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.