The NCAA is committed to protecting the heath and safety of student-athletes, which should be a major consideration when reviewing the early recruiting legislation. By all accounts, early recruiting is detrimental to the physical, emotional and mental “well- being” of student-athletes. Pressuring student-athletes to make a premature decision about one of the most important aspects of her life, where to attend college, can have adverse consequences.
Tournaments, camps and clinics overlap almost daily during the permissible NCAA recruiting period, which was recently amended to mandate breaks from this year-round process. To meet the demands of this intense schedule, the traditional multi-sport athlete specializes in lacrosse, increasing injuries and burnout. Physically, young girls are putting undue stress on their bodies resulting in overuse injuries. The number of girls on the sidelines with knee, hip, ankle and head injuries is significant, but more concerning is the number who are playing with these injuries to showcase for college coaches.
The early recruiting process has a limited window of opportunity pressuring many girls to play when they are injured. Division I recruiting for women's lacrosse is essentially over by the sophomore year in high school. Attend any club tournament over the summer and the sidelines are packed with all of the top college coaches watching the freshmen. Girls will delay surgeries, ice between games, play with concussions, stress fractures and take pain killers -- they will do whatever it takes to be seen by the college coaches during this critical period because their future depends on it.
While the physical injuries may be more apparent on the surface, the emotional and mental stress created by early recruiting is also very detrimental to the student-athlete’s “well-being”. The competing pressures faced to perform in the classroom and on the athletic field are overwhelming and compounded by parents living vicariously through their daughters. Parents view lacrosse as the “golden-ticket” for college admissions but are misguided by unrealistic expectations. Girls limit their search to where college coaches are interested in them. The result is a premature decision that requires significant input from the parents and often does not reflect the best interests of the student-athlete.
Even for the elite student-athletes who have the privilege of being recruited early by the top programs, the process causes undue stress. Early recruits often feel like social outcasts who are resented by their peers and even their teachers for taking the “easy path” to college. And for the countless student-athletes who are never recruited, the process can be devastating making girls feel like they are failures at an early age before most of their peers would even consider college.