From what we’ve heard through several different grapevines, changes to NCAA rules for recruiting in most sports will change in April. The Division I council meets April 16 and 17 to vote on whether to ban recruiting contact and unofficial visits before a student-athlete’s junior year of high school. By most predictions this is going to pass easily and will be effective immediately.
How that affects recruiting in softball or any other sport is unknown but we can look to rule changes for lacrosse and how the landscape evolved. The changes experienced in the sport could be a guide for many others.
One of the most interesting developments after the rule changes was the increase in switched commitments. This is where students had originally committed to a school and then switched to a different school. “Because it was less worth while to watch the younger recruits, coaches refocused on 2018’s and started poaching committed players”, said Terry Foy, Publisher at Inside Lacrosse. Foy said with 71 D1 men’s lacrosse programs and roughly 700 players, 55 prospective student athletes switched their commitments.
NCAA rules were changed in April of 2017 and the full effects with data may not be felt until the next few years. But in conversations with families, Foy said parents were relieved. “The burden was lifted off parents on how much they needed to travel going into their freshman year… especially for families with multiple kids,” he said. Foy pointed out that 9th grade lacrosse players stopped attending the large club team tournaments because they started associating with the younger age groups.
Foy believes this was a good process for college coaches and administrators to come together in an organized way and do what many believed was best for the sport. “Being able execute the process was great for lacrosse,” said Fox.
Softball Nation called numerous Lacrosse Coaches and organizations on the East Coast, Midwest and Southern California but calls were not returned.
Lakeshore Lacrosse based in the Chicago Metropolitan Area said the changes made things easier on kids and parents. “There is more time and less pressure because they have 1-2 years of grades and classes to help guide their college search which is much more than earlier,” said Michelle Sebastian, Director of Coaching.
Sebastion said her club didn’t see any switching of commitments in players. The new rules also afforded recruiters time to better assess players after competing in high school and club.
And she said there’s not drop-off in interest in the sport. “Their summers aren’t as full at such an early age trying to visit schools every weekend,” said Sebastion.
On a more personal level, Alex Walling, a 2019 women’s lacrosse player said she feels it’s a race to get recruited since the beginning of her junior year. “I feel rushed because before the rule change, college coaches tried to recruit as many girls in my grade as possible,” said Alex. “And now it’s a rush to find colleges that haven’t closed their 2019 recruiting class.”
Her father, Steve said they received an offer from school before the recruiting rules took effect last year, but it wasn’t the right school for his daughter. “I wonder how much money I would have saved traveling around the country going to all these tournaments if we committed then,” he said.