Coach Jon Black, Head Coach of the Notre Dame de Namur University Argonauts in Belmont, CA, stepped into my office the other day to answer some questions for all of our soon to be student-athletes out there. Coach Black played at NDNU from 2004-2008 where he had a 41-11 record while consistently being in the top-10 of all Division II Lacrosse programs. He then stopped at the High School Lacrosse level to coach at Carlmont High School in Belmont, in the same area as NDNU. This was just a pit stop of experience for him because in 2015 he was named the head coach of his alumnus, NDNU. On top of being the head coach of the Lacrosse team, he is also the Assistant Director of admissions at the University. You can say, Coach Black is a very key part of the NDNU community.
1. What type of players do you look for and where? What do you look for in a recruit? What type of player best fits your program?
We pride ourselves as having one of (if not) the most diverse roster in the NCAA with players coming from all over the nation. We’ve had players from New York, Virginia, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Texas, Oregon, Washington, Canada, and all over California. Regardless of region, we look for players who have the talent to make an immediate impact as soon as they step foot on campus. Some larger Division II lacrosse programs have roster sizes up to 80-85 players and you rarely see players on the field until their junior year. Here at NDNU, we like to keep the roster no larger than low to mid 30’s, ensuring that guys can step in right away and make their mark on the program.
2. What is the best way for players to get on your recruiting radar?
Two words: Email and Film. There are hundreds of thousands of talented lacrosse players around the nation (and the globe). Don’t assume a coach knows about you unless you’ve actually received an individual correspondence from them! Often, the best way to get a hold of a coach is to simply browse that school’s athletic website and find the coach’s email. I wouldn’t recommend calling a coach as the first method of contact. A simple email with an introduction, name, position, and graduation year along with a link to highlight film is perfect. The coach will reach out to you if they are interested in communicating further.
3. What areas of player development would you recommend players focus on to elevate their game?
As much as hitting the wall and throwing around with your friends helps with skill building, here at the NCAA level, we’re looking for players who not only have those basic skills but truly understand the game (“Lacrosse IQ”). Lacrosse IQ is a truly invaluable trait to have, especially at the NCAA level where everything like checks, shots, etc come a lot faster. Having a player know how to read and anticipate what’s going to happen before it happens is truly the best skill a player can have. Be a true student of the game and always think a play ahead! This skill only comes with experience, so play as much lacrosse as possible before you get to the next level.
4. What common recruiting mistakes should players and parents avoid?
Not many student-athletes understand the difference between divisions at the NCAA level. There are many pros and cons with every division and school. For example, the Division II level typically consists of smaller institutions with some colleges and universities having only 500-1,000 undergraduate students. It’s all about “fit.” If you like smaller, more intimate environments who typically take their athletics seriously, you’ll enjoy most Division II schools. At the same time, if you are looking for a huge school with football games on campus and tens of thousands of students walking around, you may not enjoy the Division II atmosphere. We’re fortunate here at NDNU because we’re the only Division II school in the entire state of California and west of Colorado. With some of the best weather in the world, being steps away from Silicon Valley (Google, Apple, Facebook, etc), only 20 minutes from both San Francisco and San Jose and 15 minutes to the nearest beach, NDNU is quickly becoming one of the premier universities on the west coast, especially for lacrosse. The most important thing to do is tour the campus and meet with the coach. Get a sense of their “coaching philosophy” to see if that’s a school you can see yourself. And finally, making a college decision is not a one-year decision…it’s a four-year decision!
5. What should a recruit include in a message to you that will draw your attention? Contrary to what recruits might think, I don’t want players to attend NDNU “just to play lacrosse.” Here at NDNU, we think much bigger than that! There’s no doubt you will have one of the best student-athlete experiences in the nation as a lacrosse player at NDNU, but we’re always asking our players to think beyond lacrosse and beyond themselves. In fact, we place a high emphasis on community engagement and for three out of the last four years, the lacrosse program has been awarded the Athletic Department’s Community Engagement Award for the number of hours of service in the local community. Over the last four years, we’ve completed nearly 4,000 hours of community service and raised nearly $20,000 for various non-profit organizations.
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Head Coach Jon Black of the Men’s Lacrosse Team at Notre Dame de Namur University