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So You want to Play in College...

This month we have another guest Blog post, this time from founder of Stickwithus.org Michael Desmond, on what the Path to College is, if that is the route a child wants to go. 


Coach Desmond is the founding director of The StickWithUs Organization (2001) and the current Head Coach at Ballantyne Ridge High School in South Charlotte.

With over 23 years of experience, the former elementary school PE teacher and athletic director built StickWithUs & the CLA into one of the most respected youth programs in the Carolinas, while bringing Team Carolina to national recognition as one of the best programs in the Country. Under his leadership, more than 300 Team Carolina/Team Charlotte athletes go on to play college lacrosse at the D1, D2, and D3 level. His players played on starting rosters in National Championship games at every level, including Tewaaraton finalist in Mike Sawyer (Charlotte Catholic/Loyola 2012) and the D3 National “defensive player of the Year” Tommy DeLuca (Apex HS/Cabrini University 2021). For his contributions to the growth of lacrosse in the Carolinas, Coach Desmond was named the US Lacrosse-NC Chapter “Man of the Year” in both 2009 & 2015.

After selling the Carolina Lacrosse Association and Team Carolina Lacrosse in 2022, he remains active in the local high school scene coaching and producing the annual Heroes Bowl. We thank him for his contributions and love the straightforward guidance for players interested in going to college.


So, you want to play in college…The Path is the path.


Observations and thoughts from 23 + years’ experience in boys lacrosse to lacrosse players who want to be the best they can be, and possibly play at the next level.

1. ACADEMICS

Strive for straight A’s in school or seek out the extra help you might need to do your very best in the classroom. Almost always, the first question a college coach will ask is: “what are his grades?” By asking this they are initially qualifying if you can even get into their school, and if yes, how much academic aid you might qualify for.


2. SCHOOL PRIDE

Give 110% to your school program. Play multiple sports for your school, if you are willing and able. School sports can’t be replicated. The passion, energy, and pride competing for your school with friends, classmates, and family in the stands is unmatched! No matter how great of an athlete you are, don’t miss this unique opportunity to compete for your school…you won’t regret it.


3. PLAY CLUB LACROSSE

Locally, pick a club team where you get the best team coaching, and you enjoy your teammates. It can be a bonus if your club has specialty staff at your position. Local clubs in the area are all fantastic at player development. They all do a GREAT job. Don’t blame the club director or club coaches when things don’t go your way. Only you, the player, and the work you put in will get you to the next level.


4. CHANGING CLUBS

Most times it is a family decision. There are sensible reasons to make a switch. It can be as simple as just needing a new challenge. Change because the training is better, the staff is better, and you feel it is where you need to be to reach your goals. Before you leave, discuss, and communicate these points to your current club coaches and director. A change should be an individual decision. Try to avoid situations where you feel pressured to go just because a teammate is making a change.

Be mindful of false promises. If you are considering moving to another local club, keep in mind, the only thing a club director or coach can do for any player in the recruiting process is talk to college coaches on behalf of your character, your work ethic, your family, and your grades. Directors and coaches can advocate for you, they cannot get you to a college if the college isn’t interested.

It’s up to you to put in the work at practice, with a position coach, in the gym and in the classroom. Period. College coaches decide who they recruit – not club directors. If someone tells you something else, they are not being completely honest to you.

Before a club change are you asking: To see the roster? Understand the percentage of players who are returning? Why did the players who left decided to leave? Who will be coaching the team? Don’t switch clubs simply because an adult, coach, friend, or director recruited you over. Remember these are individual journeys in a team setting.


5. BEYOND YOUR LOCAL CLUB

Play for a regional/national team only if they are better than your existing club team and/or attend better events than your existing club team. And only if they offer high level training/practice that lead up to the events. Attending a training camp in October hardly prepares you to play together as a team in December. Different teams can be fun to do, meeting other players from other parts of the country with common goals contributes to your healthy growth. Other styles of coaching and play are beneficial, they can also provide you more advocates to help reach your goals. These teams can be advantageous with the right training and a ton of fun.


6. THE QUEST FOR MORE

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do more.

The top players, in any sport, seek opportunities to play with the best versus the best. To believe one club can provide you everything you need within a small, local program can be naive. Your athletic journey should be like your academic journey. As a student you don’t stay in the same classroom all day. Ideally you are being challenged by studying different subjects delivered by a variety of teachers, while often grouped by ability. A club that tells you “We have everything you need right here, no reason to look anyplace else” may or may not be telling you the truth. Indicating to you that their club is all you need, is the educational equivalent of asking you not to go to the public library in your free time. Even

if, let’s say a club somehow does provide everything you want and needs, there is nothing wrong with the curiosity to explore something more. Hopefully that’s what all your teachers and coaches want for you, to raise seekers of everything that is possible? And why not play for more than one team, why not play for more than one set of coaches? Why not explore everything that’s possible in education and athletics?


7. GET IN THE GYM

Many high schools have terrific strength programs, seek those opportunities first. If that is not available you should work with a local speed/agility coach-get faster, quicker, and more flexible. Work with a local strength coach- get stronger and more flexible. A must on your athletic journey and mental well-being.


8. REST, DIET, UNDERAGE DRINKING, ILLEGAL DRUGS

Take ;me off to recover. Sleep Longer. Eat better. Athletes with goals of playing in college don’t underage drink and do not do illegal drugs.


9. YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

Is as important as your physical health. School counselors, teachers, and coaches are a great source of understanding. If you need help, ask for it. Don’t let the perceived shame, stigmas, or lack of understanding stop you from talking to the adults you trust.


10. TRAIN ON YOUR OWN

Practice outside of practice. Wall ball, shooting on your own, rounding up buddies to catch/throw/shoot on your own. Based on research suggesting practice is the essence of greatness. With enough practice anyone could achieve a level of proficiency that would rival that of a professional. It is just a matter of putting in the time.


11. INDY TRAINING

If you can afford it, seek out the next level of individual positional (and mental) training. Start locally when/if you can; investigate national programs if that’s necessary (depending on where you live) at your position.


12. TRAIN WITH COLLEGE COACHES

Investigate player training programs/events that are coached by college coaches. Get coached by college coaches as often as you can. The best way for a college coach to decide if you are a good fit at his school is to coach you live and in person. These experiences can be a great supplement to the training offered by most regional/national teams - Highly recommend.


13. COLLEGE PROSPECT DAYS

Attend college prospect days. Go your freshman fall/winter to a few local prospect days to get the feel for what’s expected at them and be better prepared for your sophomore and junior prospect days when they weigh more on the coaches’ decisions. A must in the process.


14. OTHER EVENTS

Showcase type events are worthwhile and fun. These can be very selective; the directors do an incredible job seeking out the best of the best players, however beyond the elite players, it can get political with who gets in to fill out these events. Highly recommended and fun if you can get in, but not necessary.


15. RECRUITING VIDEOS

Not highlight tapes; highlight tapes are fun for social media, recruiting videos are for college coaches, there is a difference. First one should be done after your 8th grade summer; video should be under four minutes with 20-30 great plays that demonstrate a variety of skills and athleticism. Never include film vs a bad opponent that you intend to give to a college coach, College coaches want to see good vs good. They also want to see your growth as a player over multiple years. Both field players and goalies should

include primarily game footage. Great info is online at


16. RECREATION

Take time for yourself. Find hobbies and activities you enjoy outside the grind of competitive sports. Snowboard/ski, waterski/wakeboard, go fishing, play music, photography, tryout for the school play, paint, draw, volunteer – look for opportunities to help others…


17. SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

Be a kind person. Be a great teammate (be easy to play with – be hard to play against). Volunteer to coach younger kids. Thank your parents and the people that help you.


18. D1 OR BUST

Everyone should aspire to play at the highest level, the best should always be the goal. If you want to play D1 lacrosse, then go to a D1 game, watch the players that play your position - ask yourself - do I look like these guys physically/athletically, do I communicate on the field the way they do, is my skill set equal to their skill set, can I match the speed they play at (mentally & physically), will my current grades get me into this school? If you answer YES to all these questions, then there is a good chance you are a D1 prospect at that school. If not, your journey and goals should be adjusted - either way find the best school academically that matches your skill set. Being on a college team will be one of the most

rewarding experiences of your life while preparing you for working on teams beyond college.

Finally, the path is the path, there are no shortcuts. In the end the number one reason why only so few succeed, be it in sports, business, or any other field for that matter, is because of this: They are self motivated, and are willing to do more than what is being asked. Stop waiting/searching for the perfect team, the perfect coach, and the perfect moment.


Be THE hero of your team/your life every day. “Star in the Role you Have - Work for the Role you Want.”


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