Dear Coach Bryant:
My wife and I need help addressing our junior’s recent announcement that he won’t play college lacrosse. He has lived, breathed and dreamed about that sport for ten years. Lacrosse has been his life, and his fellow players are his closest friends. But he is starting to realize that he won’t be recruited by a Division I school, so he says he won’t play at all.
He doesn’t have a particular school — or even a major — in mind. He just always thought he’d play Division I, close to home. Should we wait to see if he changes his mind? Should we explore club options at SouthEastern Lacrosse Conference (SELC) schools? To be honest, we’re not sure he knows what he wants right now. How should we guide him, to make sure he doesn’t make a decision he later regrets?
Perplexed in Peachtree City
I agree that your son may not know what he wants right now. He might be ready to give up lacrosse. Or maybe he just needs to give up his assumptions about playing Division I. Here’s how you can help him figure it out.
Talk about College Athletics
Ask your son why he has loved playing his sport. Remind him that there are mental/physical components to what he feels when he plays and practices. Athletes thrive on exercise-related endorphins. Those who have been physically active three to four hours a day for 10 years need exercise. They will suffer a major crash to their systems if they stop training. And it can be difficult for college freshmen to consistently pursue that training level if they’re not part of a competitive team.
Talk about College Schedules
Ask your son how many hours a day he spends in class now. Explain that college classes will only take two to three hours of his day. Even if he spends several more hours studying, he will still have a lot of time on his hands. How will he spend that time? Club sports might fill three to four hours a week, but he will need to find other activities – work, volunteering, Greek life, faith-based or other activities – to keep him from falling into freshman-failure behaviors.
Talk about College Options
Only two percent of high school athletes play Division 1 across all sports. Division I men’s lacrosse is one of the most selective options with only 70 schools sponsoring the sport. (Compare that to 350 schools sponsoring D1 men’s basketball or 340 sponsoring D1 women’s volleyball). There are phenomenal Division II, III and NAIA schools with great lacrosse programs. These schools also offer highly-competitive academic programs that can help him identify his career interests. Many of them might welcome your son as both a student and athlete. But he won’t know about those options if he isn’t willing to explore them.
Talk about College Engagement
Studies say that university prestige has nothing to do with student success. The most indicative predictor of student success is the quality of an individual student’s engagement. For some students, quality engagement means sports. For others it’s honors programs, service organizations or some other campus-centric activity. Whatever that activity, students who are highly engaged are most likely to excel. Explain to your son that you can help him explore all his options, so he can decide whether college lacrosse at a non-Division 1 school might be one way to help him engage and succeed.
Talking about these things helps students quantify what they do and don’t want. If your son is determined to skip varsity college options and play club instead, then he needs to consider how he will spend his extra nine hours a day and fulfill his physical/mental need for exercise. He should also consider how he will adjust his self-image when he is no longer part of a team or identified as a varsity athlete. This season is a critical time for you to help guide him as he sorts out those questions and explores options. That’s the way you can help him avoid making a decision he might later regret.