Recruiting Advice From Carl Festa of D3 Wooster

We had a chance to catch up with Coach Festa of the College of Wooster, a strong liberal arts school in Ohio with a program that is up and coming under his leadership. Coach Festa took over the head coaching position in the summer of 2011 after one year as the interim coach. Now in his fourth season as head coach, the program has noticeably improved with the Fighting Scots’ season wins total increasing from 5 to 9 over three years.

Recruiting at the Division III level is unique and in many instances, very different than Division I and Division II. Coach Festa provides insight into what catches a DIII coach’s eye both on and off the field and how to best prepare for the making the first major decision in a player’s life, college.

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

The first and most important piece of advice is to be proactive. Get information on the school and program ahead of reaching out through links about the school and other available internet resources. When being proactive, it makes a big difference when e-mails to coaches are personalized. You have to remember we get hundreds of emails so if you took the time to personalize your message, that will have an impact on whether we read through your email or not. Mentioning, “I’m interested because…” and something you’re particularly interested in at the school such as a certain academic program is an example of something we take notice of.

Once you feel the school has the potential to be the right academic, social, and athletic fit, take the next step and visit campus. Because DIII does not offer scholarships, it is important to consider all of the factors of academic, social, and athletic, be patient, research, and choose the school that suits you the best, not just the one with the best lacrosse program.

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

Again, be proactive; prospect days or junior days are a great chance to see the campus, play in front of the coaching staff and get a feel for the school. With DIII, we can speak on the phone whenever, so send a personalized e-mail and then follow-up with a call a couple days later, “Hey coach wanted to follow up about my e-mail.” Your contact, follow-up and knowledge of the school and program lets us know you’re interested and shows you’re serious.

3. What type of player’s do you primarily look for, a raw athlete or refined lacrosse player?

Every coach wants a player with athleticism and so do we, but one thing we look for in particular is a player with “Lacrosse IQ.” Two or three sport athletes who understand concepts and can play off-ball and communicate, who are able to pick up on the little things. This is important because having that second sense and being able to read an offense or a defense can make all the difference in a game. If you’re a smart player with good lacrosse IQ, stick skills can be honed with practice and repetition. To grow your lacrosse IQ, watch lacrosse and pay attention to the off-ball movement of defenses and offenses. Another type of player we look out for are those that can cause chaos on the field, guys who hustle.

4. What areas of player development would you recommend players to focus on?

There are three areas to work on to be a great lacrosse player:

1. Stick Fundamentals

2. Lacrosse IQ

3. Pushing Yourself

Improve your stick fundamentals by playing wall-ball and having the stick in your hands as much as you can. Be a sponge and absorb all the knowledge of lacrosse and other sports as well as various competitive situations, learn how to react in those environments. Push yourself by playing with players who have more experience, their skills and subtleties will wear off on you.

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

Accelerated recruiting has in some senses hurt us because it forces players to make decisions early. It is also difficult to see so many young players in action and at the same time to make it to see the older players as well. The fact that financial aid and other funding isn’t finalized until late in a player’s senior year of high school, it may not be a good fit for the player by time they become a senior because of lack of funding or other reasons. College is a very important decision, it is essentially your first job and you have to ask yourself, would you take a job without knowing all of the details about it, no, so why would you do the same for college? Though accelerated recruiting has affected us, there are still plenty of very talented late-bloomers who we hold spots for.

6. What are your do’s and don’ts, likes and dislikes of recruiting videos?

Don’t make your video too long, we know in the first couple of minutes whether or not we want to watch more of you. Also let us see how the play develops and how you move about the field without the ball in your stick or playing the man with the ball. Make sure the quality of the video is clear and easy to follow. Show a diverse set of skills, not just clip after clip of you scoring. Usually we put videos on mute, but in the off chance we don’t, keep in mind your audience when you choose your music, keep it simple and classy. Make sure your contact information is at the beginning or very end. It is also a nice personal touch to do a quick video introduction of yourself; it helps us to get a sense of who you are off the field and is more personal.

ConnectLAX is a third party recruiting service and not affiliated with or endorsed by College of Wooster or Carl Festa.

Recruiting Interview with Mike Caravana of D3 Denison

With an accelerated recruiting process young players feel more pressure to commit early rather than assess all their possible college options. The question on recruits’ minds is often where can I commit to play lacrosse? Instead young players should consider asking themselves where can I find the best balance between academics and lacrosse. The best ‘fit’ for a young player will be a school that allows them to develop into a well-rounded person who reaches their potential academically and athletically.

This week we caught up with Michael Caravana, the head coach of Denison University. Currently, the Big Red are 7-0 and are ranked 5th in the Division III USILA Top 20 Poll. Coach Caravana has been at the helm of the program for over 20 years and is one of the winningest coaches in college lacrosse. He draws his knowledge of the game from his playing experience at the University of Virginia, where he was a 4x All American, and from his coaching days as an assistant at Brown and an assistant for the U.S. Men’s National team.

Coach Caravana believes that good players become great players when they can compete at their best on a consistent basis. This starts with preparation off the field and a strong desire to get better every day.

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

It’s important for young players to realize that the level of competition at the top Division III programs is similar to the competition at mid-tier Division I schools.

Division III athletes may also find a greater life balance. In the offseason, there are less practices and players have time to do other things like study abroad. Ultimately, a player controls their commitment level and how much they will improve as a player in the offseason.

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

Contacting a coach directly is always effective. Give the coach a highlight film so that the coaching staff can assess your game. Being a good student is important also. Coaches look at indicators like GPA and sometimes standardized test scores.

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

It’s important to have a combination of athleticism and lacrosse skills. Being highly competitive and having the ability to play hard is great too. Most freshmen do not contribute to their teams as freshmen. But being able to compete and get better as a lacrosse player and an athlete ensures that a young player will develop into a contributing member.

What areas of development would you recommend players focus on to compete at the Division III level?

The ability to constantly get better is important. This starts with practice habits and preparation. Do not give your coaches mediocre effort. At the college level, lacrosse becomes AP lacrosse, not Honors lacrosse. Good students cannot expect to do well when they turn in B or B- work. Students need to turn in A or A+ work in order to truly succeed. The same goes for lacrosse.

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

With top Division 1 programs picking their players earlier on we’re given another pool of lacrosse players. We have the ability to identify good recruits, but also find players who fit academically. It becomes less about lacrosse and more about where a student fits as a person and as a student-athlete.

ConnectLAX is a third party recruiting service and not affiliated with or endorsed by Denison University or Mike Caravana.

Recruiting Interview with Fairfield Men’s Lacrosse Head Coach Andy Copelan

As we are all aware by now, lacrosse is no longer just the fastest game on two feet; it is also the fastest growing sport in the US. With that said, it is much more competitive to find a college roster spot than it was in the past, but with the right plan, drive, and determination, the collegiate experience as a lacrosse player is closer than you think.

ConnectLAX has the resources to help players find schools that fit their personality, academic and athletic goals as well as their financial parameters. Players can create a list of target schools for free and coupled with their recruiting profile, can start taking control of their recruiting process with confidence and direction.

With more and more players looking for a limited number of roster spots, coaches are looking for players that can stand out on the field and in the classroom. This means players need to work not only harder, but smarter. Training more outside of practice, not being content with natural ability and striving to reach their full potential as a player all while remaining focused on their academics.

Hard work, strong academic standing, and versatility ultimately are key. Coaches are looking for athletic ability and speed, which comes from personal training when the stadium lights are off, not just playing in another game.

Focus on getting your game in front of the coaches you’re interested in: know where the camps they host are and try to attend as many as you can, make sure your academic and athletic information is well-organized in one place, and be realistic and positive. If you plan ahead and execute properly, your decision will ultimately be one you cherish for a lifetime.

We sat down with Head Coach Andy Copelan of Fairfield University, a team that has year-over-year reeled in some of the most talented players in the country, to get his recruiting advice for West Coast players.

1. What advice do you have for West Coast players interested in Division I schools, which are primarily located on the East Coast?

Be sure to contact coaches with your highlight film, contact information and also be sure to have a list of references. More importantly, have a plan on how you plan to get noticed. Playing Division I is unrealistic without having a plan on how to go about getting in front of a coach.

2. What is the best way for West Coast players to get on your recruiting radar?

Again, have a plan and also be sure to show initiative. One of the best ways to do this is to attend the prospect days (camps) of their school. This will require you to travel, but this way you can guarantee you will be getting in front of that particular coach, most of whose summer schedules are challenging and many times unpredictable. Also have 5-8 schools on your list so you can make your trip worthwhile.

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

The first thing we look for is speed and raw athletic ability and after that it really depends position to position. Defense for example, we want someone big, an imposing presence, but then for attack, we look for someone who is quick, unselfish, has good intuition, can play with two hands and puts up points. Something else we look for are players that have a versatile set of skills and aren’t just a “one-trick pony.” This means not relying solely on that one move that works every time, be versatile. Lastly, an important common theme in all our players that is a must are those who are mentally and physically tough. Players that have that “old school” mentality, guys who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and go to work regardless of the circumstances.

4. What areas of player development would you recommend West Coast players focus on to elevate their game?

Something I believe to be true that I first heard from Coach Cottle when I was the assistant at Maryland, was, “if you stay the same, you get worse.” The best thing a West Coast player who is not exposed to a lot of competition can do is become a better student of the game. Watch game film and off-ball movements. It’s easy to follow the ball around, but so much more happens outside of that. Play on teams that have a variety of players from other areas to learn through experience other styles of players. Don’t fall into the “lax-bro” mentality and play only because it’s cool, play because you love the game and challenge yourself, find where the best competition is and play both with and against them.

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

We try and not pass judgment because everyone has their reasons; we just choose not to participate in it. Right now we feel that it’s a buyer’s market for coaches, there are plenty of talented players and right now we would rather take the best 10 than the first 10. We also feel it is also important that players go through the recruiting process, look at schools and make the right decision.

ConnectLAX.com helps players maximize their recruiting exposure with mobile recruiting profiles linked to their team roster. Recruits can create their recruiting profile and target list of colleges for free. ConnectLAX team recruiting helps coaches manage and promote their players. Learn more about registering your team at Connectlax.com/recruiting. ConnectLAX is a third party recruiting service and not affiliated with or endorsed by Fairfield University.

ConnectLAX is a third party recruiting service and not affiliated with or endorsed by the Fairfield University or Andy Copelan.

HIIT Training = 4th Quarter Endurance

Class, practice, work, repeat…5 days a week. While all of us should be conditioning off the field, we’re probably not. When the pads come off then it’s on to the next part of the day and conditioning is easily forgotten. Insert social life and Game of Thrones.

But agility, speed and strength don’t need to come from logging countless hours at the gym. In fact it’s the opposite. It’s the efficient athlete that not only excels in the 4th quarter but avoids injury.

High intensity interval training (HIIT) provides the same (if not better) results than just basic cardio; and you only need 20 minutes to get it done.

Despite the short duration, HIIT is a great way to elevate your game. On the field, you’ll see an increase in endurance and power as HIIT increases your body’s oxygen efficiency and builds muscle glycogen (endurance). Off the field, it’ll be like that late night trip to Taco Bell never happened. Did we mention you only need 20 minutes, that’s like 2 COD games…

HIIT is a series of 20-30 second bursts of explosive movements or activity followed by a 2-3 minute period of rest or limited activity.

Here are a few HIIT exercises to include:

1. Cardio – nothing is worse than being stuck on a treadmill for 45 minutes. Next time you step on the treadmill go in with one objective only – to mix it up. Each 30-60 seconds should be varied at a 7.0-9.0 MPH. Start out at a slower sprint and work your way up to your max intensity. Then finish off later sets at the slower end of the range. Always remember to give yourself at least 5 minutes to cool-down at a slow and steady pace. Really want to mix it up? Vary the incline with each burst. Higher inclines will increase the intensity, so make sure to mix and match your speed and incline to what you can handle.

runner

2. Plyometric – a Connectlax favorite. If you can’t stand the thought of a treadmill then plyo is the way to go. Think burpees, mountain climbers, speed skaters, lunge jumps and box jumps. Best part is, with the exception of the box jump no equipment is necessary; so no excuse not to get that workout in.

3. Strength – slightly different version of HIIT. In this case, compound movements (think squats or bench presses) are performed at a heavier weight, with minimal rest in between sets. Instead, a plyometric exercise is thrown in-between to complement the compound exercise. It’s like circuit training but on steroids. The intensity output is based on the explosiveness of your moves and the weights. It’s critical to remember that speed should never trump form when lifting. The ability to get through a circuit quickly will depend on how much rest you take in-between sets and how quickly the plyo moves are performed.

Swag is earned between games.

Recruiting Importance of Travel Teams

The role of travel or HS club teams in lacrosse has grown significantly as college recruiting landscape has become increasingly competitive over the past few years (why? supply and demand). Change is scary; which is why this trend alarms some. But it is simply the natural byproduct of lacrosse recruiting following the recruiting timeline of college basketball, where AAU teams dominate the recruiting landscape.

Why is lacrosse recruiting so competitive like basketball when the pros don’t make much money? The reason is because lacrosse is a great tool to get into your dream school and get an education and network that will set you up for long-term success. Many of the country’s top universities have lacrosse programs. Back to travel teams.

Simply put, it is easier for college coaches with limited recruiting budgets to travel to “All-Star” tournaments and see many top players at once than travel to individual high school games that overlap with the college season. Further, coaches want to see how recruits compete against strong competition.

Travel teams are a great way to meet other players passionate about playing college lacrosse. Travel team coaches, many of which played in college, are often well informed about the recruiting process and have seen where previous recruits succeeded but also tripped up along the way. Their experience and relationships can be of great resource and help you identify college programs that fit you well. To jumpstart your researching of college programs; get a free, personalized list of target colleges here.

To make sure college coaches can find and track you while playing in recruiting tournaments. Make sure your mobile, recruiting profile is tied to your Travel team so coaches can find you on the field.

Good luck!

Why Are There So Many Verbal Commitments in Lacrosse?

The rise in verbal commitments, especially in men’s recruiting, stems from the significant supply and demand imbalance in Division I recruiting. With 67 Division I men’s teams, including 4 independent programs, the slow growth in the number of teams and thus roster spots has been outpaced by the explosive growth in youth participation across the country. There are 91 Division I women’s teams, which has seen more growth in roster spots but remains very competitive.

According to US Lacrosse, more than 1,400 new high school lacrosse teams have been added since 2006. Today, there are more than 170,000 male and 120,000 female high school athletes, a significant increase over the 100,000 male and 70,000 female athletes in 2006.

The below compares the number of high school lacrosse players to Division I lacrosse teams from 2006 to 2012.

Recruiting

In short, Division I recruiting is similar to musical chairs and the number of people playing the game is growing faster than the number of chairs in the game. Players fear there may not be a chair or in this case, a roster position for them if they wait, and therefore look to verbally commit early in the recruiting process. Keep in mind a verbal commitment is non-binding for both the player and coach.

It is important to remember that if you are passionate about playing collegiate lacrosse, there are enough Division I, II, III and club roster spots across the country for most every player and many club teams exist at schools with NCAA varsity programs.

To learn more about this trend and navigating today’s accelerated recruiting landscape, check out to Recruit Handbook.

High School Statistics from: “US Lacrosse 2012 Participation Survey.” US Lacrosse: p., 5.

5 Tips for Making a Strong Impression on a Coach

Athletes need to impress college coaches on and off the field. Unofficial visits are a key part of the recruiting process, especially given the accelerated recruiting timeline in lacrosse. Athletes need to get on campus and proactively arrange to meet coaches at the schools they are interested in. During these meetings, coaches will pitch the merits of their program and school. However, athletes should be aware that just because a coach is promoting the team and school to you, that does not mean the coach is not interviewing you at the same time. Athletes should be not become overly confident and put their guard down, but remain focused and promote their individual strengths to the coach as well.

Here are a few tips to make the most out of your meetings with college coaches.

1. Be Prepared

—   The best way to be articulate is to be prepared. You should be your best cheerleader and most honest critic of your game, as coaches will want you to discuss your strengths and weaknesses. Be thoughtful, demonstrate excitement to be there and vocalize any questions or concerns you may have

—   Have a prepared list of questions for the coach that will help you decide if the school is the right fit for you; ask questions about academics and don’t be afraid to ask what happens when classes conflict with team practices

2. Be Articulate

—   Every time you speak with a coach, consider it an interview. Coaches want to know you’re a good listener and comprehend what they are saying; communication is key on the field and coaches want to assess your verbal skills

3. Be Engaged

—   Ask questions about the information the coach is telling you; provide the coach with new information about your athletic and academic success and convey the level of your interest in the program when closing the meeting

—   Maintain eye contact and sit upright through the entire meeting, this expresses your interest in the program and leaves a positive impression

4. Be Confident

—   A firm handshake is an easy first step in making a strong impression; coaches want confident players so look the coach in the eye while shaking their hand

5. Be Presentable

In short, dress in business casual and look sharp for any on-campus meetings with a coach. You can expect the coaching staff to be in business casual to demonstrate that they consider this is a business and take it very seriously. Most team functions are business casual and coaches want to be confident you would be able to represent the school well

Scholarship Myths and Reality in Lacrosse

Every high school athlete wants the proverbial “full-ride”, the all-inclusive package that makes you a BMOC or big man on campus the first day of classes. Athletes naturally want to feel rewarded for their hard work. Possibly, they want their parents to feel the money and time spent traveling to tournaments was worth it. It is important to remember that lacrosse is a powerful tool in gaining admission to a great school, the rewards of which will be felt through an athlete’s career and life.

Let’s demystify scholarship and examine a few misconceptions below.

  • There are many scholarships available, including “full rides”

—   Fully funded Division I men’s and women’s programs typically spread 12.6 and 12 full scholarships, respectively, across their entire roster; as a result, incoming recruiting classes have to share 3 full scholarships amongst themselves

—   Division II men’s and women’s programs have 10.8 and 10 full scholarships, respectively

—   Most Division I and II programs are not fully funded and therefore offer less than the maximum amount of scholarships allowed by the NCAA

—   College coaches generally focus on making sure all players receive a partial scholarship, making the “full ride” a rarity in college lacrosse

  • Athletes will pay the full price of tuition and expenses without a scholarship

—   Student-athletes are eligible for need-based financial aid, grants and loans; refer to the net price of a school to see what incoming freshman actually pay on average after grants and scholarship aid

—   Scholarships are renewed annually and prospects who do not receive a scholarship their freshman year are eligible to receive them in later years; these one-year renewable grants are guaranteed for one year, not four but it is common practice for them to be renewed at the same level year-to-year

  • Coaches only consider my athletic skills and grades in offering a scholarship

—   Coaches perform an extensive background check into an athletes’ character before offering a scholarship because it is a financial risk for the coach and school

—   Coaches may call your high school and club team coaches, guidance counselors, teachers and possibly even your friends

—   Make sure you are a leader and setting a positive example on the team and in the classroom; be aware of your class attendance and how you get along with teammates, demonstrate a strong work ethic and integrity in your activities