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IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT PLAYING AT THE BEST SCHOOL, BUT PLAYING AT THE SCHOOL THAT’S BEST FOR YOU

By Katie Williams, 06/16/17, 5:00PM PDT

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Do You Even Know How Many Opportunities There Are? Probably Not.

I feel like every time I ask one of my high school girls, even some of my middle-schoolers, about where they think they might want to play in college I get the same answer: “Maryland, Duke, UNC, UCS, Florida, Syracuse, etc…”. Now, obviously these schools get a lot of media attention and hype from their outstanding performances, but it frustrates me that these young women aren’t even aware of the HUNDREDS (literally) of other collegiate opportunities.

To date there are currently:

  • 112 NCAA Division 1 Women’s Programs

  • 105 NCAA Division 2 Women’s Programs

  • 282 NCAA Division 3 Women’s Programs

  • Over 250 WCLA Division 1 and 2 Women’s Programs

  • Over 15 NJCAA Women’s Programs

  • 32 NAIA Women’s Lacrosse Programs

If you add all of those up that equals over 796 teams. Now, a collegiate roster can have anywhere from 15-25+ girls. Let’s just say, for arguments sake, that on average each team only had 20 girls. 796 x 20 = 15,920. That’s over FIFTEEN THOUSAND opportunities to play collegiate lacrosse (and that’s on the conservative side.) This also does not include the 12 new programs being added in the 2018 season alone.

So my first point here is this: Not everyone can play at Maryland, or Duke, or UNC, or any top Division 1 program, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play. There are currently 112 D1 programs, with more being added every single year; can you name more than 10 of them?

There’s More To Your “College Experience” Than Lacrosse. Shocking, I know.

When looking at collegiate opportunities you’ve got to keep in mind that there are also a lot of other major factors that go into this decision. Some of these are doozies so you’ve got to be prepared to make some tough decisions. These are just a few of the other factors you have to consider:

  • WHERE do I want to go to school? Do I want to stay in-state and be a little closer to home, or am I ready to get out and see the world and go further away? You might not be quite ready to spread your wings come college time, and that’s okay.

  • MONEY. In case you haven’t noticed, college is EXPENSIVE. The average college grad has over $30k in student-loan debt after earning a four-year degree. (That’s just PUBLIC and NONPROFIT colleges.)“Seven in 10 seniors (68%) who graduated from public and nonprofit colleges in 2015 had student loan debt, with an average of $30,100 per borrower.”1 That doesn’t include any private schools. You've also got to consider the price difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition. Also, for all of you rookies, tuition is NOT the total cost of college. You’ve also got room and board, books, and other expenses.

  • MAJOR. What do you want to be when you grow up? The age old question that we joke about when we are young, but the time has come and now it’s time to figure it out. Some schools won’t offer the field of study or major that you might want to pursue.

Again, these are just a few of the COUNTLESS variables that you should consider when you go to look at schools. (none of which have ANYTHING to do with lacrosse.)

If I Can’t Play At A Top 10 Division 1 School Is It Worth It?

This is arguably the most important point. Playing lower level D1, D2, D3, WCLA, NAIA, or NJCAA WILL NOT, I repeat, WILL NOT, provide you with any less of an experience.

Personally, I played lower level D1 at LIU Brooklyn to start my career. I ended up transferring and playing at a top 20 D3 program, University of Mary Washington. Lacrosse was, and still is, a huge part of my life. I’ve met some of the most amazing people, learned a lot about myself, graduated with my degree, and now found success as a coach. Guess what? I never won a national or conference title, I wasn’t an All-American or Tawaaratan Award Winner, and I didn’t play at one of the “big lacrosse schools”. However, my experience forever changed my life. It molded who I am today and I wouldn’t be where I am in life without this game.

Most people have to google both of those schools just to find out where I played, and that doesn’t offend me and here’s why:

  • I got to actually PLAY and contribute statistically to my team’s success all four years of my career.

  • While at LIU Brooklyn I was on a pretty sweet scholarship and had a majority of my school paid for. It was way better of an offer than most other schools would have offered me AND I got to live in Brooklyn, NY.

  • I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had in my life

  • I was playing with people who played because they truly loved the game and loved being apart of our team. No one was playing out of obligation

My point, YES, it is ABSOLUTELY still worth it. The friends you will make, the memories you will share, and the lessons you will learn and take with you, will all add up to one of the most life-changing and impactful experiences of your life.

You Won’t Remember Your Stats Or Even The Scores Of Most Games, I Promise.

There will always be a few games and moments in my head that I can put on repeat like a highlight reel. Sweet shots, buzzer-beaters, clutch saves, and great wins. You’ll also remember a few embarrassing mistakes, yellow cards, and tough losses. With that being said your playing career isn’t just the addition of 4 seasons of statistics, or at least, it shouldn’t be. If it is, you’re doing it wrong and you are FOR SURE missing out on the important things.

What you will remember are the pre-game rituals, the post-game cookouts, the traditions, the secret buddies, the bus rides, time in the training room, those god-forsaken ice baths, team dinners, the overnight trips, and all of the inside jokes and memories you shared together with your team. That team becomes your family, your home away from home. You share the highs and the lows, the blood, sweat, and tears, the wins and the losses. All together. As a team.

So it’s not about the team that wins the D1 National Championship or the team with the Tewaaraton Winner. It’s about finding a team that you can call home. A place where you can learn and grow and play the game that you fell in love with as a kid. Finding a school where you can not only succeed on the field, but succeed as a leader and in your education is the most important part.