No one has spoken up about it publicly, even though we all think about it while bundling up to spend more time away from home only to get a minimal amount of impressions.
There is little doubt, however, that November lacrosse needs to experience drastic changes.
Though many would say that a fix of the fall circuit has been much needed over the last few seasons, it is evident now more than ever.
I’ve spent the last few weeks having conversations with different Division I coaches about the fall, and each guy had similar things to say. Not a single one spoke of them spoke positively about the product, outside of a few saying that it’s an ideal time to check up on their commits.
Here are a few candid texts from notable college coaches, for example:
“I hate November. It’s worthless for recruiting.”
“Can’t stand it, it’s a waste.”
“It stunk, man.”
“It’s brutal. Why do we still go out for November events?”
There weren’t any specific tournaments or showcases targeted, and I’m not personally opining that the November portion of the recruiting calendar should be eliminated. While many coaches would argue that those three weekends should be taken away entirely, there still needs to be a way that kids can get seen and get better.
Full disclosure: my livelihood depends in part on my frequent coverage of events. Being at top tournaments more than just about everyone else is something that I not only take a tremendous amount of pride in, but something that I look forward to and enjoy. At the same time, there’s a line that needs to be drawn.
All of us have loved ones at home that we’d like to spend more time with during the weekends, and obviously, the recruiting circuit prevents that for the most part. It’s not that we’re trying to work less — the lion’s share of us simply prefer to get better evaluations at different times.
Alright, let’s get into it.
Too Small of a Sample Size
Please tell me how evaluators can take much of anything out of six days in the fall.
There are dozens of teams to watch among different classes. Depending on the weekend, many coaches go from event to event throughout the East Coast. If a tournament has in excess of six fields, it can be a doozy to manage where you need to go and what you want to watch.
With all of that said, there are times that coaches may only see a kid once or twice. That’s simply not enough.
One coach offered his perspective, pointing out that no college program wants to make a big decision based on what they saw in the fall.
“We don’t go into the fall thinking that we’re going to grab somebody based on what we see in November,” a Patriot League coach said early last month. “Zero kids wowed me — maybe one kid — and he’s coming to visit next week. You really have to pump the brakes and trust that you’re going to get kids.”
Unless a school watched a player a ton during the summer months, it’s probably silly to take too much away from a game or two in November. That’s when you end up making mistakes and not having players pan out at the next level.
June and July should carry the weight when it comes to recruitment. Eight weeks is more than enough, right?
Instructional events that staff college coaches offer excellent opportunities here in October, December, and January. The college season, of course, is a near impossible time for coaches to hit the road to evaluate, but technology is at the point where watching tape via live stream, Hudl, YouTube or Krossover is easy in the spring.
Field & Weather Conditions
November is referred to as ‘fall recruiting’, though it’s really closer to winter conditions. It’s similar to how lacrosse is supposed to be a spring sport, but colleges begin practice in January and games in the frozen tundras of February.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that HS players don’t play at their best when the temperature is below 30 degrees and they’re outside for eight hours at a time experiencing downright nasty wind chill.
On top of that, the majority of tournaments are played on grass fields. If there’s even a touch of rain that week, forget about it.
Every person reading this article attended an event in November where players struggled mightily to get proper footing while slopping through the mud. It’s a given that it’s not easy to leave your mark when qualities like footwork and speed aren’t really on display. The areas surrounding the crease and face-off areas were an absolute mess, among others.
The power of the almighty dollar hasn’t entered this discussion. In fact, that’s likely a big reason why some club and tournament directors may not be crazy about this article being written in this manner. Fall practices and tournaments go into the high fees that clubs and tournaments and charge.
Bite the bullet and spring for better, more expensive facilities. Turf fields may not totally solve the problems involving fall lacrosse, but they’ll certainly help.
Multi-Sport Athletes & The Rust Factor
The multi-sport athlete that excels in lacrosse has become a dying breed in comparison to the way it was five or 10 years ago. College coaches want the high IQ, skilled lacrosse players, but they crave athleticism.
You become a better lacrosse player if you play more than just one sport. I always enjoyed the 2013 Inside Lacrosse staff debate on multi-sport vs. lacrosse-only athletes.
Quint Kessenich, one of the main voices in the sport, sparked conversation when he quote-tweeted marketing for a November event that had top Division I head coaches on staff, asking if they were the same ones that want their recruits playing multiple sports. That tweet received more than 30 retweets and 500 likes, and the comments are absolutely worth reading. Ironically, he was talking about an instruction-heavy event that I covered and felt to be a phenomenal experience from top to bottom.
Depending on the school and state, many football teams play on either Friday or Saturday, and practice times vary. Soccer and cross country events often occur on a Friday, so getting out of town for a lacrosse tournament is a bit easier, though that hinges on geography and transportation. Just about every club lacrosse team had important players missing due to a fall sports commitment. If we’re going to keep November lacrosse, we should stick to Sunday so that multi-sport athletes can participate in both, minimizing conflict on both sides.
Every coach will preach keeping the stick in hand as much as possible, but that gets difficult. I spoke to a handful of the top seniors that played football and fit in wall ball or shooting when they could, but those hours were few and far between for the most part. It’s hard to balance a fall sport, college visits and applications, school work, reps with a stick and a social life all at the same time.
Yes, we all want to see more multi-sport athletes. In November, they simply won’t be playing their best lacrosse. Their stick work won’t be as crisp and their understanding of team plays and concepts won’t be as strong as usual due to missing club practices for fall sports.
If the summer is what we want to emphasize – and we should – then it’s the best and most realistic recruiting environment. Players will be coming out of the spring season, so skills and IQ won’t be as rusty as they are in the fall and winter months.
Moving Towards a Solution
The focus should be on putting out the best product possible. More power should be put in the hands of college coaches, and talk to them about what they want to see or have eliminated entirely for the benefit of all parties involved.
Change the dynamic and location of the fall tournaments. Preach skill development rather games where the play can sometimes be tough to watch. There’s nothing wrong with teaching-based events and prospect days taking place in November. Clubs play an important role in exposure and development: the fall can be a time when those organizations get creative in getting their kids looks all while getting coached up.
At this point, there may not be a solution that everybody can agree on. Whether it’s the college coaches (remember, some are also tournament directors), club coaches, event companies, kids or parents, they all have conflicting opinions and personal interests.
Again, I’m not saying that November lacrosse needs to be thrown in the trash, I just think that many of us are simply demanding better.