April 25, 2016
A signing day for college athletics recruits was April 13, and with two brand new programs being built at UCCS, the women’s lacrosse and baseball team signed seven women and eight men to join the Mountain Lions.
The two teams will be first-year programs next year and time is of the essence as they are trying to build their respective teams.
While Colorado has beautiful weather during the summer months, both sports are played outside during times of the year when the weather is unpredictable.
Baseball team head coach Dave Hajek explained that when recruiting players he is as straightforward as possible with his recruits.
“We may be training in three different places, including indoors. And when we’re outside we may be playing in 35 degree weather; if the sun is out it may feel like 50, but I have to be honest with them,” said Hajek.
He added that he doesn’t want to convince recruits to come here, he wants the players who want to contribute to something bigger than themselves.
“Being a ground-up program has brought some hurdles. We have lost a couple guys to established programs, but I want guys who are excited about building something,” Hajek said. “I want the guys who are hungry for a challenge.”
Women’s lacrosse head coach Christine Hatton echoed Hajek’s thoughts.
“The girls who are looking to make a contribution their first year are the kind of girls I want,” Hatton said. “I have recruited a lot of high school team captains because they’re not only leaders, but they’re driven.”
Hatton explained that lacrosse is still an up-and-coming sport in Colorado, which adds to the challenge of recruiting. She added that when she was hired, many of Colorado’s top lacrosse players were already committed to colleges.
Recruiting in-state student-athletes allows for teams to budget their money more effectively, but for Hatton she has had success in recruiting out-of-state student-athletes. With commitments coming from Illinois, Texas and Pennsylvania, Hatton explained that it’s not just athletes she is looking for.
“I am recruiting high academic girls. If they work hard in the classroom, they will work hard on the field. It speaks to their work ethic and it will keep them out of trouble,” Hatton said. “Plus, most if not all of our commits are on academic scholarship.”
Both the baseball and lacrosse team will have large rosters, ranging from 25-30 athletes. Not all of them will receive athletic scholarship and Hajek emphasized the importance of academics.
“A big part of the recruiting process is being a good student. I don’t think high school athletes know that.” Hajek explained. “Student-athletes have to know academics are a priority. I want kids coming here who want to get a great degree.”
Hajek will hold a camp at the end of May and expects about 100 players will come to the camp to put their name into the mix, including members of the UCCS club baseball team.
Using UCCS’ resources to her advantage, Hatton sells the campus to recruits.
“Being Division II, there is a balance between life and lacrosse. Plus our school is bigger than most in the RMAC and Colorado Springs is a great location for both in-state and out-of-state students,” Hatton said.
She added that lacrosse is normally played at private schools where tuition gets expensive quickly and the appeal of getting a University of Colorado degree has been a selling point to her recruits.
“Once I get recruits on campus, they make their decision quickly.”
Both teams will begin play in spring 2017.