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Lacrosse Coach's Corner

Lacrosse Podcast

Presented by Bill Pilat, Camp Director
Bill Pilat’s The Goalie School in Massachusetts For Boys

Goalie Lacrosse Recruiting Tips with Bill Pilat

JACK: Hello everyone. On today's podcast are thrilled to be joined by Lacrosse head coach at Roanoke College, and US Sports Camps director of The Goalie School, Bill Pilat. Coach Pilat has been head coach of the Lacrosse at Roanoke College for the past 28 years and is going into his third year of running camps with us here at USSC. He has tremendous experience with coaching all levels from beginners, youth, all the way up through the college athletes that he coaches today. Therefore, today's show will dive into some details on the recruitment process for student-athletes looking to reach the next level.

For more information on campus near you visit ussportscamps.com. This is The Coach's Corner podcast presented by US Sports Camps.


JACK: Hey Bill, how’s it going?

BILL PILAT: It’s going great Jack. Great to be here.

JACK: Yeah, yeah. Great to have you. Where are you calling from right now?

BILL PILAT: I'm here in beautiful Roanoke, Virginia, here at Roanoke College where I'm the head coach, and beautiful 70 degrees’ day out here.

JACK: Nice. Yeah. Yeah. You've been at Roanoke, what is it? You're going on 29 years now?

BILL PILAT: Oh golly. This is my 31st season on the sidelines here.

JACK: Wow! That’s unreal. That was the main reason of kind of wanting to have you on this first episode for our podcast just because you've kind of been through it all with recruiting, and kind of what it's like for those young kids to go from going to summer camps to going into high school sports and trying to play in college. And so, that kind of brings me to our topic today of just what it's like to get recruited as a student-athlete.

BILL PILAT: Yeah. You know, I've been around a long time. It's changed quite a bit. In some ways, it's easier. I'm sure we'll get to that later. In some ways, it’s tougher but they're excited, they're nervous. You know, they want to make the right choice. But one thing I always say to all the kids is if you work hard in school, you're going to have lots of good choices. So, number one, you've got to do well in school and then the choices kind of open up for you and then just kind of enjoy the process.

The coaches are, for the most part, they’re very honest, and they want to have a good match. Student-athletes want a good match, so they're there to kind of help. I look at the coaches as helping do the process. We're trying to make a good match between a student and a school.

JACK: Student-athlete is such a common term for these kids, and how important is that student part for it? I mean Roanoke College being a D3 school, I would think that would be kind of an important role for them playing with you or for you.

BILL PILAT: Yeah. You know, no matter what division -- I, II or III, it's so important because basically, if the student takes care of the academic side, it’s not even really discussed much. You know it's kind of like okay, you're a good student you're going to do fine in college. What other questions do you have? So, it basically takes a whole topic off the table. You know, you're not worried about well, I don't know if you can get in. You may not get accepted into my college. So, it just makes things so much easier for everyone.

And different schools have different parameters, which obviously kids can look up online and ask the coaches. And also, different coaches have different leeway. Maybe help a kid, you know. Here at Roanoke, I don't have slots per se, but I can act as a reference for a student if he's on the on the borderline type thing. Not many coaches can have carte blanche, even division-wise to get kids in. They have to do the work in the classroom. It just makes everything so much easier. And then the kids that do really well in the classroom at the Division three level, we don't have athletic scholarships, but all of our schools offer academic scholarships.

So, if a student is an exceptional student, they can get an academic scholarship. And way more student-athletes get academic scholarships than athletic scholarships. So that’s why it's so important.

JACK: Yeah. I know, based on my experience when I went through this five, six years ago that was the same thing. Focus on, you know, I got to get into the school. I can verbally commit to the coach I want to, the school I want to go to, but it all relies on admissions and --

BILL PILAT: Yeah, I mean you know no matter what division, you are going to a college, and the college wants to make it -- and those students that they're going to do well at. And it just makes everyone's life a lot easier if they are already academically qualified. And then you have more time to get on to other things about class selection and the team makeup and what’s the food like, and all that stuff. So, you’re not worried about academics because it's an area that the student is taking care of. So, yes, it's definitely at the top of the list for sure.

JACK: Yeah. And then you know building off of what you said about coaches, what player fits for their school, in their system. How much do coaches really look at character traits in recruits and see who they are as a person? Like you said being a reference for these kids if they're on the borderline. Would you think that comes really important into play when recruiting a kid?

BILL PILAT: Yeah, it’s kind of is important, and a lot of times what happens nowadays is that first the coaches kind of look at the player as a player only, you know, at a tournament or a clinic or a camp or something like that. And then once you say, hey, he's a pretty good player. Then the coach starts to reach out to the student and hey, are you interested in my school? And then you start going from there. And then the next phase is, okay, what type of student are you. And then what type of person are you.

The coaches will reach out as they start to get more involved and that, hey, this kid might actually enroll at my school, and now we have -- you know he's interested in Roanoke or whatever school. And then now we want to maybe email or call his coach and say, hey does he work hard, and you know is he a good team player, how does he deal with adversity kind of things like that.

It's kind of like the getting to know you phase. And you know whenever you meet somebody, first you kind of look at him and they look like somebody you want to talk to, and then you start asking questions. And if you have things in common, you want to find out more and more about that person. And that's like recruiting.

At first, it's like, okay what type of player are you. And then as we start to learn that they have an interest in your school, then it's like okay, what type of person, what type of student are you. Because we're starting to move down this road here. So, I want to know everything about you as a student-athlete, just like you want to know everything about me as a coach, and my school that I represent. So definitely a feeling out phase.

JACK: Yeah. And I think a lot of kids also need to understand that and the fact that they need to make sure that they like the coach that they'll be playing for or the type of school that they're attending. And I think sometimes, I know for me, I kind of just jumped into the aspect of I'm excited to be recruited, I want to play in college. And I think it's really important for kids to know that there's a lot of factors that go into whether the coach wants you to play there, or whether you even want to play there and things like that.

BILL PILAT: Oh yeah. It's a huge commitment, and it's the biggest decision that these young people have made in their lives up to that point. And you want to take your time and what we tell guys too is things might happen. You know you might get injured, or you might have to focus on your academics. And you can always transfer out of a school, but that's not the greatest thing to do. That's kind of a hassle too.

You stay at a school. So, I always tell the guys make sure that the academics fit what you, and the location and the size, and those things. And also, coaches leave, so don't base everything on this, you know this coach is a great guy, and that's who I want to play for. Well sometimes coaches retire, and sometimes coaches move on and things like that.

So, not to say you can't go with your coach if he leaves but you want to pick the school for the right reasons. And what we always tell our recruits here at Roanoke, is that Roanoke lacrosse is an added bonus to you coming to our great school. And we hope that it's a bonus that you take advantage of and working with us as coaches. But ultimately, they're here in school a heck of a lot more than they see me. You know going to class, and having lunch with their friends, and socializing. There's a lot more time spent there.

We’re only on the field two hours a day, and we have meetings and things like that. So, a lot of times is with their buddies, and away from the athletic arena, especially Division III.

JACK: Yeah, and that kind of works into the importance of picking a school that -- like you said -- if worse comes to worse, and they're not playing, or coach leaves and the new coach doesn't value the type of player someone can be, you need to be able to enjoy the school for what it offers you. Not just what the athletics can offer you. But that school that you're attending is your life. Like you said it's one of the biggest decisions these kids make.

BILL PILAT: Yeah. For sure. And they’re going to make a lot of decisions coming up but this one is big. And the school is more than just books and classrooms. You know the dining hall they need to check out what's the food like because that's where you're going to be eating. And so, we always make sure that even our dining hall, and make sure they like it. And the dorms too and the people you live with. You know that's going to be your buddy, so you want to take your time and kind of look at all that stuff.

JACK: Exactly. And kind of segueing into that., what advice would you give to a high school athlete who's faced with the decision to choose maybe school A that's division I or II where they're not going to get a ton of playing time, versus going to a school where they're going to for sure play, they enjoy it. Kind of where do you think that decision process crosses a line, and they need to kind of understand what division they're capable to play in and understanding that this is a huge decision to either, unfortunately, ride the bench, or be in the starting team or part of that rotation?

BILL PILAT: Yeah. That's tough you know, and again the coaches are there to help the kids. My advice, I tell the recruits all the time is just ask the coach like coach where do you see me fitting in, or how do you see me on this team, do you think I can play on this team? And the coach will have to answer that, and we do the same thing. We're making an estimation based on high school performance. But by the same token, we can say, look you know you're coming in here, and we have two other guys that are very skilled at your position, so you're going to be fighting with those two guys. Plus, you know we have a sophomore on the team who’s at your position, and just so you kind of have an idea where you fit in. And I always tell guys too, Division I level, there’s scholarships.

So, if you're fortunate enough to get a Division I scholarship, then obviously that coach is very, very interested in you so that you're going down a good path there. If you don't get a Division I scholarship and you still are looking at these Division I schools that’s okay. And there's been a lot of guys that have gone to Division I without a scholarship and had fantastic careers and become All Americans. But just know, going in there, that the coach believes other people are better than you.

So, the coach has given his money to someone else, which means he does not think you're as good as that other person. So, you can take that as a challenge and rise up, people do that. Or you can say, well he wants someone more than me, so I'm going to go somewhere else. So, that's kind of up to you. But I think more often, a lot of times in kids that say well the coach didn't give me a scholarship, but he said I’ll make the team. Well, that’s fine and you think he’s being be honest with you, but what he's not telling is he wants somebody more than you.

Just make sure you know that going in. And Division III, we have no scholarship, so everyone's kind of equal, but the coach can still let you know where he thinks you kind of fit in. And as far as how you make that decision, you want to be a walk-on or you’re a recruited athlete, or you want to go Division I without a scholarship. And that kind of thing. You know, my dad always told me to just put down a plus, minus list, you know, so you have your schools and plus, at Roanoke I think I can get an earlier chance to play in time, whereas at a Division I school I won't get to play until maybe my junior year.

So, you know, there is your plus, minus. And do the same thing with the food, the same thing with the location, you do the same thing with the assistant coaches, and the academic programs, and the cost of school. So, I think a plus, minus list is a real good exercise for kids to do to cover all that.

JACK: Yeah. I think that's one of the most important things, and one thing that I really didn't value when I did it and wished I had, and kind of wished that I researched it more, and listened to a coach like you of your experience, and how that affects kind of everything you decide with. So, yeah, I mean and as you touched on years have changed, and the recruitment process changing, do you think it's become easier or harder to be recruited to play college athletics?

BILL PILAT: Yeah, it varies a little sport to sport, but I mean women’s sports has certainly exploded which is great, and there's more coaches, and more assistant coaches, looking and talking to kids. In some ways it's easier, in some ways it's harder. I mean there's more kids playing sports. More kids going to camps, more kids doing tournaments, so I don't know easier -- certainly with the internet -- for us to see films and things, you know in the old days, I would have to go out on the road and watch high school games to see kids play.

Now kids can send videos which are always very beneficial. And also, there’s the camps that we can go to. So, certainly we can see kids play and through the internet, it's easy for a kid to pop a YouTube film, a highlight film or whatever, that he can put in an email and send to a coach. So, for that it's definitely easier. The harder part would be that there's more kids wanting to play college athletics, so we have to sift through a little bit more.

But overall, I think it's a little bit easier in order to get your name out and to get some correspondence going. In the old days, kids would have to send an actual letter, put a stamp and all that stuff, and then you have to wait for the coach. Now with e-mail it's kind of instant, and plus you can e-mail you know, 10 coaches with the same highlight film and see who's interested. So as long as the recruits, the student-athletes know, the college coaches know that they can send the same letter to 10 or 20 people also -- they know how it works as well. It would be easier for them.

JACK: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. In terms of those you know, YouTube videos and what has become known as kind of highlight films, what are some of your dos and don'ts? What should be on there? What shouldn't be on there? Keeping them short and sweet, kind of including game film and practice film, what do you kind of look for and value in a recruiting film?

BILL PILAT: Yeah, a lot of coaches like different things. I know a lot of the Division I guys like full games because I think that they have more time and more assistant coaches to look at those, than us Division III guys do. I like highlight films but what I always tell guys too is the highlight films just kind of whet the appetite little bit. It's kind of rare that we'll really jump on a kid from a highlight film although it does happen.

What it really does is say, hey this kid looks pretty good. Let's keep an eye on him, or let's email and say we want to see him again. Like what camps are you going to, where are you going to be playing, or come to our prospect day, stuff like that. So, it definitely whets the appetite, but short is definitely better for most of the Division III guys. You know five minutes, six minutes. Something like that. It's smart half of a game that maybe you played well, so the coach has a choice, but when in doubt you know, a good highlight film would be great.

And the other thing is to try to make sure that you truly show some good plays, that you know make sure that it plays out and, and you do show some things like athletic ability. Sometimes whether you have the ball or, no matter what sport you’re playing, maybe you're hustling in on defense, or supporting a teammate. I like to see -- I always watch too, especially in our game there is lot of scoring, but if a guy scores a goal I always watch and see well what happens after the goal. Do the teammates come up to him and celebrate or is he all by himself? Because if he’s all by himself, maybe he’s not the greatest guy in the world you know. But if all the teammates and everybody is excited, then that shows you that he has friends and they like him. So, we look at small things that sometimes the kids don't think about it.

JACK: Yeah, and that's super interesting. I never even thought about something like that. I think that's very valuable. How are they perceived by coaches, and teammates, and friends, so, I think yeah that's a great point.

BILL PILAT: Yeah, that’s what I look at. I mean I don’t know if other people do that, stuff. I'm sure they do. And I'm looking at their stride, and kind of if they can catch people from behind, running up the field, and things like that. just kind of intangibles. And it's always good too, show you running off the sideline and how you interact with your teammates. I like when I see that on tapes too.

JACK: Right. Right. These kids that get recruited they're sixteen, seventeen years old. Do parents ever have a role in helping their kids get recruited? Do the parents ever get to step in? Or is this something that the coaches like to only deal with kids, not really have the influence or the chat with the parents? What are your thoughts on that?

BILL PILAT: Yeah, that’s a funny question. Yeah. I could say “No, parents stay out of there” but you know that's not right and that's like so --

JACK: That's really never going to happen though either.

BILL PILAT: No. Not anymore. But I mean, I think the parents definitely have a -- they should have a big role you know. They're helping their son or daughter go to college. I think they should be involved. But by the same token you know, I want to get an email from the student-athlete himself. Not the parent. Because that shows me that the player is the one that's really interested in my school, and my camp, or wherever he is coming. Not the parent.

So that's really big because ultimately, I'm going to be dealing with the student-athlete, not his parents. But by the same token, I think it's perfectly fine. You know the parents, 99.9% of the time are paying for college. So, if they have a question, they might have a financial question, and I think those questions need to be answered, so I don't have a problem with that at all. It's kind of like somethings a kid needs to deal with. Like the kid should be asking, well how do the guys get along. The parents shouldn't ask that.

But the parents should ask about financial aid, and you know how safe is your campus, some things that a seventeen-year-old might not think about. So, yeah, they definitely have a role. And I think it’s -- if people say they never want to hear from the parents, I think that's kind of short-sighted because the parents definitely do have a role. And they ask some super questions. And also, another tip for these student-athletes, you know when you go to the coach and your parents are there. I keep a close eye how you treat your parents, because if you don't treat them very well, how are you going to treat me when I'm your coach?

Don’t let your parents do all the talking. You know, I want somebody who has an opinion, and somebody who has questions and is engaged in the process, and that kind of thing. And usually they are, and you're looking at schools, it’s an exciting time but, yeah you are being looked at, just like you're looking at my school. I'm looking at you. And in all honesty, we’ve dropped recruits because of their parents. No doubt. No doubt.

JACK: Very interesting. Yeah. that's crazy.

BILL PILAT: Too many questions, like too much in control, too much thinking their kid is the greatest thing ever. I know other coaches that have done it also. And the coaches -- the other thing is that thing is, the coaches talk to each other you know, within your sport. If you're looking at these basketball schools, they talk to each other. And if a coach finds out something negative, they get let other coaches know, like hey be careful with this kid we heard he is not a good character. Things like that. Or his parents are a nightmare. And some coaches, like myself, I don't want to deal with it. I’ll just move on.

JACK: Yeah exactly. And it's funny because I think the parents would have a great role in this situation, kind of connecting back to what we do in our relationship. You know US Sports Camps with you and the goalie school. Parents definitely have the role of getting kids into summer camps such as your goalie school. Is that a good way to get in front of college coaches?

BILL PILAT: Yeah, the goalie school is a little different, because you know since its inception with the word school in the title, we’re teaching camp. So, we take all levels of goalies and work to make them better. We do have some college coaches that come to the camp. And I have many college coaches that asked to come and observe so they can see my drills and my methodology with the goalie. So, there will be college coaches there, and we have had goalies recruited from there. But its primary purpose is not recruiting.

So, that's something that that student-athlete should really look at too when they attend camps in the summer. If they want to be recruited, make sure they're going to a recruiting event or recruiting camp, a prospect day. Things like that. If their sole purpose is to be recruited and by the same token if you want to learn and improve your game, a place like the goalie school for lacrosse goalies, that's where you want to be. And most kids understand the difference and the different products that are out there but you might want to ask some questions about that as well.

JACK: Yeah. Yeah. Well here at US Sports Camps, fielding calls from parents and things like that it's usually the parents. Never the kids really calling. And we stress that we're not advertising these camps as a way for your kid to get recruited. Sure, the college coach at Cal Berkeley or Stanford, or Duke, or whatever that may look like will be coaching this camp, and it's a great way to get in front of college coaches and see what that environment is like.

Which I think is a great stepping stone into becoming a student-athlete, but again you know, these summer programs especially like you said with the goalie school and the rest of US Sports Camps and Nike Sports Camps, kids are there to learn and improve. If something comes out of it that's a great bonus, and we always would love for that to happen, but I think you're right. You know, these, these camps, your goalie school, the rest of US Sports Camps, we want it to be a place where kids can learn and have a good time and see if playing at the next level is doable.

BILL PILAT: Oh, yeah. Definitely. And then, you know, being on the college campus is always great. The kids get a feel for the campuses and things like that. So, you know, in a secondary role, it definitely plays a big part being on your own, eating meals, things like that. And just interacting with college coaches is a lot of fun, just to see that we’re just like everybody else. We like to have fun, and we're passionate about our coaching, and our position that we coach, but we also like to have a good time and help young people kind of mature and make some good decisions for sure.

JACK: Yeah. Exactly. Well, Bill, I want to thank you for hopping on this phone call with me. I really appreciate you taking the time, out of your schedule. I know it's busy, but I think this is some great advice and good tips for these student-athletes and even the parents to listen and understand, coming from a veteran college coach, the important things that factor into being recruited, and whether it's D1, D2, D3 even NAIA, where you know things are a little more different as well, but sports camps are great, recruiting camps are great. Just you got to make sure that you connect with the school, the coach, and all the factors lining up that we talked about today.

So, I want to thank you for, for your expertise today. I think it was very insightful, and I even learned some things that I didn't even know when I played collegiate athletics. So, I want to thank you for that.

BILL PILAT: Sure Jack. It's great to do it. And like I said, it's a fun time for these young people, and going to camps are supposed to be fun and educational. They want to do that. And then talking with these coaches when they get to the recruiting stage, the coaches are there to kind of help. They're not out to trick anybody. They want to have a good match as well. And it's just a fun time and if you're fortunate enough to get recruited it's even more fun and there's definitely a school for everybody in their sport. They just have to do a little homework and make some good choices in that and have a great time doing it.

JACK: Well, Bill thank you so much. I look forward to talking with you soon. And good luck with the upcoming season, and with camp season coming around the corner very soon.

BILL PILAT: Yeah, can’t wait. Thanks, Jack.

JACK: All right. Thanks, Bill. Have a good one.

BILL PILAT: Take care.

JACK: All right. You too.

Thanks for tuning in today. Be sure to check back for our next episode of The Coach's Corner podcast. Visit ussportscamps.com for more information on camps near you. Get better this summer, where camps are Serious. Fun.

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