Chris Bates of the Episcopal Academy (PA) on recruiting legislation

BatesChris Bates, former Princeton and Drexel Head Coach took a few moments of his busy schedule to talk recruiting legislation, fundamentals and the process of becoming a better player

1. You were one of the first to advocate for a change in legislation to the college Lacrosse recruiting rules.  Now that things have changed, do you feel enough was done?

I do think tremendous progress has been made.  It definitely feels better from all angles.  The frenetic pace has subsided and there seems to be a bit more calm around the new rules.  That being said, there will always be some loopholes.  Our sport went all in with the early recruiting so old habits die hard, but overall there’s not much more that could possibly be done.

2. What do you believe to be the most positive aspect to come out of the new recruiting rules?

I think kids and families have dialed back the madness.  Media outlets no longer rush to report another early decision which added to the frenzy.  Coaches have a job and will do whatever they can under rules to compete, but families (and clubs) seemed to really push things over the edge.  The legislation has most definitely put the brakes on.

3. Where do you think the new rules fall short?

The rules fall short in that kids and clubs can still get on college campuses early in the process with prospect days and camp/tourney formats.  Though they are not supposed to be recruited, there still is, and will be, plenty of love shown to the stud players.  Kids can and will still get plenty of attention before September 1st of their junior year.

4. As kids prepare themselves for the gauntlet of showcases, club events and prospect days, what advice would you give them about managing expectations?

My best advice is that kids and families can/should work hard to control what they can control.  There is a lot out of their hands.  The academic piece is clearly a critical variable in the equation – max out what you can do in the classroom and with test prep.  From a lacrosse standpoint, don’t leave any stone unturned in preparation.  Fundamentals count!  There are lots of young men with similar dreams and you’ve got to compete each day against all of them, but it first starts with you.  The last thing is to go into the process with a full range of options from both an academic and competitive standpoint.  Much like a college counselor would say to any student – have a range of schools – some reach, some sweet spot and some safety and know that they are all possibilities.  Work hard and let the chips fall where they may!

5. Many kids get caught up in the Division 1 dream and commitment, they feel pressure to commit because they know someone who has already. What would you say to these players who have yet to select a school as a sophomore or junior in HS?

First, understand what not only a D1, but a college lacrosse commitment entails.  It’s an unbelievably competitive environment with zero guarantees of playing time.  There will be more talent and depth on day 1 of practice then you have ever seen.  Know that you want to and are ready to undertake that kind of commitment.  As it relates to the D1 dream, in my estimation it’s overhyped.  There are too many disillusioned players and families that make the biggest life decision to date for the wrong reasons.  Find the right school, the right setting and the right competitive environment.  There are many D3 opportunities that are much better options for a lot of guys, but they get caught up in the “gotta go D1” mentality.

6. Many people are a bit naive about Division 1 Lacrosse. What type of player did you look for when you were recruiting student athletes to Princeton and Drexel?

Being a D1 athlete takes a very unique make-up.  For guys to truly succeed, a tremendous work ethic is a given.  Gotta love the game, gotta love the grind because it keeps coming.  Persistence is key.  The guys that I’ve been around who have been the most successful are guys that loved to compete – every day and every way.  Extra shooting, weight room, film work – again guys who compete to be as good as they possibly can be.  The recruiting process is challenging – we always wanted to try and find guys with a requisite academic profile and athletic foundation, but the difference maker was finding the guys that truly loved the work and to compete all the time.

7. You hear more and more about coaches looking for the multi sport athletes? Why did you recruit multi-sport athletes over “specialized” Lacrosse players?

Multi-sport athletes have been trained in multiple ways – not just physically, but mentally.  There are so many common threads throughout a variety of sports that young men “bank” those skills, knowledge and attributes and they don’t even know it.  Give and go? Soccer  How to play picks or help defense or how to move without the ball?  Basketball.  Block, move hips/feet, embrace contact?  Football.  Hand/eye, box out, shooting nuances?  Hockey.  And the list goes on…
Just don’t ask me about baseball – just kidding – maybe don’t include that part!

8. The club Lacrosse scene is getting more and more intense each year. What are your thoughts on the youth club rankings and the World Series of Lacrosse? Good or Bad for the game?

I’m personally not a fan of the ranking system.  I think it just fuels the fire of lots of wrong messaging in the formative years of boys playing.  And of course families buy into it all.   The end goal of winning becomes important which is okay in and of itself, don’t get me wrong, but at an early age too much emphasis is placed on that outcome vs. the process the get to that very same outcome.  It’s a societal thing these days, I know, but I would like to see more skill and concept development of kids at a young age – vs. my all star team beat your all star team because we’ve got more talent, early bloomers etc.  The World Series of Lacrosse has been a fun, competitive way to expose our great sport.  Hopefully, it doesn’t tip over the edge and become ultra cut throat and lose perspective.

9. If your sons chose to become Lacrosse players with aspirations to play at the college level, what would you encourage him to focus on? (i.e. Grades, wall ball, other sports, being a kid)

 I have two sons who are aspiring lacrosse players.  I give them all the advice I’ve outlined above.  Work really hard in school, work really hard to develop skills and understanding of the game and most of all – enjoy the process.  My ultimate goals for them is to find the right balance and the very best school that can become a contributing member to the entire university or college community.  

10. Last one is of a personal nature, if you could coach with any current or retired coach in Lacrosse who would it be and why?

Tough question!  I’ve got a few answers.   The first (and only) head coach I’ve worked under, Randy Voigt, recently passed away.  I would love to have the opportunity to coach with him again.  We would have a blast.  I’ve always admired Coach Edell, the former Army and Maryland coach.  One of my best friends (Yorktown grad, Albany Head Coach Scott Marr) coached at Maryland with Coach Edell so I got to know and watch him up close a bit.  He had an amazing way to get the most out of his players.  I’d love to coach with Scotty too!  The last one would be Coach Bill Tierney who I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for and whose accomplishments speak for themselves.