Here are some words of advice in the midst of this unintended frenzy that’s created each year when prep standouts pull on college sweatshirts and sit down to ink prized national letters of intent.
Stop and smell the locker room.
Everyone keeping score at home knows Section 1 produces a ridiculous number of Division I scholarship athletes in men’s lacrosse. They dot the rosters at institutions like Syracuse, Albany, Notre Dame and Johns Hopkins.
And there’s a harried race to join the parade of talent.
Let me put this out there: Is the motivation to improve coming from the desire to win a sectional championship or the desire to gain a college scholarship?
It’s a legitimate question.
Have you seen the college lacrosse hats and shirts an increasing number of parents are wearing at high school contests?
“I don’t understand why we’re in such a hurry to get to that Division I school and bypass our high school days,” said Albany head coach Scott Marr, a former All-American at Yorktown who played collegiately at Johns Hopkins. “I think sometimes people are just wishing time away, waiting to start college instead of enjoying the ride in high school and working hard with teammates to win a state championship.”
We reached this point of no return by misinterpreting what a scholarship is.
According to NCAA statistics, Division I and II schools dole out $2.7 billion to athletes each year.
That’s a staggering amount of money, but only a precious few actually experience a windfall. Only 53 percent of Division I athletes gets some form of athletic scholarship.
So what’s the bottom line?
“When you see how many kids are signing national letters of intent to go play lacrosse, and it gives you an idea that the opportunity is there,” Marr said. “I can sign a kid to a letter of intent for 4 percent of a full scholarship, which is enough to cover books.
“Even that is considered a scholarship.”
The athletes get a sense for how little scholarship money there is to go around early on.
“It becomes a realization at the beginning of the recruiting process,” said Matt Lupinacci, a senior attackman at John Jay, who signed this week to play at Colgate. “You hear a lot from kids who claim they got this or they got that. Really, if you end up with a little money for room and board, maybe something for books, that’s a lot.”
Based on NCAA participation rates, only 2.9 percent of high school lacrosse players make the jump to Division I and each fully funded team at that level has a maximum of 12.6 scholarships in play.
“We try to educate the parents right off the bat,” Marr said. “First, we only have 12.6 scholarships for the entire team. It’s not 12.6 per year. Second, we try to help out as many families as we can.
“Our next two incoming classes are broken up with most of the kids receiving between 20 and 40 percent, and some kids are just getting books.”
It’s not like there are no free rides, they’re just extremely rare.
“Full scholarships are for kids who are at a different level,” Marr added. “Most of them are attackmen. In football, it’s the quarterbacks and wide receivers and running backs who get more than defensive backs and linebackers and linemen. For us, it’s the guys who score goals or create goals who get the money. I wouldn’t say defensemen and midfielders are a dime a dozen, but there are a lot of kids out there who are similar in ability to chose from.”
Here’s the lesson for parents: All that money that you spent over the years for individual lessons, summer travel programs and fitness training isn’t coming back. But even if the investment only guarantees a spot on the high school team, it’s money well spent.