Thursday, September 24, 2015

Recruiting, Part 1 of 2

Attackman Fred Opie during a home game at Croton Point field my Senior Year 1981

As part of my ongoing recruiting series I want to talk about the experience I had helping a fantastic sleeper complete a grueling recruiting process for him and his family. As sophomore, seniors at his high school received the lion share of playing time thus he went unnoticed until this past season and a great showing this summer. But by June most of the top scholarship and Ivy League lacrosse programs had verbal commitments for his class and had nothing to offer. So the scramble to find a program who wanted to court him started and I got involved the first week in July. The experience proved stressful for the player and parents largely because going through it the first time there are so many blind spots and unexpected turns and twist. One ends up turning in all different directions talking to coaches and visiting schools on speed dial and having one’s hopes raised and dashed in a 24 hour period. I went to high school with this recruits mom. My high school friend said that at times “I felt like we were all over the place talking to coaches, looking at schools [and] jumping from D1 to D3.”She concluded, “At the end of the day, I think a lot of it comes down to luck.  One coach sees you do one good thing on one good day.” More tomorrow on learning from a recruiting experience.

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Friday, September 11, 2015

Recruiting and High School Pedigree

Me left, covering Yorktown's Rob Hoynes in my senior year of High School. Hoynes would go on to have a great playing career at Army.

My entrance into the Syracuse University (SU) lacrosse community on campus in 1983 happened awkwardly in large part because of my own insecurity as a player void of any noted tradition. The incoming class of 1983 came in with allot of players with loftier credentials then mine. We became acquainted during shoot arounds on the old beat of turf field located next to Manley Field House on south campus peppering each other with questions about our high school programs. My school, Croton Harmon High School in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, only Yorktown players knew about being from the same league. At the time, Croton had only produced Maryland’s Clay Johnson; so what I learned then and understand the better now, is that like many other spaces, the lacrosse world has a rigid hierarchy. For a new unproven recruit, one’s high school opened or closed doors. That has changed with the emergence of club teams and the various All this and that teams. So here I was in 1983 feeling like a marginalized lacrosse player with no creditability until I could prove myself on the field. I was a stepchild and outsider among a group of players from high schools with legendary histories. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

College Recruiting Advice

1984 Syracuse Team Photo  
1982 Herkimer Team Photo

Below is my response to an e-mail I recently received from a high school player. Like many, he's struggling with trying to get the attention of a Division I college coach in hopes of continuing his playing career after graduating from high school. I share this in hope of helping other student athletes in a similar situation. I changed names to keep people's identities anonymous.

Dear Eric:

Glad you found my YouTube video on college recruiting helpful. My lacrosse blog contains more recruiting suggestions and topics that may serve you well.  You need a credible advocate to lobby for you, someone who know your game, work ethic, and character. You should also consider a Post Grad (PG) year at a prep school that's still looking to fill the few PG slots left and has good lacrosse. Try looking up Deerfield Academy, The Salisbury School, or the Hill School and their opponents. These schools will have great lacrosse and a PG year will give you another year to get seen and maybe recruited. Some prep schools provide financial aid. Perhaps the lax and hoop coaches would be interested in you because of your size—work all angles my friend. It's hard to tell what's a dream vs. what's not realistic, but there is a place and level or everyone play and get a good college education. In my case, I started at Herkimer community college and thereafter I transferred to Syracuse University to continue my studies and lacrosse career. The strategy allowed me to earn a degree worth about $40, 000 at the time for a fraction of that cost. 

Best wishes,

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Thinking About Grad School?

Me shooting on goal in USA exhibition game against the Syracuse All Stars up in Liverpool, NY out side of the city of Syracuse. That's Rodney Dumpson (Portwashington & SU) chasing me down.

When I decided to return to grad school in 1989, I tapped into my lacrosse network. I knew that graduate assistant positions (GAs) existed that would pay for tuition provide a living stipend in exchange for work. I let be known that was looking for GA position where I could coach. I soon received an offer from Head Coach B.J Ohara (West Genesee, Hobart) at Dartmouth College in Hanover, Vermont. I just earned a spot on the 90 National Team and thought Dartmouth was at the time just too isolated from opportunities to play club ball and have a social life. Chuck Winters, the former head coach at Cortland State when I played at SU, had just started G-burg as the school’s new athletic director that summer. He and coach Hank Janzyck (hereafter Coach J) created an attractive GA offer and I took it. At the time coach J was building the G-burg lacrosse program. I took the job because I liked Coach J and the location of the school in south central Pennsylvania allowed me to play for Maryland Lacrosse Club in nearby Baltimore.  I rented a mother in laws apartment from coach who I would live with from 1989 to 1992. I really had a great gig with access to the weight room and the campus library and I made the most out of it. I could return to grad school because I was single and accept for a couple of students loans and small car loan, financially independent. That's key if you want to return to school. I was also a big fish in a small pond as new US National Team player. That celebrity status and a good reputation off the field helped me negotiate a good GA position that worked for me.

Lessons from My Graduate School Experience:

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Brad Kotz

Brad Kotz and Tim Nelson, a dynamic duo from the class of 1985
You know your good when you have a Wiki page! Brad Kotz aka “Kotzy” has one.  Brad is a West Genesse product who would go on to be a 4 x All-American midfielder at Syracuse, the 1983 college player of the year, and two time National team player in 86 and 90. I roomed with Brad my first semester at SU in the fall of 1983.  We also played together on Maryland Lacrosse Club, and the 1990 US National team.  He had great speed and strength (The guy worked hard in the weight room), and he almost never caused turnovers. Brad had tremendous eye hand coordination; he would joggle a ball on the top of the head of his Brine superlight II; a trick akin to what Tiger Woods does with a golf ball and an iron (Brad, we need you to video tape that for my blog and YouTube channel!). For me, Brad's shooting accuracy represented his greatest attribute. For example, I saw him shoot an amazing 4 for 6 in a World Cup game in Australia when he played virtually on one leg to do a knee injury.  Kotzy played with a pocket no deeper than a women's stick which allowed for his quick release. Players today should learn from him and get rid of all those grapefruit holders! The guy consistently shot hip high opposite the goal’s stick which is the toughest shot in the game to stop. Perhaps most heart warming to me was witnessing Brad's anger and disappointment the year Todd Curry was inducted, that Tim Nelson had not been inducted yet.  

Brad Kotz:

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Back to School and Lacrosse

Herkimer General Fred Opie Covering Hobart's Rick Vacion in 1983
I played junior college lacrosse at Herkimer County Community College before earning admissions and a scholarship to Syracuse University (SU). In the process I gained a great education at an afforable price with in state tutition as a community college (but that's another story i will turn to later). The summer before the start of my first semester at Syracuse University I set my mind on earning a position as starting defensemen during fall ball. I somehow got in my head that a division 1 defensemen had to bigger and stronger than I was at the time—6’ 1’’180 pounds. That summer I ate like a champ and lifted like a chump and ballooned to 205 pounds! Please don't use the strategy I employed. Today I would be small by division one standards where the average defensemen are taller than me and over two hundred pounds; today players are also faster and stronger than during my era. My advice is speed and great footwork and stick skills can never be underrated. On offense size is not as critical as speed and stick skills. Few be understand that NFL Hall of Famer Deon Sanders was not big, but lightening fast!

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Monday, August 3, 2015

One Big Reason Why Syracuse Recruited Me

Tim Nelson against Army at West Point, 1985 
Perhaps the person that the Lord used the most to turn the attention of the Syracuse Lacrosse coaching staff was the big 6' 2" 200 pound attackman Tim Nelson (Yorktown High School). Our high schools played against each other back in Westchester in Section 1. We also played together on a Manhasset summer league team in the old Freeport Summer League after my first year in college. As a result of our shared history, Tim (Nellie) knew my game and knew it well. When I went to Herkimer as a virtual unknown player, he went as a highly recruited two-time high school All American who had played in two New York State title games to NC State. In the late 1970s and early 1980s the Wolfpack had a great lacrosse program that included Tim’s older brother Scott. At the end of his first year, State dropped their program and Syracuse offered him a scholarship. In his first season at Syracuse, SU won its first national championship in 1983, Nellie earned first team All American honors and he won the Turnbull Award as the best attackman in the country that year. During that championship season, I visited SU and ran into Nellie. He told me about the teams need for defensemen and then lobbied the coaching staff to recruit me based on what he knew of me as a high school player and my summer league performance. That’s the story of how I became a Syracuse Lacrosse recruit when most other programs and coaches showed no interest.