D1 Coach Voelker speaks out against early recruiting

Drexel coach Brian Voelker reached out to IL to share his thoughts on the early recruiting trend. Below, is his Op-Ed on the issue. Voelker has been coach at Drexel since 2009 and led the Dragons to their first NCAA Tournament appearance last season. He has been head coach at Penn and in MLL, as well as an assistant at Princeton and Johns Hopkins. He was an All-American at Johns Hopkins and an All-World defensemen, and he has played in both MLL and the NLL. He has been a strong voice on recruiting issues within the IMCLA.

This is for high school lacrosse players and their parents. Please help stop the madness!

Everybody complains about early recruiting, but it’s getting worse. Everyone knows that kids shouldn’t decide where they are going to college in their freshman or sophomore year of high school, but coaches and kids and parents keep pushing up the timeline.

I personally think the kids should attend their junior prom before making a decision. We all know that’s not the reality in DI men’s lacrosse. The college coaches can’t or won’t stop, club coaches keep telling me about the next great player on their middle school team, IL keeps posting the list of the Top 100 first graders (some who are planning on re-classifying) and everybody keeps complaining.

You have the power to put some sanity back in this process. You can help put a stop to this craziness by refusing to agree to our timeline. You can tell a coach that you or your son are not ready to commit, or you may commit and then continue to look at other options.

I know it’s hard not to get caught up in this whole thing, but ask yourself if you or your son are ready to make this monumental decision. I have a 15-year-old son at home, and he couldn’t choose a college if it fell on his head. He’s not ready. I wouldn’t let anyone sweet talk him or bully him into making a decision, even if it’s a great place that is dangling a “spot” for him. He wouldn’t know what he wants, and my wife and I wouldn’t know what the right fit is. The decision shouldn’t be made because a teammate just did it, or because a college coach told you “he was running out of spots”, or to get on a list in some magazine.

I know it’s hard for a young kid not to get enamored with talking to or meeting coaches who tell them how good they are, and how perfectly they would fit in their program. But let’s be honest, nobody can know if any of that is going to be true three and four years out. It’s easy for kids to fall in love with a locker room or the cool equipment our teams wear. But can a freshman or sophomore in high school figure out the really important stuff on these visits? I don’t think so.

I know it’s hard for the parents. Someone is offering your son that spot, that chance to play, that chance to go to that great school. Is that a good thing if your son doesn’t know what he wants to study, or who his teammates are going to be, or how many are ahead of him on the depth chart, or (and this is a tough one) how good your son is really going to be? There has to be a reason that most high school kids wait and make this decision when they are seniors.

A lot of promises are made in this process. Make sure you know what committing means. Make sure you or your son can definitely get into the school, make sure you are clear on the scholarship amount, make sure there’s still a commitment if the coach leaves or is fired. The farther out this process happens, the higher the chances that something gets screwed up.

You ask, “What should I do?” Here’s my advice. Do what’s best for you or your son. Just because we as college coaches are putting some arbitrary deadline on when you need to choose a school, it doesn’t mean you have to go along with it.

Again: You can help put a stop to this craziness by refusing to agree to our timeline. That could mean telling a coach you or your son are not ready to commit or it may be by committing and then continuing to look at other options. Both are tough to do, but we as college coaches are putting you in this position.

It is your right and duty to do what is best for you or your son. Taking the time to figure out what school is best for you and your son should be the priority. The excitement of committing to a college a year or two after finishing middle school can turn into disappointment when you realize it’s not the right fit.

IL would like to hear from coaches, players and industry leaders for recurring Op-Eds to run on InsideLacrosse.com. Have a topic you would like to address? Email mattkinnear@insidelacrosse.com.