After years of trying to secure an invitation, Francis Scott Key soon-to-be senior Colton Haines was finally able to show his talents on one of lacrosse's biggest stages at the Nike Blue Chip Camp at University of Maryland Baltimore County.
The lacrosse camp, which features college coaches and players working with the nation's top high schoolers, markets itself as one of the premier camps for the sport in the country. With college coaches from myriad programs in attendance, the organization claims responsibility for more than 90 percent of players earning a spot on Division I teams.
"It was really fun. It was really challenging as well," said Haines, who attended the rising senior camp from June 26-28. "I spent two or three years trying to get into this camp. It was just an awesome experience."
As a junior during the regular season with the Eagles, Haines collected 15 goals and eight assists, finishing second in points for the team. In the team's final regular season contest against Frederick, he notched season-high five goals and three assists.
Haines said invitations for the camp are difficult to obtain. Camp director Jake Reed personally invites players to participate. Those who do not receive that invitation can attend one of the program's alternative programs, the 3d Blue Chip Feeder Camp Series.
That's the route Haines took during high school, attending camps in Florida as a freshman, and then again this past winter. His performance earned him a spot at the exclusive summer camp.
"Jake Reed, he's awesome," said Haines. "He's a real big no-nonsense type of guy. He's there to get everyone better and to get them as many college looks as possible."
At Nike Blue Chip, Haines was matched up against players from places like Arizona, Texas, California, Washington and even Canada. Though campers came from all over, Haines said, when the helmets were on, everyone meshed well.
"They are thrown right into game time scenarios, and everyone gels automatically," he said. "It was awesome being so close to home and my parents were able to come watch."
Haines' team was coached by Ithaca College men's lacrosse coach Jeff Long, as well as University of Maryland attackman Matt Rambo, who tallied 40 goals and 19 assists for the national championship runner-up Terps.
Despite the challenging competition, and even if he thought he could have played better, Haines said he was satisfied with his performance.
Because of that showing, he said he's already received additional interest from colleges. He doesn't anticipate being one of the campers who earns a Division I scholarship, but plenty of high-quality D-III programs have inquired about his services, including Bridgewater College.
"I knew that it was going to be rigorous, but I didn't expect the level of play there to be as good as it was," Haines said. "Nobody dominated. Every single player played well."
Haines still has one more year with the Eagles, and even if he's looking at colleges with strong educational credentials over lacrosse, he said he's proud to have been in such elite company at the camp.
He hopes the experience will improve his play during his senior year and possibly land him a college scholarship that provides him the opportunity to chase both his athletic and academic pursuits.
"It just goes to show how competitive Jake Reed's camp is, but also that everyone there is a good player," he said. "If you say, 'I went to Nike Blue Chip,' college coaches know what that is, and know that it's a high-level camp and they want to see more from those players."