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Local Bridges Impact NCAA Lacrosse Recruiting

For many years, those looking to get recruited to play NCAA athletics have recognized the potential benefits associated with having social ties to those involved in NCAA recruiting, such as college coaches and scouts. However, in the world of college lacrosse, many are just now starting to notice how expanding the ties in one’s network to novel areas and people can be advantageous not only to those being recruited, but to the coaches doing the recruiting as well. In their article on the impact of the spread of lacrosse recruiting to non-traditional areas, the laxbuzz staff describes how beneficial the players from these new areas have become to their teams.

Generally, top Division I lacrosse colleges have focused their recruiting on the traditional areas along the east coast, such as New York, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. With the growth of the game, however, new talent with a different viewpoint on the game has sprouted up in non-hot-bed areas. Teams have begun to recruit players from places such as Canada, California, Texas, and Florida, and the players from these places have brought a fresh new brand of lacrosse the likes that Division I has never seen before. Whereas in the past, coaches relied on their strong contacts in their typical recruiting areas, now some coaches have risen to prominence by making use of more distant, weaker recruiting connections that have resulted in new players with a whole new trademark on their style of lacrosse. In their article, the Laxbuzz staff explains that with the swell of new talent coming from distant, weaker recruiting ties in more obscure locations, more teams have made themselves contenders for national championships.

It is no longer the case that every top tier team must battle to recruit the same top players from the traditional areas in high school. The situation in which Division I college lacrosse coaches are expanding their recruiting to make use of more obscure ties vividly reflects the benefits of local bridges within social networks. Local bridges, which are always weak ties, are edges in social networks that connect two densely connected network components together. Without the edge created by the local bridge, the distance between two components could be dramatically large, and therefore, local bridges are the only thing keeping two separate components in contact. Local bridges are often the source of novel information and opportunities. It has been demonstrated that many new jobs and interview opportunities result from local bridges. Local bridges often bring in new information and opportunities because they are the link to what is essentially a whole different social network home to novel ideas, information, methods, procedures, etc. Novel ideas and opportunities are much more likely to come from these weak bridges than from one’s own densely connected strong network in which the same information is passed along and known to each of its members.

This view of local bridges can be directly applied to the Laxbuzz article about the impact of recruiting expansion. By making use of the weaker ties that serve as local bridges to more distant areas of recruiting, Division I college lacrosse coaches have been able to bring in new recruits who have different information and different styles of play that vary from what has been seen in college lacrosse over the past decade. These new players from more distant components of networks have made more teams competitors in college lacrosse, because coaches no longer have to recruit from the same pool as other schools and because they can make use of the new information and opportunities brought in from the more distant network components. More and more coaches are starting to take advantage of weaker network ties that can serve as local bridges. If a coach is stationed in New York, but he can utilize a local bridge that connects him to a lacrosse network in Texas, he can take advantage of the new athletes from Texas along with all of their novel ideas and styles of play. This is an opportunity that many of his competitors along the east coast likely don’t have, which can shift the balance of power in Division I lacrosse.

-Abe Froman



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September 2012