Mike Morgan is the rare person who’s made the transition from great college lacrosse player to great college lacrosse coach.
An All-American and the New England Player of the Year at Merrimack College in 2000, Morgan is entering his 14th season as that program’s head coach and its second in Division 1. His program capped its Division 2 tenure with back-to-back national championships in 2018 and ‘19.
Morgan joined host Jack Piatelli for the inaugural episode of “New England Lacrosse Journal’s Chasing The Goal” podcast. He talked about the challenges of recruiting — and being recruited — during COVID and what parents absolutely should not do, among other topics.
The entire podcast can be accessed below.
Jack Piatelli: What’s your advice for players seeking to be recruited?
Mike Morgan: The one piece of advice I would give is that they’ve got to own the process. It’s really caring about the right things — caring about getting better, going out there and playing with your friends, playing hard, caring about winning. At the end of the day, I think there are schools out there for everybody. Is everyone going to play at a Merrimack or a Division 1? No, but there’s plenty of D-2 (opportunities), plenty of D-3s.
JP: When you’re recruiting, what are you looking for in a player?
MM: There’s a few layers to it. The first one is talent. Can they play? They’ve got to be athletic. We recruit athletic kids and we play fast. We fly around, and we’re athletic and we’re skilled.
Then we look for the little intangibles, which I’m sure you know. How hard did this kid run off the field? When the coach brings him to the sideline is he locked in? Does he have eyes on the coach or is he half-listening? We look at body language on film of guys. Does a guy celebrate hard when his teammates score? Do guys celebrate hard when he scores? If he scores and the others guys put their heads down and run off, he might not be the most liked player.
JP: What should parents NOT do during the recruiting process?
MM: When we get an email or a call and it starts with, “My son,” we won’t even read it. That’s an automatic delete. For the fast-paced brand of lacrosse we have, and the creativity and the fun that is playing here … there’s a ton of accountability, a ton of attention to detail. That’s what makes our program what it’s become. If your mom or dad sends an email for you, you’re just not the type of guy who will play well here.
JP: Cross them right off the list. The kid has to want it. It’s not about mom and dad wanting it, the kid has to want it. Because if the kid doesn’t want it he’s not going to get it.
MM: I’ve always said to guys, and I coached high school for four or five years on Long Island, what I told my guys is you have to own the process. You gotta find the academic fit. Look online, see what you want to study. Lacrosse-wise, these guys know about the programs, how good they are, how bad they are, who their coach is. It’s more so about finding the level of play, and that’s from talking to coaches and guys being realistic with them.
JP: What are the challenges for the kids during this time?
MM: You’re getting all these 2020s and ‘21s and now ‘22s getting recruited, and they can’t shake hands with the coach. They can’t walk around (campus) and do a tour. I feel a lot of these kids could pick schools for the wrong reasons because they didn’t have the experience of getting up there, meeting the coach, watching the team practice.
One of the things we did was a video walking tour that I did that was edited by our sports info (department). Kids can sit at home … and we show them all the facilities, the academic buildings, all the areas. Then they can come to practice and guys can come over, and they can interact that way. We’ve gotten creative, as most schools have.
JP: Talk a little bit about the (NCAA) Transfer Portal and how that works. (Editor’s note: The NCAA instituted the Transfer Portal in October 2018. It was created to be a compliance tool to systematically manage the transfer process from start to finish and give more power to the student-athletes. It’s also made it easier for players to transfer to seek a better opportunity)
MM: The best way I can describe it is it’s the wild west. One of our assistants checks it every morning. With COVID and (recruiting) restrictions … some of it might be the school. They may go to a school that doesn’t allow kids to have any kind of a social life. They may look to move schools because of something like that.
There’s just a lot of moving parts. And it’s also become easier to transfer. … It’s easier to go, “I’m a little uncomfortable, I’m going to get in the portal.” Where before it was a little more of a process and guys would stick it out and some would end up liking it, because that first semester falls hard. But It’s something we keep an eye on. If we can get better we want to do that.
“New England Lacrosse Journal’s Chasing The Goal” podcast is sponsored by: