come to a head in mid-April when the NCAA Division I Council votes on a solution proposed by college coaches. As part of our coverage in the March edition of US Lacrosse Magazine, we asked those affected by the process, directly or indirectly, to share their experiences.

"> In Their Words: The Real Impact of Early Recruiting | USA Lacrosse Magazine


"We typically hear only about players who get recruited very early," says Hopkinton (Mass.) High School freshman Luke MacDonald. "For the majority of players, this isn't how the process actually works."

In Their Words: The Real Impact of Early Recruiting

Early recruiting might be the most controversial subject in lacrosse — one that surely will come to a head in mid-April when the NCAA Division I Council votes on a solution proposed by college coaches. As part of our coverage in the March edition of US Lacrosse Magazine, we asked those affected by the process, directly or indirectly, to share their experiences.

Wyatt Naylor (Class of 2016)

I started playing with the Baltimore Breakers in eighth grade. The mindset and the expectation for a lot of the well-known clubs teams is that you make it to the next level. Depending on what club team you’re on, you could go Division II or Division III. I’m someone who always has high expectations for himself, so I always thought I’d be playing Division I lacrosse. I had the ability and the belief. I didn’t want to think about doing Division II or Division III.

I focused on schools like Delaware and Mercer and stuck with them. But when Delaware’s offensive coordinator left a couple days before I visited — he recruited me — nothing really came out of it.

In the summer between my freshman and sophomore year, my goalie, Jack Pezzula committed to North Carolina. That kind of scared me. I was worried about why I wasn’t getting picked up. Being from Baltimore, people were getting picked up all over the area, especially with early recruiting. People everywhere were getting picked up, to Hopkins and Virginia and UNC. You’re worried like, “Am I running out of time?” and “Why aren’t these colleges looking at me?”

Once I got to my sophomore year, there were freshmen under me, kids who had never played lacrosse before at a high school level, committing. That was degrading. Schools will give them an ultimatum like, “You have 48 hours and if you don’t commit, we are going to move on.” That’s real pressure. College is something that can change your life forever.


Wyatt Naylor, now a freshman attackman at Roanoke College, says the onslaught of teammates and friends committing to colleges after their freshman year of high school worried him.

It’s all about the right fit, so eventually I decided that I could either play for a low Division I or a high Division III team and make an impact. I started talking to schools between my sophomore and junior year, which is pretty late now. I looked at Salisbury, Cabrini, Lynchburg and Roanoke. They gave me much more to offer from a Division III perspective. It was just a better fit for me. That’s not something a lot of kids will recognize. When you tell someone you are a Division III lacrosse player, they automatically assume that you’re less than a Division I lacrosse player, and that’s not true at all.

I wanted something more than lacrosse in my life. I love lacrosse and I love my team, but I also want a social aspect to my college. Ultimately, after four years, I didn’t want to look back and say, “Yeah, I was on a Division I team, but I never was in contention to win a championship.”

I’d tell recruits today not to put pressure yourself into committing to a Division I school if you didn’t really want to. You have to make sure that you fit into the school before you do anything.

If the legislation passes, it would take the pressure off. It would give kids a chance to learn who they are and what they really want in the recruiting process.

Wyatt Naylor played lacrosse for Baltimore Breakers and Glenelg Country School. He is a freshman attackman at Roanoke College.

There were freshmen under me, kids who had never played lacrosse at a high school level, committing. That was degrading. Schools will give them an ultimatum like, “You have 48 hours and if you don’t commit, we are going to move on." That’s real pressure.

Curtis Zappala (Class of 2015)

The first thing I did was join Duke’s Lacrosse Club. My brother, Brian, played for Duke’s and my older brother Zach also played lacrosse. We knew that Duke’s was a good place to be if we wanted to play lacrosse.

At first, in the fall of my freshman year, there was no pressure really. They just told us go out and play, which was fun. But you started to see some kids getting recruited when you went to Blue Chip Lacrosse camp in the summer after ninth grade. That was the biggest recruiting event for individuals.

After Blue Chip, one of the coaches of my team was a Maryland player, and he gave me Coach Tillman’s number. I made a visit to Maryland and that was it. I talked with my parents a lot about where they saw me and if I should wait it out to pursue an Ivy League school. We talked about it a lot, but the only official visit I took was Maryland.

Nothing really changed after I made the commitment that summer. Coach Tillman would call to talk about school and family. He put no pressure on me. It was never about how I was doing on the field.

Whenever I would talk with my club coaches, I think they could tell early on that that I was feeling a little bit worried I was being put into a box. I got put into a lacrosse box. That started to grow on me. Then, most of my friends that weren’t playing sports in college, junior and senior year, started looking at schools all over the country.


Former Episcopal Academy (Pa.) standout and one-time Maryland commit Curtis Zappala feared he was being "put into a lacrosse box."

I think I was starting to realize that I love lacrosse so much, but I was ready to part ways with it. I just did not see it in my life. I really wanted to figure out what I wanted to study, where I wanted to go, where I wanted to live, what I wanted to do with my life.

It happened through my senior season. I started to feel like it wasn’t a driving force for me anymore. At that moment, I was taking someone’s scholarship money and spot. People would cut their arm off to go to a school like that and it wasn’t something I truly was 100 percent up for, so I didn’t want to take someone else’s spot.

I don’t regret committing to Maryland. At the time, it was the only school that I wanted and lacrosse was what I wanted to do. Looking back at it, I wish the system was different. I wish I wasn’t able to verbal and commit that early so I could grow as a person more and figure out what I wanted to do. Lacrosse-wise, it was Maryland or nothing.

What I would tell someone going through early recruiting is that you should figure out what you’re interested in and don’t go to a school that would limit that. Go to a school where you can pursue that.

Keep your options open. Figure out what’s best for you and if you feel like your heart is changing, be honest with the coach. The coach won’t want you there if you aren’t 100 percent into it.

Curtis Zappala, one of the top recruits in the Class of 2015, gave up lacrosse after graduating from Episcopal Academy (Pa.) and attends Drexel, where he majors in environmental studies and sustainability.

Addie Kalama (Class of 2019)

It really started in eighth grade. I was playing for NEMS lacrosse. I started playing with NEMS in sixth grade, and we always played in the top bracket, against some good competition.

We had meetings for the recruiting process. We had one freshman year and they were like, “This is your summer.” They made a recruiting book for us. They were always on the sideline helping us.

I personally know people from Bel Air that committed. It was the beginning of ninth grade. Right when they were in high school. They didn’t even take one step on the lacrosse field as a high school player, and she was committed already. That was crazy.

I definitely felt so much more pressure. The door was closing for some schools, like top schools. I never really imagined me going to those top schools though, the dream schools. Maryland is almost done with the recruiting process for the 2019 class, which is crazy. They still look at us still. But I feel like there’s no room for me to go to those schools anymore.

After last summer, I kind of hit reality and thought, “Am I really going to be there playing lacrosse there?” That was a no for me.


Addie Kalama, a sophomore lacrosse player for NEMS and Bel Air (Md.) High School, says recruiting obligations have consumed her free time in the summer.

I’m someone that needs to be close to home, because I love seeing my brother (Salisbury attackman Carson Kamala). We go to his games and my whole family is there supporting them. It’s so much fun. I definitely want to stay close so my parents can come to games and support me. But I definitely want a good lacrosse program.

At the end of the day, it’s not about lacrosse. It’s about academics. That’s where my major comes in hand. I want to be an accountant, so I’m looking for good business programs. The money, too. How much am I going to be in debt?

I looked at George Mason and went to a few camps there, but it just didn’t work out. I’m also looking at Shepard [in West Virginia], which I hadn’t heard of before this process. Obviously, Salisbury is on my list because of my brother. I also visited Delaware because my mom is a former Blue Hen.

Do I want to play right away? Would I have any playing time? Would there be spots available? Do I want to win a national championship?

Right now I’d rather be just relaxing, studying for tests and everything. In the summer, too, it’s a lot. I don’t want to send out these emails to coaches and everything, but I have to. I need to do it so they can see me. I can’t go out and hang with friends, because I always have lacrosse. I’m committed and I love lacrosse, but I want to do what a teenage girl does.

I realized to relax a bit. The school will come. It might not even be a school that you’re thinking.

Addie Kalama plays lacrosse for NEMS and is a sophomore at Bel Air (Md.) High School.


Kalama, undecided, has considered George Mason, Shepherd (W.Va.), Salisbury and Delaware among her college choices.

Luke MacDonald (Class of 2020)

There is a substantial misconception about recruiting in college lacrosse. We typically hear only about players who get recruited very early. This makes the rest of us think that the way to get recruited is to be an absolute standout at a showcase tournament. Yet, for the majority of players, this isn’t how the process actually works.

To get a better understanding of how the whole recruiting process transpires, I did a great deal of research and interviewed two college lacrosse coaches: Coach Campbell from Middlebury College and Coach McCormack from Williams College.

The biggest element about the process you have to know is that you control it. The first step is to figure out which schools you're interested in. There are many factors to consider when determining schools you are drawn to: size, location, academic level, lacrosse level, culture, career goals and cost of tuition. This will help narrow down a list of potential schools.

The next important component of the process is contacting those schools to get on their radar. Email the coaches in the offseason, when they are not focused on coaching their own team. Include academic and lacrosse information about yourself.

The academic portion is your GPA, transcript, and test scores if you have them. “The starting point for us is always the academic side of things,” Campbell said.

The lacrosse information is the highlight film and details about where the coach can watch you play. A highlight film should definitely be included to demonstrate what you are capable of in games. This shouldn’t just be several man-up goals or takeaway checks against a weaker team. It should represent all aspects of your game. The film length should be kept to 3-5 minutes. As for music, stay away from anything offensive and realize everyone may not like the music you do.

Your email should be personalized to the specific school you are sending it to. This shows the coach you have serious interest in that school. Make sure to address the email to the right coach. (If you send many emails in a short period of time, this is an easy mistake to make.)


MacDonald interviewed two Division III coaches to get a better grip on the recruiting process.

When you have your list of hopeful schools, make a plan to play in front of those coaches and visit the schools. This can be done in a few ways. One is attending a camp that the coach will be at or is hosting. These camps are not always advertised on the school’s athletics website. Ask the coaches to put you on their camp distribution list and about which camps they plan to attend.

Another way to be evaluated is to invite a coach or his scout to watch you play at a tournament. You have to inform the coach what tournaments you are going to, what team you play for, game times, field locations and your jersey number. Making it easier for the coach to find you on the field greatly increases the likelihood to be found and viewed.

Coaches are seeking players with great stick skills and fundamentals, no matter the position. All players should be tough and hard working. Even if they are on the smaller side, they need to “play big” McCormack said. Specific abilities identified at each position are evaluated by coaches to determine the player’s caliber.

Being difficult to cover and having the ability to change speed and direction are important aspects for attackmen. For defensemen, playing low, sharp stick skills and smart footwork are advantages. Goalies must be able to see the ball and make the save to keep possession, rather than just deflecting it. Furthermore, goalies must then make effective and crafty clears. For middies, McCormack looks for the ability to run as a “two-way stallion with a big gas tank.” Lastly, faceoff specialist not only must be consistent in gaining possession of the ball, but also, but also gritty on defense and able to push the fast break.

Off the field, doing well in the classroom is the most important aspect of the process. Another factor that coaches give a lot of weight to is a player’s character traits. Coaches like a player who works hard all the time and has a positive attitude. For example, if the referee makes a questionable call, it’s better for the player to get ready for the next play rather than argue. Another element coaches like to see is that you can represent yourself, and not rely on your parents for communication. This comes into play when you are visiting a school or talking to a coach at a tournament. Leadership is also a key trait that coaches value in players because this ultimately supports the success of the team.

In conclusion, the recruiting process is in your hands. Advocate for yourself.

Make your own choices and your own college opportunities. For specific rules, regulations and other helpful information about the process, access the US Lacrosse Boys College Recruiting Guidebook.

In the meantime, hit the books, hit the wall, and keep perspective that playing lacrosse as part of the college experience is a bonus and a privilege.

Luke MacDonald is a freshman two-sport athlete (football and lacrosse) at Hopkinton (Mass.) High School.

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