Interview by Tyler King of Connectlax
The college recruiting process is a gamble in any sport. And lacrosse is no exception. Athletes develop physically and mentally at different stages throughout high school. Some players are heavily recruited early on while other great players are under recruited until late in their junior and senior years. Even good high school players aren’t guaranteed to be great college players. In college, a player’s success regardless of their high school performance is determined by their willingness to compete and their ability to balance academics, athletics and social life. Kean University Head Coach Shelley Sheiner, knows his role as a coach and mentor is to help his players achieve success by giving them support, structure, and guidance. When referring to his recruiting classes he says it’s not about who comes in, it’s about who comes back.
Kean University Head Coach Shelley Sheiner is a Cougar through and through. He played for the program and is now it’s longstanding head coach with 11 seasons under his belt. He has amassed four record-breaking seasons. In 2008 and 2010 his teams achieved a record 14 wins. In 2013 the Cougars set the bar higher with a 15-3 performance. 2014 was their finest year yet with a 16-3 result breaking the all-time wins total for a single season. Sheiner is an active member in the New Jersey chapter of US Lacrosse and a sitting member on the New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame Committee. He is a special education teacher at Roy W. Brown Middle School in Bergenfield, NJ. In his spare time he volunteers as a coach for the Fair Lawn Junior Wrestling Program.
What advice do you have for young players interested in playing DIII lacrosse?
Take a campus visit. Spend time interacting with students and getting a feel for student life. On recruiting visits, I don’t have recruits stay with the star player. For the star player life is good and things seem easier. Instead I put recruits with the guys who are moving their way up the depth chart. Recruits can learn the value of hard work and time management from some of our younger players. They can also better understand the challenges they will face as student-athletes. If the guys are busting their butts, working hard and still enjoying the university, then that speaks volumes to the quality of their experience.
I suggest you get to know the coaching staff as well. Understand what the head coach’s philosophy is and also get to know the assistant coaches. Are the assistants just making a pit stop at this college on their way to a bigger coaching job at a different school? What’s the coaching staff’s level of dedication? Be a smart shopper and really do your homework.
What’s the best way for players to get on your recruiting radar?
A well written email and an athletic resume. Every coach knows a generic email when they see one. Craft a very thoughtful email because the written word jumps out to me. It shows the player is genuinely interested.
What are some questions players should ask more in the recruiting process?
Actually I have some questions that players should be asking less. Those questions are about playing time, about who our sponsors are or what our gear is like. Those aren’t bad questions to ask, but there’s a time and a place. Save them for the second visit or later on in the process. When you first meet a coach you want to show broader thinking. What style lacrosse do you play? Or, what are your most important values as a coach?
I like academic questions too because they show that a recruit is thinking beyond just the lacrosse aspect of a college.
What indications help you determine if a good high school player will become a great college player?
Measuring future talent based on previous athletic and academic performance is always a gamble. When I look at a recruiting class I don’t get excited about what comes in as much as I get excited about what comes back. Kids transfer, drop out or pursue other interests. Ultimately being a great college lacrosse player falls on the individual and their ambitions. They decide what they want to get out of their college lacrosse experience.
Academic performance is similar. We have recruits that barely get through our admissions process but end up pulling A’s and B’s throughout college. On the other hand, their teammates that were stronger high school students don’t perform as well in the classroom during their four years of college.
It’s a coach’s job to help their young men grow. While recruiting is a gamble, a coach has the ability to influence their gamble. The coach gives their players support, structure and guidance.
What’s special about being a student-athlete at Kean University?
We’re best known throughout New Jersey for our strong education, business, and sports medicine programs. A lot of our players pursue a career in education. We also offer more specific degrees like a Bachelor of Industrial Design. Students use applied art and applied science to redesign everyday objects from sports cars to furniture and even household appliances. Combine that education with a DIII lacrosse program and you’ve got a pretty unique college experience.
I can speak to being a student-athlete because I’m a Kean alum. Showing a recruit the school is like showing them my house. I’ve lived the student experience. It’s very gratifying to experience Kean from a teacher and coach’s perspective now. I’m proud to drive up to the school every day.
Great, thanks Coach Sheiner. Any final thoughts?
There’s only one national champion. If you don’t win that game is your season a failure? In 11 years of coaching nothing has been more important to me than making sure my players have the best experience possible. I’ve only had seven players transfer out of Kean in those 11 years. When players have fun and enjoy themselves, the wins will come.
ConnectLAX is a third party recruiting service and not affiliated with or endorsed by Kean University or Shelley Sheiner.
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