First and foremost, any lacrosse team is really all about people. It is they who will help determine just how far your team goes. For post-collegiate club lacrosse (aka po-co club) your roster will likley be filled with people who are out of school and in the work force. Many have families, most (I hope) have jobs or careers. The important thing to understand is that for many of these people, lacrosse is NOT the first or second most important thing in their lives. You must always keep that in mind. If you have that down-pat, then your 50% of the way there. Over the years, I've heard many people explain that the reason for the demise of a certain team was "lack of numbers". Actually, lack of numbers is NEVER the reason a club team fails. Lack of numbers is a SYMPTOM, not a core reason. If other things are taken care of, then the numbers take care of themselves. On this page we will examine how the numbers work in different situations, and how to get the numbers to work for you, not you for it. In addition, we'll present some recruiting ideas- all of which work if tried.
Over the years I've come to understand just how numbers are supposed to work for club teams in large cities. I'll address these first, then move onto smaller cities. I've always kept a big roster. I've always done this because I always wanted to give myself a chance to succeed. I also realize that ceratin percentages tend to play themselves out during the course of the season. Here is what I have found: My target roster size is 40. These are the guys who have TOLD ME they were interested and are placed on the phone and email lists. From that 40, I KNOW that 75% of those people will show up to at least one practice and/or game, in others words- participate. Now we're at 30. From these 30, my experience has shown me that, on average, approximately 66% of these will turn out for home or in-city games. Also from this 30, my experience has shown me that approximately half of these will make it to a road game, which is typically for us a day trip. So, while I've gotten a lot of grief from people about suiting up 20 for home games and having 15 when we go on the road, it is only because I adhere exactly to this formula. Of course, there will be variations. Sometimes we'll have less on a certain day, sometimes more. But these numbers tend to be very credible ON AVERAGE. Now, for a team that struggles to get ten out every week, having a roster of 40 might seem like a pipe dream. In fact, I've known club leaders in the past who were actually AFRAID of recruiting large numbers because they thought they would be recruiting themselves out of playing time! Hogwash. HENCE, THE NEED FOR AN ASSIGNED COACH No head coach wants a crummy record. In addition, being a coach can be a lonely thing when you're standing alone on the sideline because all ten of your people are on the field. I understand how difficult it is to find an individual who can act as head coach only. Many choose to ply their trade in the high school or college ranks. Still, even if its a player-coach situation, it is EXTREMELY important that you name a clear and visible head coach. Some assigned assistants work well also. Here's why: The head coach will be the most enthusiastic about recruiting. He won't want to look bad, so he'll make those extra efforts needed to find those extra players. How many defensemen would be eager to go out and find an extra 5-6 longsticks for their team? Not many. A coach would, though. Also, for the sake of organizational discipline, every team NEEDS a person who is untimately responsible for the on-field performance of the club. You don't need a lacrosse genius (are there any?). You simply need a reasonably competant person who will take ultimate responsibility for the performance of the team, and who will likewise assume some of the credit for that performance. SMALLER CITY TEAMS Now that I've digressed onto the need for a coach, let's quickly examine how that formula works for a club operating out of a smaller city. Personally, I don't think you need a roster of 40 if you're based in Victoria or Galveston. The reason 40 is required in large cities is because places like Houston and San Antonio are spread out. These players might live in the same metropolitan area, but they might be 25 miles from the field and 50 miles from each other! There is often a great deal more that is making demands on their time. Hence, the need for a bigger roster. In smaller cities, you might actually be able to get your players together for practice during the week, provided everyone lives fairly close. If the field is only a quick 10-minute drive for them, then your turnout PERCENTAGES should play out to be higher. So, rather than the need for 40, you might just need 30. From that 30, you might have 25 who show up to participate, 17-20 for home games, possibly 13-15 for day trips. You get the picture. So, as you go about determining your roster requirements you must take note of where you are.
Once you've gotten your numbers in place, how you manage that roster on a month-by-month basis is very important. Sadly, for most people their idea of long-range thinking is about one month. Also, their usable historical perspective is about one month back as well. A club leader that learns from history- real history- AND keeps a long-range perspective in terms of years and decades, not weeks and months, will quickly find himself outdistancing the competition on many fronts. At Metro, the recruiting doors are always open. During the season I expect a certain amount of attrition from jobs, injuries, family commitments, etc. I'll need new people to throw into the fray. In addition, at the end of each season I EXPECT to lose 50% of my team in the offseason for one reason or another. By May, I'm already building my team for the next year. One of the most painful things for me to hear is some team crying to me about losing players over the summer and that in September they don't know if they'll have enough to field a team in January. Basically, that's the reward for sitting on their butts for six months. Historically, no team in my region loses more talent each offseason than Metro. Period. In some years you could build a winner just with those we've lost. Regardless of their player losses, none compare to ours. The difference is that I expect it to happen, plan for it to happen, prepare for it to happen, and execute accordingly. Others let it happen, regret that it happened, and then blame me for what happened and throw their hands up saying "It can't be done!" Then they say the whole thing is fixed, and on and on it goes. Over the years I've heard it all. When I do hear it, I try to stay positive for their sake. I tell them they can turn it around. Inside, though, I know I'm talking to a team that simply didn't prepare for the inevitable. I've often said that I recruit as hard in June as I do in December, which isn't very hard. It's just consistent, that's all. Just a little bit of effort twelve months out of the year so I don't have to go through a panic attack every December and January. So, in sum.....PLAN ON ATTRITION. It's a FACT OF LIFE!
There are as many techniques for recruiting as there are ways of interacting with people. I've always LOVED recruiting! It's not like I'm selling them a cemetary plot. I'm inviting them to come out and play a sport they love. How hard is it really? Still, I'll go over some of the basic recruiting techniques that I've employed: NEWSPAPER/MAGAZINE POSTINGS: This is the equivalent of keeping several fishing lines in the water at all times, just in case. Many mags have a calendar section or place where different teams and events can place posts for free. Its amazing how many teams DON'T do this. Over the years, I've gotten many fine players from this, usually one every few weeks or so. It takes as much time as it does to send a fax. WEBSITE: Again, like a fishing line in the water, only this one has "live" bait. Many times players moving to Houston took the time to check our website, and this prompted them to call. Now, I'm not a great website designer. Our site is not fancy. But, its current. HIGH SCHOOL/COLLEGE ALUMNI LISTS: Many high school and college teams publish lists on the internet. Many others keep such a list for their annual alumni games. I've often been surprised at just how many players have been churned out by these teams over the last 10-20 years, and how few of them are actively playing club lacrosse. Many would, if a team showed enough interest to contact them. This source is heavily overlooked. FORMER/DEFUNCT TEAMS: Sometimes when a team goes defunct many of their players leave the game. Usually, its because the reason for that team's failure also soured them on the sport. All that many of these guys need is a fresh start. Try to find lists from old teams. I'm sure you'll find some players still willing and able to contribute. PERSONAL REFERRALS: This one is the best by a long shot. Every time I recruit a player, I ask who else he knows that plays or did play once before. I ask about high school, college, and club teammates and friends. Once you get them thinking in those terms, you'll be surprised at how many guys they bring up. I once got the names of TWELVE former teammates from one player, and many still lived in town! Usually, you'll get 2-3, on average. So, if you recruit 12 people, the fastest way to get to 30-40 is by PERSONAL REFERRAL. The strength of this also is that these players already know each other, so their on-field learning curve is much shorter. This needs to be a part of every team's recruiting vernacular. BOOTHS AT MALLS/PUBLIC PLACES: Quite possibly the fastest method for rapidly increasing your numbers is this one. Simply arrange with a local mall to set up a well-organized booth and display, along with lacrosse gear, hand-outs, etc. Have a video tape of lacrosse running at all times. You will be visited by players, former players, future players, wives of players, girlfriends of players, sisters of players, and anyone else interested. It is not unlikley that within a 4-hour period, on a Saturday, you will pick up at least a dozen new prospects. Two Saturdays, then your numbers can double. This one is a no-brainer. SUMMER LEAGUE LISTS: Certain people involved with various summer leagues have summer league registration lists going back years. Even youth and high school-level lists are good since many of the young players from years past are worthy recruiting targets now. Once you have such lists it will take a little time to go through them, make some phone calls, and track people down. However, if you're not immune to making phone calls its an easy way to pick up some players. ROOKIES: These guys are fun. God love em. Guys in their 20's or even 30's who want to pick up the sport for the first time. They can be found anywhere, and are often obtained by referral, flyer, or newspaper posting. We've welcomed many like this at Metro over the years. Many stick with it, and some have even become high school coaches! They're a great way to add numbers to your program, and they're a necessity in small cities. At ALL times be positive. Be certain about what you're doing. That's what people will follow. WHAT NOT TO DO: COMMON MISTAKES There are certain things I avoid when recruiting: 1) STAY AWAY FROM THE "C" WORD- That's "COMMITMENT" to you and me. Club players already make commitments to their families, jobs, churches, etc. Another commitment is the LAST thing they need. What I try to do is "invite" them, "welcome" them. I only ask for the time they can give, then I honor that time by doing the best I can for them. If you work the numbers formula described above, you don't need any "commitments" from anyone anyways. Lead with a carrot and not a stick. 2) NEVER TARGET ANOTHER TEAM'S PLAYERS- Not only is this illegal in the GCLA, but even if it wasn't, it would be in extremely bad taste. ALWAYS respect the sovereignty of another team- EVEN IF THAT TEAM IS STRUGGLING. You need to give them a chance to succeed. Rule of thumb: Treat other teams as you would want them to treat yours. I have NEVER known a team that succeeded when using this tactic. All have failed because they failed to do the RIGHT things in managing their rosters. Over the years several teams have targeted another as a means of coming up with their intial roster. They've all failed. I've actually known club leaders who actively worked for the demise of other teams as a means of picking up their players. 3) MERGERS NEVER WORK- This is one dead-cinch certainty in club lacrosse. Over the years many have tried, with the best of intentions, to merge two struggling teams into one good one. Well, it sounds good at first glance, which is about all the thought that usually goes into it. The thought of taking one team with 9-10 guys, and merging it with another team of 10-11 guys, would give you a solid team with 19-21 guys! That's how it should work. However, in every case I have seen over the years, those 21 guys have quickly eroded back down to 9-11. The same inattentive leadership that CAUSED the problems in the first place is then inflicted upon the combined team. So now you no longer have 2 struggling teams, you have just one. Plus, you've got enough "jaded" free agents who will be extremely reluctant to come back to the game. OVER-RELIANCE ON HAND-OUTS: I have given away far more players than I have kept over the years. By handing some club team ten player leads, chances are a few of them will work out, and that club will manage to skate by, for a time. However, any list of prospects a team gets from me will probably not be as strong a group as one they recruit for themselves. After examining these common mistakes, doesn't it make a whole lot more sense to just get it right in the first place? Usually, "leaders" who resort to these mistakes time and again fail, time and again.