With 43 national championship titles, the Johns Hopkins lacrosse program is one of the most storied in all of college athletics. The team’s success was not diminished when Dave Pietramala took over as head coach in 2001. He’s led the Blue Jays to the NCAA tournament in each of his six seasons, producing another national championship in 2005. Here, Pietramala explains how he reloads his squad with top-notch talent year after year.
STACK: What’s the recruiting process like for lacrosse?
DP: Recruiting has changed dramatically in the last four to five years. The pace has quickened. Although it’s not yet comparable to football and basketball, it’s heading in that direction. A lot of juniors are making college choices. And now, it’s a national search for the best players; years ago, it was the Maryland, Long Island and Upstate New York areas. It’s spread to California, Minnesota, Texas, Colorado, Connecticut, etcetera.
How can an athlete make himself noticeable?
DP: You always have the opportunity to provide coaches with a film or DVD. We receive them in truckloads. Any coach worth his weight in gold will watch all of them and evaluate the prospects. Another way is through the camp circuit. There are tons of recruiting camps, as well as tournaments, around the country in the early fall where you can participate and be evaluated by college coaches. Take part in those for the opportunity to be seen by college coaches before you play your junior season.
Can an athlete just hope to be discovered?
DP: I certainly don’t think an athlete can afford to do that any longer. It’s difficult for a school like Johns Hopkins to get out to California or Denver to see high school games. And if we make the NCAA tournament, we have less time to recruit, which makes getting to high school games even more difficult. So camps and tournaments are crucial for student athletes who want to be noticed and recruited.
Besides athleticism, what else do you look for?
DP: The first thing is academics. You need the grades to be admitted academically. Another is pure skill—an athlete who can really catch and throw, and who has great stick skills and an understanding of the game. Intangibles, too, like a guy who has some savvy, a good field sense and feel for the game—he knows where he’s supposed to be and can think a pass or two ahead. Work ethic is another. You can have talent, but if you don’t work hard or hustle, you’re not a guy for us. The last thing is character. If the coach is talking, he’s not walking around on the outskirts; he’s listening. When a teammate scores a goal, he runs over and congratulates him. When he scores a big goal, he first looks to celebrate with his teammates—not by himself.
What do you look for during an athlete’s visit?
DP: As I talk about the school, I try to determine if he’s interested. If he’s looking me in the eye and participating in the conversation, I know he’s interested; but if he’s looking around the room and staring at the ceiling and walls, I know what I’m saying isn’t much of a priority to him. I also get feedback from our athletes who meet him. I ask: “Was he a good guy?” “Did he fit?” “What kind of feeling did you get from him?” They’ll come back and say, “You know, coach, all he did was talk about himself and how great he was, so he isn’t a good fit for us.” Or, “Coach, we loved him. He’s a great guy, and he was fun. He seems like a good, focused person, so this seems like a great fit for him.