Recruiting Column: Yale lacrosse coach Andy Shay talks recruiting

Photo: Yale Athletics

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 This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. 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.

I recently asked Andy Shay to give me some insight into his coaching style. With a very matter-of-fact tone, Yale’s men’s lacrosse coach replied, “The level of expectations you put on yourself, both as a student and as an athlete, can’t be anything short of unbelievable. My job is to simply find you, get you here and turn you loose.” Well, in 15 seasons as head coach of the Bulldogs, Coach Shay has an overall record of 103-40. His Yale program has been to the NCAA Tournament 6 times. They’ve won 5 Ivy League Tournament Championships and just this past Memorial Day, Shay’s Yale Bulldogs broke through, winning the school’s first-ever NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse National Championship. Yeah, I’d say Andy Shay’s coaching style has worked out very nicely!

This week, I had the great privilege to sit down and talk college recruiting with Coach Shay. From how to get noticed by a program like Yale, to how you can be sure you’re making the right college decision, here is what he had to say.

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

A: We try to recruit as much toughness, as possible. More hustle and less show. There’s just no substitute for that mental and physical toughness and that’s what really catches our eye. These days, I would say it’s pretty universal that much of playing a sport is all about flare. You see guys that play with the idea that if it looks cool, then you should do it. Unfortunately, flare isn’t going to get a lot done, at this level. Functional team plays and consistent effort is what is going to win you games.

What it really boils down to is this: we need to recruit the best guys in the country. We want to find guys that are good enough to come in and beat out the guys on our current roster. The longer we’ve been doing this, the harder that gets. But, that’s a great problem to have!

Q: How can a recruit get noticed by you and your coaching staff?

A: The best way to be seen by our coaching staff is to come to our prospect day. Really, it’s the only way that you can guarantee that we’ll see you. Unfortunately, there will be 100 kids at our prospect day and a large portion of those players aren’t going to end up here. That’s just the reality of recruiting.

But, if you do show up to our prospect day, it’s a guarantee that we will see you and be able to evaluate your chances of playing at Yale. And, as a recruit, that’s all you can ask for. You should want to be seen. The alternative is the slim chance that we will see you at a tournament, with 80 other teams. That’s just not very likely.

Q: How can a recruit do his or her best to make the right college decision?

A: So much of the recruiting process and making a college commitment is centered around what you the athlete, is told by the coach that’s recruiting you. And, I get how that might make sense. But, I am the last person you should want to talk to about whether you want to come here, or not. Because I have no idea what it’s like to be a lacrosse player at Yale. Yes, I am an employee of the university and I love my perspective of our program. But my perspective is that of an adult. Not a student-athlete. I don’t attend classes. I don’t socialize with the players. I don’t live in the dorms. I don’t do the homework. I don’t get coached by myself and on and on.

As an adult at Yale, I am very happy. But from my perspective, I’m 25 years older than you. My message to recruits is to ask questions of the student-athletes at the schools you’re considering. Ask them the questions you’re not comfortable asking the coaches. Ask them about the coaches. Ask them about practice. Ask them about day-to-day life on campus. Because if you can do that everywhere you visit, you’re going to come to the right conclusions and figure out what’s important to you. That’s when you can know that you’ve made the right decision.

Photo: Yale Athletics

Q: What advice do you have for parents of recruits?

A: We want self-starters in our program. And not only for our program but also for our university. You’re just not going to bear fruit at a place like Yale if you can’t take the initiative during the recruiting process.

Additionally, I know that every high school kid in America has an online presence. You all have an email account and access to everything you need! If you can’t take the time to let us know what you’re looking for in a college home, don’t waste your time having your parents do it for you.

It goes back to that idea of toughness. Are you really cut out for this if you’re mom and dad are doing all the work for you? If you were a coach, would you rather have the kid that handles it himself, or has his parents do it all for him?

My advice for parents is to let your child take the lead. That’s the way it’s going to be once they’re on campus, anyway.

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