The club sports phenomenon has taken over the summer lacrosse circuit. Its arrival was all but certain and club lacrosse is here to stay. Lets explore some of the positives and negatives associated with club programs. First, club programs are neither good nor bad, they are amoral. There are a lot of negative perceptions associated with club teams and rightfully so, but they themselves are not good or bad. Club teams experiences can be great or terrible, but it is more about the people behind the organization and the culture they are building. The way one views club sports programs is fundamentally shaped by what one values and what one wants their son/daughter to get from playing on a club program. What is important to you?
With that being said, here are my thoughts on the good and bad things I have seen from the privatization of sports based on what I value and think club programs should be.
First, the good.
1.) Players have the chance to continue playing over the summer on an organized team
2.) College coaches have the opportunity to recruit talented players
3.) Players have the opportunity to be coached by someone new, play with different athletes and make new friends
4.) Players and parents get to travel and see different parts of the country together
And now the bad.
1.) Some club programs are run for the wrong reasons (money, ego, etc.)
2.) False advertising (A lot of club programs make a lot of claims about what they can do for players and everyone running a club program has a seemingly endless Rolodex of college coaching “connections”)
3.) The marketing of high school athletes
4.) The expectations that all kids in summer programs must play D1 lacrosse
These are just a few of the good and bad things I have seen in the club lacrosse world. There are many more positives and negatives, but I just wanted to hit on the major issues I see. So what should players and parents look for in a club program?
1.) Coaching. Who is going to be coaching your son/daughter? Is this person a good role model and someone you want your son/daughter to be around? Will they use lacrosse as a platform to teach your son/daughter life skills? Most kids will not have the opportunity to turn lacrosse into a profession, so knowing how to run a perfect pick and roll or perform a coma slide will not help them 10 years down the road. But, knowing how to prepare properly, how to handle adversity and how to function as a team will serve your son/daughter forever.
2.) Practice. Will the team actually practice? Many teams are thrown together with little focus on player development. The number one goal for players during the summer should be to improve as a lacrosse player. The only way to do this is practice.
3.) Experience. Club lacrosse should be a great experience – new coaches, new teammates and a chance to play against different players from different states. Choose a program that will give you the most enjoyable summer overall experience.
4.) Fun. Lacrosse is fun and it shouldn’t be a job for high school players. Make sure you enjoy it!
Here is my final advice, which is often easier said than done. Do not get caught up in titles and don’t base your selection of a club team on status. Just because it says “invite only” or “elite” does not mean that it is. Remove the titles and ask yourself, “If this was called the “Not-Elite” program, would you still want your kid to participate? Titles should not play any role in your club team selection, everyone who plays college lacrosse has a plethora of accolades after their name and most of them carry little to no weight for college coaches. Do not worry about being found. If you are a good player, coaches will find you! Finally, not everyone is destined to play D1 lacrosse and that is okay. Playing D1 lacrosse is demanding and not for everyone. D2, D3, and club are great choices to continue playing at the college level. Be intentional and think about it.