By Chris Goldberg
TopLaxRecruits.com, Posted 8/23/17
Summit Lacrosse director Zoë Smith says the new recruiting rules will have a positive impact on female players in the less traditional areas of the Midwest, West and Southwest.
“The new legislation really benefits recruiting areas like Colorado and Illinois,” Smith said. “Our kids develop a little bit later. Typically, one of the things that’s wonderful is that in these areas kids do show significant development over the course of their high school careers.
“We may come in a little behind the Baltimore and Philly kids in the early years but you see real development from tournament to tournament and camp to camp. So for us slowing down the recruiting process benefits the kids.”
Smith’s program features elite teams in Denver and Chicago and a National squad with players from both areas. The Denver program will be holding tryouts for players in the classes of 2018-2025 on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 26 and 27, at the University of Denver Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium and Diane Wendt Fields. Click here for full story on tryouts.
Smith said the pressures to commit early had begun to impact all players.
“Everyone was aware of the pressure being put on these kids at such an early age,” she said. “I still think it’s important to be seen at a young age and show development and get on radars. But this takes the pressure off and slows the timing. Players used to feel if they didn’t attend every college fall or winter camp before they even played their first high school game, they would worry. Now they aren’t so worried and can be more thoughtful about which college camps to attend.”
Smith said Summit has assisted in the recruiting process by bringing in elite college coaches to host local clinics so players do not have to always travel to the East. She noted that many of the top recruiting events remain on the East.
“I think the fact that their only interactions with underclassmen is at camps, it think it hurts players from areas like Colorado and Illinois because we do not have the breadth of college programs in these locations,” she said. “Our kids have to hop on a flight to go to a prospect camp on the East Coast and pay $1000 for plane and hotel, let alone the camp fee. A single college camp may end up costing a family upwards of $2,000 to attend. That’s tough for our kids.”
“I think we’re very mindful about the cost involved in recruiting. We have tried to put together some clinics and invite coaches to come out. That allows some kids who couldn’t afford to go out to camps to get seen and meet coaches. It’s tough because the IWLCA had the Western Cup in Denver. But they did away with it and now our kids’ only national tournament options are difficult to travel to. While we don’t mind traveling, it’s hard with no direct flights from Denver to Richmond. It can sometimes be unaffordable and so hard to get there.”
Smith grew up in the Baltimore hotbed and attended the Bryn Mawr School until eighth grade.After attending Deerfield Academy (MA) she walked on at North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she emerged as a senior captain, and played in two NCAA final fours (1997 and 1998). She was on the ACC Honor Roll the entire time she played there, and after graduating was also honored with the Class of 1996 Award for team commitment and leadership.
Smith moved to Denver in 2001 and taught middle school English at Kent Denver School from 2001 to 2006 and was the lacrosse coach there for ten years. Smith took over Denver Summit two years ago from Denver head coach Liza Kelly.
Smith said the growth of girls’ lacrosse in Colorado and other western regions has been brisk.
“I have lived in Colorado 17 years and certainly the growth has been very very quick out here,” she said. “It may never be like Baltimore and Long Island where everybody plays at such a young age.
“But I think more top D1 coaches are looking off the beaten path to find that diamond in the rough. Look at (Denver men’s) Coach (Bill) Tierney. He is a prime example; he will look for the very best kid and is open to anyone and everyone. He understands that top programs look outside of the traditional areas.”
Smith said players in the Colorado and Illinois regions can compare well to players from the Eastern hotbeds in terms of their growth and development.
“When a kid from Colorado or Illinois is comparing themselves to a kid from Baltimore, you have to be yourself and show your strengths,” Smith said. “I always tell the kids it’s about how you react to your own mistakes. Coaches know that no one is perfect and they would love to see if you miss that check or lose your footing, how do you react?
“That often gives the coaches a better idea on your work ethic. We purposefully put ourselves against strong teams; that’s the only way we’ll get better. For example, at Summer Genesis we put our 2021 team in the highest bracket and played top teams in Maryland and Long Island like the Skywalkers and Yellowjackets. We didn’t win a single game, but the girls played harder and better. So we were excited and could feel the energy and reacted well to it.
“Kids in Colorado and Illinois and are getting better and better and have an intense love for the sport. When we get opportunities our families are all in. We love playing against teams with committed girls; it helps us to develop and allows coaches to see the spirit of a kid and how they react to playing against some of the top players in the class.”
Smith said the mission at Summit are based around teaching and development.
“I have a couple things that go into our mission,” Smith said. “Probably the most important thing that led me to become an educator and coach was how I was coached and treated by (UNC) coach Jenny Levy.
“When I got to UNC I could not imagine myself playing college lacrosse. I walked on my sophomore year when Jenny started the varsity program and went from a skinny kid who could hardly breathe to a kid who finished every race in first place and played in two Final Fours, one as a captain.
“Jenny Levy believed in me. When I came back from my first summer and she saw how hard I had worked she saw something in me. I saw that she saw me as something special and I am so thankful for the experience of playing for her that when I became a coach I made sure I would work with every kid no matter their ability and make them the best they could be.
“At Summit we find a place for every kid. We are invested in every kid’s development and we give specific feedback so they can become the best they can be. My story is the basis of our mission and the way we do things.
“Coach Levy inspired me. To work under someone like that has helped me to mentor others and be so highly selective of our coaches. We want girls to have coaches and mentors that have great integrity and dedication.”
What is the goal of Summit Lacrosse?
“I think that we want to maintain the culture we have created in our club,” said Smith. “We are staying true to our mission of keeping positive role models as an integral part of our players’ experiences. We are not interested in getting much bigger because I feel that personal touch is crucial, especially for young women.
“We never want that to get diluted. We like to be known as an honest club that college coaches can trust when we give them a review of a player. We want to continue to attract a certain kind of coach that makes the club the way it is. I am grateful to all my coaches. They do all the hard work. I push them to be invested and be good role models. They all do an amazing job; it’s a special group of men and women that work at Summit.”