priority to.
ACT Structure & Content
 
The ACT is made up of four tests with an optional Writing test (a 30 minute essay that you write at the conclusion of the multiple choice sections). The English Test consists of 45 minutes of 75 questions and it tests grammar, syntax, usage, and rhetoric. The Mathematics test consists of 60 minutes of 60 questions. The math content is a little more extensive than what is tested on the SATs, but the questions are much more straightforward. While the SAT Math has tricky, puzzle-type questions, the ACT Math section is more aligned with what you have done in school. Unlike the SAT, however, you cannot use the TI-89 or TI-nspire, although you may use other graphing calculators like the TI-84. The Reading section consists of 35 minutes of 40 questions split into four passages, each followed by 10 questions. Vocabulary is not tested as much on the ACT as it is on the SAT. This test requires the reader to search and find answers quickly. The Science test consists of 35 minutes of seven passages with a total of 40 questions. This section requires that you interpret scientific data presented in texts, tables, charts, and graphs, and that you analyze multiple hypotheses and points of view regarding those hypotheses. If you have done labs in science classes during high school, that work will be helpful for this section.
Recent Developments

Most colleges consider the SAT and ACT equally. What is changing, however, is that more and more colleges are now superscoring the ACTs, as many do for the SATs. This is a significant development for recruited athletes. Given that the ACT component tests can vary in difficulty from one administration to another, superscoring is a terrific benefit to you if you take the test more than once. Here is a list of some schools that now superscore your ACTs: Amherst, Brown, Duke, Franklin and Marshall, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Trinity College, and Tufts. This list is longer than last year’s list and the policies of the schools seem to change frequently. To be safe, call the admissions offices of the colleges recruiting you and confirm with the coaching staff that the policy is in place for your recruiting class. Grab every advantage that you can in attempting to secure a spot in this fiercely competitive world of lacrosse.

Good luck in your educational pursuits!

Early Commit- Making Sure An Early Choice Is A Good Choice - Reprinted From Inside Lacrosse

There are few subjects that seem to draw more vehement contrasting opinions than that of the trend of early commits.  Comment like "ruining the game," "the NCAA needs to stop this," and "foolish decision" are frequently heard. 

Quite frankly I am not sure I see the logic behind this criticism.  Most of the early commits are at some of the premier academic institutions in the country, namely Hopkins, UVA and UNC.  How can a student athlete go wrong accepting an opportunity to attend those great schools and to play under some of the most dynamic coaches in the game?  

But rather than guess at what drives the decision of some of the athletes who made early commits, I decided to drill down deep with the family of Bug Carper (2014) who was the first commit in his class.  His decision to attend UNC has lit up the boards at many of the lax websites.

When I spoke to the Carper family, their decision- making process appeared to be anything but a well thought out family decision.  Both Don and Rhonda Carper went through the rigors of recruiting with their older boy who is a scholarship gymnast at U. of Minnesota.  They did, in fact, consider much of what their older son had to say in helping Bug make his decision.  

The Carper family saw much in Coach Breschi and his staff at UNC that led them to believe that besides receiving a superior education, their son would be mentored by a coaching staff that shared many of the same priorities that they as a family did.  Another factor that made the decision a more logical one was Bug's desire to become a pediatrician and potentially attend UNC's top ranked medical school upon graduation.

All these factors were given consideration well before Bug attended a football game as a means to get a real feel for the UNC experience, subsequent to the football weekend the family all reconvened to share their thoughts.  Remember how this was a process that began in midsummer when Bug decided to attend the UNC tournament to get a better feel for the staff and campus.

Don Carper was well aware of his son's desire to realize his dream of getting a shot at becoming a Tar Heel.  He told me they have raised their boys to assume responsibility at an early age.  As a football coach, he brought a sense of being responsible for your own path, determined by hard work to plot your own course in life. Both he and Rhonda completely supported Bug's decision to commit early to UNC.

What seemed to many to be an impetuous ill-advised decision, was in fact a well thought out family decision predicated on the values that have been a part of the household for years.

So as this trend continues to gain momentum, I suspect that the athlete who is afforded this early commit option will often replicate the well thought out process that the Carper family relied upon.  

Show Me The Money - Reprinted from Inside Lacrosse

The days spent watching and traveling with my children on the recruiting circuit, were some of the most memorable days of my life. Care free days on the sidelines, eating out as a family, spending free time at a hotel pool, all are priceless memories, (excluding THE TRAFFIC on I -95.!!)
 
Much has changed in the years since I attended my daughter's and son's last tournament. Not only have the number of venues increased dramatically, but the costs associated with facilitating recruiting have sky rocketed. These expenses are no longer just incidental.
 
The recent prolonged economic downturn has SIGNIFICANTLY affected millions of families throughout the country. The gutting of the middle class has put tremendous pressure on discretionary spending. 
 
Yet, when you pull up to any tournament or showcase. you are still likely to see the Range Rover Sports, the BMW's and the Escalades. But, for every M&A Banker or every person employed by a hedge fund, venture capital firm or private equity fund, there are multiple families at these events who are struggling to meet the expenses associated with these recruiting venues. And this is not to say that those who are successful spend their money in a cavalier manner. They just as well may wonder what they get for all the money they apply towards "recruiting" events."
 
One of the biggest expenses a family is likely to incur is those associated with being part of a club team. Take the club registration fee and add in four to five tournaments and you are looking at close to $3,000. Then add in hotels, gas, tolls, restaurants, and a family could be out of pocket close to $ 5,000. Club teams undeniably play an important role in facilitating exposure. 
 
The problem many families now face is deciding which tournaments on a club schedule are worth their money. The tournament circuit has been watered down much over the last few years. At some of the tournaments you have a better chance of running into a cow on the sidelines than a college coach.
 
Additionally the growth of showcase events has made the decision where to spend your time and money even more confusing, yet no less critical to the process. There are a tremendous number of showcase events that are invaluable means of exposure for your son (Jake Reed- Nike Blue Chip, Blue Chip 225, Maverick, Peak 200, N.E. 150, Top 205, NIT 175, Amherst- Good to Great, Yale-Whiz Kids). All well organized and well run by dedicated lax afficionados. Add to this mix a somewhat new venue - the school specific combine. 
 
This recent addition to the recruiting schedule is also a great way for your son to be seen up close on the campus of a school he has on his list. I actually believe these on site venues might be the best way for a player to gain clarity as to whether he is on the recruiting grid for the school. These events should take priority over all others if you are being recruited by a particular school. A great performance at these events is likely to create stickiness with a coach and his staff. They may be even more inclined to follow you with your club team for additional looks if you make a great impression at their venue.
 
Not attending a school sponsored combine potentially sends a mixed message to a coach who you have been communicating with. Talk to any coach who runs these events on campus and they will tell you that part of their recruiting class is made up of a percentage of kids who they either discovered at the combine or re-affirmed the top tier status of a recruit they saw previously. And guess what?  They are relatively inexpensive.
 
Back to the club expense. First of all, you need to ascertain what coaches were at an event in previous years that your club is planning on attending. In many cases you can email coaches to find out what tournaments they or their staff plan on attending. If you find that the vast majority of your wish list schools are not attending an event, then you need to decide if this event is worth the cost. I tell my players just give me enough advance notice if they are not doing a tournament with us. I tell parents to do what's best for their son relative to specific school or conference exposure. Our club will survive without them.
 
As parents you also need to be cognizant of not burning your son out. Chasing the recruiting dream can literally wear a player down. Again, with all the showcase events popping up, players can end up playing from early June to the end of August. This is a lot of lacrosse especially given that many of these summer tournaments are held in 90 degree heat with oppressive humidity. You better give much thought to each venue and the yield on your dollar and the effect it has on your son. Sending him to a tournament or showcase when he is less than at full strength can have an irreversible negative impact on his recruiting grid status. 
 
As a means to avoid burn out and wasted money  have your son plot out his recruiting venues well in advance considering all the possible events, combine, club and showcase.  Work alongside him in determining the best use of his time and your hard earned money. Plan for breaks where he can recuperate and spend time communicating with coaches to ensure they are aware of his ongoing interest in their school. Check in with coaches to make sure they are still attending certain events. Coaches are like nomads in the summer; however, there is no excuse for lack of communication on your son`s part. Get some use out of that new IPAD he just had to have. Keep transcripts and updated standardized test scores on your device. Out of sight, out of mind.
 
If done correctly, you potentially can put your son in the enviable position of attending an elite academic institution because of his lax skills. But more so now than ever, it takes laser like focus and a discerning eye when writing out all those checks!!