I'm going to swim a bit out of my depths this week. But, I received a special request from a friend, a guy I really respect, and am going to do my best to offer my two cents on the topic — at least the parts I may be able to understand or relate to.

I don't know much about first, second, or third home. Nor do I know much about how they match up with their counterpart points, counterpoints, or thirdmen. And why don't their sticks have pockets?

Advertisement

Lost yet? We're talking about women's lacrosse.

Going to an ACC school in the late 90s, I was fortunate to get to watch some great women's lacrosse, and to get to know some fantastic women's lacrosse players. A buddy of mine is married to a Tewaaraton Trophy winner. For a while, she was described as being the Michael Jordan of women's lacrosse. Until the Kobe Bryant and LeBron James of the women's game came along.

My friend — this guy I respect — asked me to write about what is going on in recruiting as it relates to women's college lacrosse.

I told him I needed a primer, as I had no clue what that women's recruiting landscape looks like.

If you were confused by the women's game's use of a term like "thirdman" to describe a girl's position on the field, you'll be further confused by the fact that the predominance of recruiting relationships are predicated upon a "gentlemen's agreement" — a handshake.

As the concept of trust an honor are unfortunately as foreign to most as the positions and rules of the women's lacrosse game, it should be noted that a "gentlemen's agreement" is defined as being "an arrangement or understanding which is based upon the trust of both or all parties, rather than being legally binding."

A quick Google search of the recruiting rules as they pertain to NCAA women's lacrosse seems to suggest that contact with any recruit initiated by a college coach is impermissible prior to some date relative to the would-be recruit's junior year in high school. However, the problem, as my friend tells me, is that while contact cannot be formally initiated, nor overtures of interest or the offer of scholarships actually made until a student-athlete's junior year in high school, girls are making and coaches reciprocating verbal commitments to one another as early as the girls' freshman year in high school. A good ol' "gentlemen's agreement" (in some cases, for a girl to go play "thirdman") among or between girls – one of whom is 14 years old at best.

What could be wrong – and what could go wrong – with that?

Again, to be clear, I've never played girls lacrosse; never coached the sport; and don't have a daughter playing or being recruited to play the sport. I didn't even know about the phenomenon, save a passing rumor someone asked me about as it related to my alma mater and a pair of local freshman girls lacrosse players rumored to have already committed to and/or signed with their women's team. Again, with minimal 'research' I learned there is truth to the rumor. (And to be clear and for the avoidance of any doubt, I know one of the dad's of one of the girls, and couldn't respect or admire a guy more!)

According to my friend – this guy I highly respect – the biggest culprits in this pedophiliac poaching-styled recruiting game, with its "gentlemen's agreement" with 14 year olds, are the parents. Particularly, or specifically speaking, the parents' pride. More accurately, it's the parents' hubris, because parental pride is great. It's healthy. But, vicariously living through your kid's accomplishments to the point that that parental pride morphs or tips the scales toward a less healthy hubris is not.

Again, I don't claim to know about the game of girls lacrosse. And, I shouldn't claim to know much about the recruiting game in its current state. Shit, I definitely shouldn't claim to know the first thing about being a parent. But, well, a friend asked me to give my two cents and there it was, and here it is again:

The system is broken; particularly on the girls' side. One year, non-renewable, partial scholarships (or financial aid cloaked under the pretense of scholarships) being quasi-offered and quasi-accepted on handshake "gentlemen's agreements" for a 14 year old to accept the offer of the equivalent of a 40 hour per week (plus) job; where one party clearly lacks legal capacity and certainly lacks an understanding of what the commitment to that job really entails; where a 1-2 year window exists before the coach can actually offer, and the kid, then maybe 16 or 17, can accept the job in writing; where a 3-4 year window exists before the 14 year old can start working that job; where, during which time, any myriad of variables can change the landscape and/or the otherwise bargained-for consideration on either or both sides; where there likely is not a true meeting of the minds; where parental pride has morphed into a strange sense of vicariously-derived hubris that often presents itself as said parents pushing their 14 year old kids to a premature decision (in the most literal sense of the word) – is a lopsided equation that is both unfair to the 14 year old girls and is incredibly broken.

I'm not sure why my friend asked me to write about this. In situations like these I feel like Eminem when he famously pointed out to parents that were appalled when they found out that their kids were listening to his music by rather matter-of-factly and poignantly pointing to the fact that parental advisory warnings were clearly affixed to each of his albums – commenting that it was not his job to raise the angered parents' kids. Rather, that it was, by definition, the parents' jobs to pick, police and/or prevent the music that their kids listened to.

Mythologically speaking, hubris is always punished. As we've touched on before, those parents most angered by the idea that their pride-turned-hubris may actually hurt their kids, are likely the very same parents who will be in denial when it is ultimately their kids that are "punished" for – read hurt by, or made to pay the consequences for – their parents' hubris.

Advertisement

If your kid is that good as a freshman or sophomore, she'll be that good, if not better, by the time she's a junior or a senior. What upside is there to verbally committing as a freshman or sophomore? Best case scenario, she continues to improve and is offered one of the three spots reserved and/or to be offered to one of seven girls. Worst case, she doesn't improve, or gets worse while one of the other girls gets better, and is left to "walk-on" or to be sent scrambling as the verbal "commitment" or "gentlemen's agreement" is rescinded. Even worse case scenario is a combination of the coach that "commits" to her as a freshman or sophomore has been fired or moved on to a different school by the time the girl is ready to attend college. Maybe worst of all is that a 14 year old freshman was pushed/forced to make her college decision.

Again, I don't know women's lacrosse, and I'm not a parent. But, I've seen what hubris can do, and in this instance it will certainly be the young girls that get "punished" or hurt by their parents' hubris.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement