Recruiting Insight with Drew University Head Coach Thomas Leanos

Lacrosse might be an up and coming sport, but there is still room for continued success.  When you think of continued success, Tom Leanos out of Drew University is a name that comes to mind.  Drew University’s all-time leader in wins has served as head coach for over four decades.

Since Coach Leanos joined the coaching staff in 1983, his program has prided itself on being a top team as well as a close-knit community.  He and his players are all aware of the special bond that exists in this New Jersey school.

Coach Leanos has led the Rangers to the postseason 20 different times throughout his career. He believes that this team is poised for something special in the near future with the high character and class that his players show.  We sat down with Coach Leanos to learn a little more about the unique traits that he feels hint at great potential on the field, but also off the field and in the classroom.

What advice do you have for players interested in Division III schools?

The reality is that for a majority of young men who want to play lacrosse at the varsity level in College, Division 3 offers the most opportunity. There are presently over 200 colleges which sponsor men’s lacrosse at the D-3 college varsity level, which is greater then both D-1 and D-2 combined. The competition level is varied, offering players of different skill level to participate.  The academic quality is also varied, so just about anyone who really wants to participate may find a school that is a good fit.

What is the best way for players to get on your recruiting radar?

Students need to take charge of the process and don’t wait until your senior year to do so.

Use resources at your school (coaches, counselors, etc). Speak to your parents about the realities of location, academic quality, cost, quality of lacrosse program, etc. Then they, not their parents, should begin to roll their sleeves up and begin to communicate. Then begin to research the Colleges that realistically match your desires.

What impresses college coaches is when the players themselves are the one generating letters, emails, phone calls and text messages.   Coaches want to try and establish relationships with the players and best way to do that is for the students to initiate the process.

The college recruiting process has changed significantly since the information age. Don’t assume that your ability in lacrosse is going to get you into a school that might be a reach for you academically. Your grades and test scores create more opportunities and expand your possible choices.

Log into college athletic websites to see about prospect days, open houses, etc. Contact a coach by email and attach a copy of a video of your play, and your transcript. Schedule a day visit to the school and a meeting with the coach and be prepared for this visit.

Remember, coaches either recruit players, or players recruit colleges! Don’t assume that your academic fit is necessarily the right athletic fit, or vice versa. The college coach will give you that info, as will the college admissions office.

How has the accelerated recruiting landscape impacted your approach to recruiting?

The culture has really changed over the past 4-5 years with the summers and club programs.  It pushes the process from both the players perspective but also the coaches and colleges perspective.

Coaches who can receive early commitments in this environment really help their program and school.  Not only coming from the athletic department and coaches, but also coming from the admissions office, parents and students. It really means that the students, parents, coaches, admissions offices, etc. all have to be prepared for this early process. Early academic reads, likely letters, financial aid offers, athletic scholarship offers, and most importantly, families, need to be prepared earlier and earlier.

As a coach, I need to be prepared much earlier and so does my school. It’s a really different process then the regular student applicant approach to college search. I’ve really been pushed to become more fluent with my phone and my computer.

What type of players do you primarily look for, a raw athlete or refined lacrosse player?

The first thing I look for is a young man that’s motivated.  One who displays interest in our school from the beginning and makes it known to us.  As much as players like to feel wanted by a coach, it goes both ways.  We look at the little things. Do they hustle, do they stand in the back of a huddle talking to their buddies when a coach is speaking. Do they have good lacrosse or sports IQ.  We want guys who are eager and are good citizens. Raw athletes need to be developed with time. A refined lacrosse player with good skills is great but the better the level of the college program, the deeper the team will be with skilled players. The intangibles may make the difference in the long run. Are they good students? A player who isn’t clouded by concern for grades, or other campus issues will be able to focus more on what he is able to give to the team while on the practice and game field.

We try to do our homework on our recruits. Many times from recommendations from their high school or club coaches, as well as our own players who may host a young man for an overnight campus visit. We want young men who are willing to “buy in” to what it takes to be a successful college athlete both on the field and off the field.

What is special about playing at Drew University?

From the beginning, Drew’s location stood out to me as distinctive. Drew is geographically situated in the middle of the highest concentration of  high school lacrosse in the country withNY, NJ, PA, New England, and MD all within 4 hours from campus.  The location near one of the most vibrant cities in the world offers our students a variety of opportunities while they are undergraduates as well as graduates.

Also, we are members of the Landmark Conference in lacrosse. It is competitive from top to bottom. Since 2008, which was the inaugural season for the conference lacrosse play, we have seen 6 schools win the conference tournament title (Drew, Merchant Marine, Goucher, Scranton, Susquehanna, and Catholic.) and advance to Post Season play.  Although Merchant Marine will be departing the Landmark for the Skyline Conference, we have added Elizabethtown in 2015 and will add Moravian in 2017.

Drew is special because of the guys who have played here. They are close knit and support the program and are proud to be called Drew Rangers!  They enrolled at Drew as young men and graduated as men! In the last week, I have dinner with two of my former players who are attorney’s in Morristown, NJ, and spoke to one of our HOF players who just became a dad!  This is what it’s all about! This is what makes Drew special!

Are there any last pieces of advice for players and families you’d like to share?

Do your homework, research the school and get to know it before you begin making decisions.  It will make your experience so much better in terms of going into a program that you have an understanding of the feel of the school. Also, if you go visit a school, try and check out a class and spend a night on campus.  Also, try to spend a similar night on campus, not just a Friday or Saturday. Evaluate the campus’ during a time when it’s not just about the social activities That way you will have a much better feel as to what the school is like on a day-to-day basis

Also, college isn’t utopia. It rarely satisfies all of your dreams and aspirations! Give it time! If at the end of your college playing days you can say that you got a quality education, had a satisfying athletic experience, made lifelong friends, and learned much about yourself and how you relate in a team environment, then your experience has been a good one.

As Earl Weaver, baseball HOF manager once said! “It’s what I learned after I thought that I knew it all that made a real difference in my managing”!

Go Rangers!

ConnectLAX is a third party recruiting service and not affiliated with or endorsed by Tom Leanos or Drew University.

Born and raised in Auburn, New York; Nick spent his childhood with a lacrosse stick in hand. Nick was a D1 midfielder at Fairfield University in Connecticut. Nick has been in New York City for 5 years and is in pursuit of his dream of growing the sport of lacrosse so it receives the recognition, following and continued growth it deserves.

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