By Eric Black
Recently, US Club Lacrosse has been notified of the issue of players switching club teams for a weekend, game, or tournament. Often, these players are some of the stars of their teams, and their absence or presence could decide a game one way or another. These “ringers” are becoming apparent all around the club circuit, and raise the question over whether or not the practice is fair or in any way undercuts the value of tryouts or the sportsmanship of competition.
On one hand, it’s important to remember that at the end of the day, most players compete in these club tournaments in order to get exposure from college coaches. Many tournaments are even deemed showcases, rather than tournaments, because the ultimate goal is to have players display their skills.
Tad Doyle, the founder of Rising Sons lacrosse, is generally not in favor of adding players to load a team, despite the fact that he’s seen it been done at the younger ages. That being said, he permitted one of his players to briefly switch teams in an effort to improve his college hopes.
“We did just have one (player) who Amherst wanted to see play,” Doyle said. “So I called (the team) to see if they would let him run with them. They were short kids and obliged. That is how and why it should be done. Not to stack a team versus regular club teams.”
Patty Daley, the head coach of the 2020 Check-Hers Elite team, has seen her players been recruited by other teams in the past. While they’ve never decided to change teams, Daley’s players are given the opportunity to make the decision for themselves and consider the pros and cons of doing so.
She believes that ringers defeat the purpose of a team’s tryouts, and no matter what team a player decides to play for, they’ll always receive exposure and recognition.
“It really comes down to the team and coaches a player wants to play for,” Daley said. “And the philosophy of the club. All three things are considerations for players.”
Daley thinks that the mid-season recruitment of players shouldn’t occur as much as it does, but there isn’t really any plausible way to police it. Another coach that has seen his players been recruited in a similar fashion is Andy Pons, the Director of Lacrosse Operations for Thunder LB3 lacrosse. Teams have reached out to the kids on their Elite teams in the past through social media, something Pons described as “slimy”.
Thunder LB3 Elite, based out of the Atlanta area, never recruits kids outside Georgia because that would “hurt their overall mission.” While they do have a national team, with players outside of the state, Pons explained that they only play in one tournament (Naptown Challenge) and instead enjoy weekends filled with college tours and training. If a player is already on a team scheduled to play in the Naptown Challenge, Thunder LB3 doesn’t take him.
“The topic of ‘ringers’ is always a hot conversation,” Pons said. “Personally, I don't understand the attraction. Our guys get the best training in the country and we have developed a great track record of college commitments...We do not want to develop a reputation for ‘stealing kids.’”
Dave Mitchell, the President and Owner of Next Level Lacrosse, often sees ringers at big-time recruiting events in the November, June, and July months, he said. Many of these kids are likely on a different team than usual because their original squad either wasn’t playing in the event, or they thought they’d get more exposure on the new team.
If this was the case for all ringers, there’d likely be less brushback from opposing coaches, parents, and players. Although winning games is always important no matter what the setting, that concept may need to be viewed through a different lens when it comes to the future careers and college choices of teenagers.
Mitchell doesn’t think ringers are a problem for club lacrosse, but he does think they “undermine the value of the team,” and its long-term chemistry. What do you think? Is the increasing frequency of ringers in club lacrosse good or bad for the sport?
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