Fred Opie (far left) in a Herk vs. Nassau game at Hofstra University 1983
It’s that time of the year when college coaches are out traveling around the country watching tournaments and checking out prospective players and deciding who they can and should recruit. Soon some players will start receiving email, mail, and phone calls and invitations to visit campuses. Some highly coveted players entering their sophomore and junior years in high school are starting to feel the pressure. Those not receiving any "love from coaches" are starting to feel low self-esteem. My story as former scholarship lacrosse player at Syracuse University and U. S. National Team player may surprise you. I did not receive allot of love my junior or senior year. As senior I might have received two letters from Division III coaches My prospects improved after attending junior college (JUCO) at Herkimer County Community college and playing for now Hall of Fame Coach Paul Wehrum. I first tearn All American honors my first year at Herkimer but the honor did not help my case much because are team did not advance to the final four teams in the JUCO championships. That was the stage in the game when coaches came to see players like they now do at summer tournaments and thereafter offered opportunities to the players they believed would contribute their programs. Clay Johnson from my hometown played for Maryland and he was my hero. Thus naturally I wanted to play for Maryland one day. The problem was I recruited Maryland harder than they recruited me a guy with little notoriety. University of Maryland coach Dino Mattessich supposedly sent somone to watch me play against Nassau Community College on the island. Nassau was the top rank team in the nation at the time and players from the program regularly earned scholarships to the top lacrosse programs and schools in the country. I played perhaps my best lacrosse ever. However following the game Maryland continued show little interest no discussion of scholarship money occurred. I sent inquiries’ to the coaches at Carolina and West Point receiving in turn cordial rejection letters. It was during this time I learned the skill of how to spot a rejection letter without opening the envelope. This skill would later serve me well as I tried to get my first books published from 2000 to 2009. Syracuse went on to beat Maryland in the NCAA quarter finals that year in the Career Dome. Coach Dino Mattessich resigned as the Maryland lacrosse coach shortly thereafter and left coaching to become an athletic director. I don’t believe one of my many phone calls to the Maryland lacrosse office ever made it pass the secretaries who screened calls; nor did any of the coaches return my calls. Now that friends and people who I've coach are college coaches, I better understand both the process and just how many contacts they get about prospective players. Most do the best they can returning calls and emails but they are simply understaffed and overworked. Coaches feel terrible when a great player gets overlooked and players feel slighted when coaches show them no love. I certainly learned over the years how to make myself more attractive as I candidate and much of what I learned happened through lacrosse. Perhaps most importantly, I learned how to separate what I do from who I am and the importance of fit when potential employers or publishers say no to me.
For those, like my wife, who can’t stand typos, watch out! I have severe ADD which kept me from moving forward with this blog for too long. My friend encouraged me to start blogging and just disclose my disability the same way I do on the first day of class as a college professor. Folks I regularly make spelling mistakes because of my disability. In order to get two books and several academic journal articles published I use a professional copy editor. To blog that would take too much time and money. So if you can overlook my typos, enjoy my musings.
Fred Opie is a Professor History and Foodways at Babson College and a contributor on the radio show The Splendid Table. His latest book is Zora Neale Hurston on Florida Food. Hurston did for Florida what William Faulkner did for Mississippi—provided insights into a state’s culture. The book is an essential read for lovers of history, cooking, and eating. For more on Fred Opie visit http://www.fredopie.com