James Madison women’s lacrosse coach Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe talks recruiting

James Madison women’s lacrosse coach Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe talks recruiting

Girls Lacrosse

James Madison women’s lacrosse coach Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe talks recruiting


USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Playced.com. This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. Playced.com is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology-based recruiting service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and provides a recruiting system that is second to none for student-athletes of all talent levels and ages.

She loves lacrosse. She loves being a coach. She loves her players and she loves her program. After 13 years, she’s already the winningest coach in school history. And, as of May 27th, she’s now a National Champion. She’s Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe, head women’s lacrosse coach of her alma mater James Madison University Dukes.

This week, I had the great honor of sitting down with Coach Klaes-Bawcombe to talk college recruiting. From what you need to do to land on the JMU radar, to what it means to be mentally tough, here is what she had to say.

Q: How can a student-athlete know what college level or schools are right for his/her situation?

A: The ideal scenario would be that you have mentors to rely on to help point you in the right direction. That might be the club coach, it might be the high school coach, or it could be anyone within your community that has a reasonable perspective on what playing at the next level is all about. I feel kids should be leaning on that type of mentorship, for not only recruiting, but just growing as an athlete in general. Realistically, if you want to be a college athlete, you’ve got to have a strong sense of who you are, your strengths and weaknesses. You have to know where you stack up and your mindset should be that of constant growth and improvement. It would be pretty difficult to achieve that sense of awareness without the help of that mentorship.

Q: How would a recruit go about landing on your radar?

A: You have to take personal responsibility for this process. Whether that’s sending us an email, calling us or whatever, it’s your job to let us know you’re interested. It’s on you to make yourself known. Listen, there are so many talented lacrosse players in this country. It would be impossible for us to discover every young lady who has the potential of playing at JMU. Additionally, if you think we’ll just notice you playing in a tournament with 500 other players, you’re not doing yourself any favors. That’s an extremely challenging way of getting yourself recruited, because you’ve got stand out and you’ve got to do it at the right time! It’s much more efficient to do the work, communicate and prepare yourself to be noticed by coaches. Then when the time comes, you’re giving yourself the best chances of being evaluated by the right coaches, at the right schools.

Photo: JMU Athletics

Q: Does a scholarship guarantee playing time?

A: There’s no guarantee that a scholarship is going to secure you’re playing time. Sure, getting a scholarship is a good thing. But, what you’re offered in the recruiting process, is what gets you on the team. That’s all a scholarship is. And, once you’re on the team, it’s anybody’s game. Because, we will play the best people, who fill the roles we need to have filled. When it comes to playing the right girls and winning games, scholarship amount is the furthest thing from our minds!

Q: Physical talent aside, what are you looking for in a recruit?

A: Mental toughness is so important for us. How do you manage your stress? I think that’s probably the best way to explain mental toughness and it gives you the best idea of what we’re recruiting. Really, the athletic component is the easiest part for us to evaluate. It’s fairly obvious who has the physical ability to play here, and who doesn’t. It’s the other things that we’re really paying attention to when we’re evaluating a player. A lot of times, I don’t think an athlete even realizes how much information we’re taking in on them. From how they respond to their teammates’ mistakes, to how they respond to their own mistakes, to how they engage with their coaches, it’s a lot of information we’re processing. And, it’s necessary to do so because we need to make as accurate of an assessment as we can.

Q: Give me an idea of what a recruit should say to you in an email.

A: I like seeing personality in what you’re sending us. As a coach, I want to engage my student-athletes and I’m going to want to enjoy being around you. Think about the amount of time you will be spending with this team. You’ve got to want to appreciate and enjoy who you’re spending that time with. So, get into things that are more than just lacrosse. Tell us who you are and what makes you tick. Tell us about your family. Give us some insight into what’s going on in your life. Because, that’s the piece that’s missing when we go out and watch the games. All we get to see is who you are as a lacrosse player. We don’t get to know you as a person, just by watching your games. And, we want to know who you are, it’s that simple.


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