On Wednesday, Lacrosse Magazine reported that an eighth-grader in Florida had committed to play girls' lacrosse at Syracuse University. It is the earliest reported lacrosse commitment of all time.
The decision to make such a monumental commitment at such a young age and the notion that a Division I school was scouting eighth-graders enough to offer a scholarship was met with mixed feelings. It has raised questions across all sports about whether there needs to be a change in NCAA recruiting rules.
We asked local coaches and local high school athletes — current and former — for their thoughts on recruiting issues and more importantly: How young is too young when it comes to recruiting?
Matt Brooks, Spring Grove baseball (committed to UNC Charlotte): As an eighth grader I believe it is entirely OK to be attending college camps and getting the experiences. On the other hand, I believe recruitment of that athlete, who doesn't know what he or she is going to do in life, or possibly don't know if they're going to continue their sport forever, is a bit of a stretch. ... I also believe freshmen are too young to be contacted on the basis of attending a college, and personally think contact should start no earlier than the summer before sophomore year. Another idea would be once that athlete has taken a certain amount of SATs, that way coaches can really tell if they're worth the time based on their grades.
Braxtin Reddinger, New Oxford girls' lacrosse (committed to UMBC): Personally, I think eighth grade is a bit too early to commit because that player still has so much room to grow as a lacrosse player. And sometimes an athlete who commits early ends up peaking a year after and then things go downhill from there. I feel eighth grade is also really early to contact due to the player still having some time to grow with potential in the sport. The earliest a college should contact a player is tenth grade due to the fact that middle schoolers aren't so competitive yet. And once you get into high school, it's a completely different level than middle school, just like college is completely different from the high school level.
I committed my sophomore year, and sometimes I believe that was even pretty early because I thought about it but I don't think I did as much as I should have even though I'm happy with my decision. I don't think I would have been able to make a decision at that age because it is a huge decision to make, and there are so many options out there.
Robert Romey, Central York grad (Lock Haven football): It's a shame that a college would want to put that much pressure on a kid at such a young age for them to commit and make a decision. First of all you never even know if that kid is going to be playing that same sport for the next couple of years. Their interest might change and grow for something else. Also you aren't really giving them a chance to go out and look at other schools to see what they have to offer. ... A school should be chosen for academics way before a sport. The NCAA really needs to eliminate the recruiting loopholes through AAU coaches and other people to get a kid (not a teenager in high school) who is in eight grade and below.
Reese Devilbiss, Northeastern boys' volleyball (committed to Ohio State): I do not believe that eighth grade is too early for a college coach to contact a future prospect. From my own experience I believe that a college coach showing interest early on can positively influence that athlete to want to get better and improve to be at that level in the future. However, I do think that eighth grade is too early for somebody to commit to play sports in the future. Sure, that person might look like they are going to develop into something special, but things may happen and what was expected may never come.
I believe that the earliest a person should commit is sophomore year. I say this because the college can see what kind of student they are throughout half of high school and how they are academically because the whole point of attending college is to get an education, no matter how great of an athlete you are. Plus if someone is to commit in eighth grade, they may change their mind because of another offer or they just grew out of that decision over time. ... Personally I would not have been able to make a decision that early on. I was young and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and what I wanted for myself throughout my four years at college. Being older and more mature, I was able to choose what was best for me and realize that on my own. Making a decision that early could have lead to me making a decision just because it sounded cool to be talking to a college but I would have ended up being miserable in the long run because of a decision my eighth grade self made.
Bayleigh Keator, Central York girls' lacrosse (uncommitted): I think it's extremely early to be recruited in middle school. Middle school as well as middle school sports are a lot different from high school and a lot changes. You never know how they will change as a player or if their grades can keep up with their commitment to a D-I school's requirements. I think colleges should begin to contact prospective players after their freshman summer season. This gives time to build them as a person and a player and also gives a more realistic outlook. I'm halfway through my junior year, and I just figured out what I wanted to do for a career, but I still have no clue where I would like to go for college. I have a lot of college coaches contacting me, and it becomes very stressful. ... I think that biggest issue with contacting players at that age is that it isn't letting athletes strive to become better because they already reached something so big before they even started fighting for it. That's not saying someone that young doesn't put in hard work but it also causes an unbalance of recruiting.