Saturday, August 30, 2014
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NCAA lax recruiting an age-old problem

I was recently watching a video on Inside Lacrosse of a young lacrosse player that has verbally committed to a top five NCAA Div. I program. I couldn't believe what I was watching.

NCAA lax recruiting an age-old problem

Wings captain Brodie Merrill. (Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Wings)
Wings captain Brodie Merrill. (Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Wings)

I was recently watching a video on Inside Lacrosse of a young lacrosse player that has verbally committed to a top five NCAA Div. I program. I couldn't believe what I was watching. The young player was clearly skilled and seemed to stand out amongst the competition, but how old was he? I started to look a little more closely, examining some of the other players on the field. Like any other game at the early high school level, the size disparity between the players was massive. You had a couple rangy, awkward looking players (like I was at age 15), some big clumsy players, and some players that looked like they were 8-years old. Regardless of size, they all looked and played YOUNG.

This upsets me on several levels. How is someone that young able to make an educated, mature decision on where to spend their four years of college? If they are anything like I was early in high school, I was much more interested in the color of the jersey rather than what academic courses were offered or what that degree actually meant (or all the other variables that make up your college experience).

I was also a late bloomer, so I know that if I was trying to get recruited as a young high school player in today's world, I would have never received any interest from Devry, let alone Georgetown. I got extremely lucky. Through a twist of fate, some guidance from an old friend, and two people (Brian Rogers and Matt Corkery) stepping up and believing in me, I was connected to Salisbury School, a Prep School in New England. I was able to stay back a couple years, which allowed me to catch up physically and prepare myself academically and personally.

From there I was able to get recruited to Georgetown. It wasn't your typical route, but thankfully it ended up working for me. If I didn't have this late, lucky opportunity, it is unlikely that I would have ever played college lacrosse. I often think of all the great players that get overlooked because of the "system." Whether it be not having the resources or know how to attend recruiting camps. How is a young teenager supposed to navigate through this on their own? In the current landscape, more and more great players will be passed on or "crossed off the list" too prematurely.

This past weekend I was down at the Brine/Warrior Athlete Summit in Nashville, TN. I'm always intrigued to hear the background of certain lacrosse players and what their recruiting process was like. In talking with a couple of the other Brine Team Elite athletes, I was surprised to hear a lot of the guys did not take the traditional route and were "late" recruits. Jeremy Sieverts, who was an MLL All-Pro and one of the top middies in the game, didn't receive a lot of recruiting attention in high school. He decided on Butler University. He ended up having a great freshmen year, but their program folded. Coach Cottle took notice and he was able to transfer to Maryland. He had come into his own, albeit later than most, but as it is clear to see now, his ceiling was extremely high.

Rob Pannell, another Brine-sponsored athlete and one of the best college players of all time, committed to Cornell very late in the process. After receiving modest recruiting attention earlier in his career, he rushed into committing to a school that wasn't the best fit for him because his recruiting options were limited. After a strong senior year, he received some attention from some top schools, but by that time, there was little to no scholarship money left. Cornell was the last man standing and the rest is history.

To me, strictly from a physiological standpoint, it seems silly to make judgments on players before they have matured physically.

In Canada, playing NCAA is on the radar much later than most American students. It's usually not until the dream of playing in the NHL dies before most start to redirect their attention to other options. Because of this many are overlooked … like half the players in the NLL. Can you imagine what Colin Doyle, John Sanderson, Dan Dawson, Johnny Powless, or John Tavares would have done in the NCAA?  It is scary to think of.

The amount of great players that get overlooked or lack the proper guidance has led me to my current position at The Hill Academy. I see so much of myself in the young players that I work with, it is rewarding to see them make the connection and move on to the next level. The more I experience the recruiting process from the other side, the best advice I can give is: you have to be persistent, and you have to WORK … on your game, your fitness, and your academics.

The coaches have a difficult job. They not only need to sort through the hundreds of thousands lacrosse players available to recruit. They also have to find a potential fit for their program; they have to do their best to project how the players is going to develop by the time the player steps onto campus. Hopefully the NCAA will take it out of the coaches’ hands and come in with concrete age restrictions.

There, I'm off my soapbox.

***

Wings have been going through a mid-season rough patch. Our focus is similar to the message I am sending to young players going through the recruiting process; to be persistent and continue to work and focus on our game and our fitness. Control the controllable. We hope that we can come back, finish strong, and be "battle tested" for a playoff run. We are a capable team and things can turn the other way for us just as fast.

Brodie Merrill Philadelphia Wings
About this blog
Wingin' It is the place for up-to-the-minute Wings coverage from Brodie Merrill of the Philadelphia Wings.

As the Philadelphia Wings' captain, Merrill is widely regarded as one of the top players in the NLL and was recently named Best Player in the World by Inside Lacrosse and named NLL Transition Player of the Year in 2009 and 2010. Last season, Merrill was named an NLL All-Star.

Brodie Merrill Philadelphia Wings
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