All the dangers of attending a new collegiate program.
And, the BENEFITS of committing to an infant program.
1. Literally No One Knows What's Going ON
How do we prepare for practice? How do we operate team lifts? How do we behave on the bus? How do we behave in a hotel on an overnight trip? Do we wear team issued clothing on Saturday night? Plus, one thousand other lacrosse questions. Then, multiply the stress of being away from home for maybe the first time and things can get dicey.
Without seniors to guide the way, the person with the biggest personality may take over the team on and off the field. That could be a lot of responsibility for a 19 year old. He might not even understand the influence he has over others.
2. Roster Turnover
A start up program's first goal is to have enough roster members to field a team. That might mean the floodgates are open when it comes to committing players. Not every incoming recruit is going to have the same goals and there won't be upperclassmen to monitor the youngsters.
Imagine latching onto the wrong teammate who makes poor decisions off the field and brings you down academically. Then, imagine that teammate transfers in December because he couldn't handle himself off the field which impacted his performance in the classroom. Of course, he may say the coach lied to him about playing time and he saw the writing on the wall during fall ball.
Now, your grades aren't as good as they should be, maybe your fitness level isn't where it should be heading into the spring, and the person that influenced those decisions has left. Not only has that person left the school, but he's also bashing the coach on the way out the door which may or may not impact you moving forward.
That's not uncommon.
Players could leave for pure academic reasons. They could leave for financial reasons. They could leave because of playing time. (These things happen at D1 schools that have had a program for 50+ years).
Not every recruiting class is perfect but dud classes early in a program's existence can take a long time to overcome if they ever do.
Between 2013 and 2016, Defiance College went 0-60. They canceled the program just a few years after announcing their first ever head coach in February 2012.
Division 1 Presbyterian lasted a little longer going 9-61 before shutting down in 2011.
As newly acquired Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry eloquently put it on HBO's "Hard Knocks," that sh*t is contagious, bruh.
3. School Support
Why did the school add lacrosse in the first place. Some schools add the sport because they assume it will immediately attract forty kids. Doesn't always work that way.
In their first season, NAIA school Central Christian College in Kansas had a 13 man roster. They lost every game by an average of 20 goals. They canceled the program this July.
Are they supporting the players with coaches?
There's a big difference between two coaches and three coaches. Is it a surprise that Salisbury had eight coaches on their 2018 staff and a school they beat by 14 only had three coaches?
It never occurred to me to ask who would be running the offense when I was going through the recruiting process. When I got to campus to learn the head coach was a goalie and the assistant coach was a defender only a couple years removed from college I realized offensive development was going to be at a premium at practice.
0. The school is aware of what they are getting themselves into
Something to look for when considering a start up/new program
A great sign for a start up program is if they are willing to hire an assistant during the recruiting year. Having a two man staff during a recruiting year should guarantee at least 20 incoming players for Year One.
It is one thing to struggle in the first year of the program. That is to be expected. It is another if you have 13 kids on the roster, three of them are foreign exchange students you picked up from the cafeteria, and you can't practice 6v6 for more than five minutes.
An even better situation is if the school is adding new facilities to compliment the new programs rather than putting more wear and tear on existing structures.
Find a start up program like Allegheny and you'll avoid a lot of the headaches mentioned up:
"Men's lacrosse and field hockey have been on our radar for several years," said Portia Hoeg, Allegheny Director of Athletics and Recreation. "However, we did not have the proper resources in place to create a solid foundation for additional sports."
Along with the addition of two new varsity programs, the Board of Trustees has also authorized construction of a new artificial turf competition field at the Robertson Athletic Complex, while the existing locker room and athletic training facilities at the complex will also be renovated and enhanced.
"It has always been important to begin new programs at a time when we could adequately invest in our resources," Hoeg stated. "We are extremely excited to upgrade several of our athletic facilities, and add an additional turf field to benefit not only lacrosse and field hockey, but all Gator athletic programs. We will also staff each program and our support personnel at a level to assist in the health, wellness, recruitment, and game coverage of the two additional varsity programs."
(Via Allegheny Athletics)
1. Fresh out the frying pan into the fire
Hat tip Jay-Z.
Most captains are named to the leadership role their senior year. Even if they had great captains to look up to, that's not a lot of time to figure out how to lead.
Athletes are start up programs face a lot more adversity a lot sooner.
They are forced to mature and to develop leadership skills earlier in their careers.
This is a great thing!
One coach who has experience with a start up program told us this, "The unavoidable parts of being a start-up program can be beneficial also. For example, few underclassmen get quality minutes right away at most schools, but at a startup young guys will play.
In the first year or two that is the struggle, winning games with younger guys that have less experience; however, that struggle becomes your advantage, too.
When the young guys at a new program have a year or two of playing going into the third year of the program, they have far more on-field and game experience than guys at other schools that might be seeing their first significant minutes in games, and by the third season you should be competitive."
2. The opportunity to build the foundation
If you're a history buff, it's a lot easier to get your name in the record books if you're a member of the first four teams in school history.
More than being interested in stats, recruiting classes that embrace the #Team1 mantra can create the traditions a program follows for years to come.
As an alum it is pretty cool to return to the old stomping grounds to see the team still do things you used to do as a player. Imagine the pride you'd feel to know a team still honors traditions or even drills and playbook terms from Year One.
In 2006, Seton Hill went 1-10 in the first season. Last year they advanced to the D2 semi finals. And, the D2 tournament was seeded by resume instead of region, they probably beat St. Leo and get a chance at Merrimack in the national title game. Regardless, it is safe to say that every member of the 2006 team that finished their career at Seton was extremely proud to be an alum this past May.
3. The possibility for early playing time
Losing games is tough. Losing games while being buried at the end of the bench is another.
Perhaps the best reason to commit to a start up program or even a school that is entering their fourth year of existence is the opportunity for early playing time.
Every college commit was the top dog on his team in high school. Going through the "grind" of college can be a lot easier if you sense that playing time is coming sooner rather than later.
If playing time is important to you, would you rather try to beat out freshmen or a 21 year old who has been in a college weight room for three years?
There are a lot more words about why you shouldn't go to a start up program.
The reality is you can commit to a school that's been around for twenty years and the coach can leave over the summer. Now, you're going to be dealing with a divided locker room in a year when the new coach's commits show up.
If enough upperclassmen quit because of a new culture being installed by the head coach, you're essentially a start up program in an established program's body.
If you're willing to ask questions and visit the campus, maybe even more than once, you'll have a better understanding of what to expect.
We hope your attitude is, "They may struggle their first year, but I'm going to be why they have success in Year One and I'm going to be one of the players Coach builds off of moving forward."