I’m sure you have noticed them- the ever-growing masses of smartly dressed adolescents with huge duffel bags filled with the tell tale equipment, definitively marked by the lacrosse stick protruding from the bag. Yes, it appears that lacrosse has picked up where soccer left off, and droves of mothers are clamoring to get their “lacrosse mom” bumper stickers as a sign of the times. Just as surely as the hybrid SUV has replaced the Range Rover as the “coupe de jour” for a new generation of kids, lacrosse has become the new it sport. Before you start up with the usual privileged kid rhetoric, you should consider one of the driving motives of this cultural explosion- college acceptance. The numbers don’t lie. In his article, “Grits, Grades and Lacrosse: How to Cradle Your Way into Elite Colleges,” financial adviser and Forbes contributor, Troy Onink reveals just how much of a role lacrosse specifically, and sports in general can play in college admissions. The list of colleges (along with the numbers of lacrosse players those schools have accepted for the upcoming year) reads like a Who’s Who of elite universities: Michigan (6), Johns Hopkins, Yale, Harvard, Penn (4), Navy (7), Army (2), William and Mary (7), Dartmouth (2), Princeton, Stanford, Columbia, Duke, Georgetown, Cornell, Virginia, Boston College (2), Notre Dame, Villanova (3), Furman (3), Delaware (6), Lafayette (4), Lehigh (2), Holy Cross, Drexel (3), Maryland (2), George Washington, North Carolina, Vermont. With so many students parlaying aggression and determination on the field to success off of it, it is easy to see why parents around the country are suiting their children up to play.

The good news is that you don’t have to rush out to the suburbs to register for the upcoming lacrosse season to embrace the thought process that is driving so many youth to do just that. Getting into the elite schools today is as challenging as it has ever been, so students are right to use any means necessary to improve their chances of success. If picking up a stick or learning to kick a ball can pave the way to Yale or Duke then you would be foolish not to jump in the game. My adolescent years were consumed traveling from one soccer tournament to the next, and somewhere in between life happened. While I was lucky to excel at the game, you don’t have to be a star to reap the admissions rewards. The number of students who will receive athletic scholarships is quite low; however, coaches can have an enormous influence in some cases determining which students gain admission. Many elite schools do not even award merit based scholarships but that does not mean that your ability on the field or court is inconsequential. Even academically elite schools want to field successful athletic teams. As college consultant Lloyd Paridiso, an admissions veteran with almost 40 years in the business, puts it:

It’s not simply about being good, it’s being good at something, over time, demonstrating commitment and stamina and reaching a proficiency that speaks volumes. After hours upon hours devoted to dull, grinding, grueling, repetitive exercises and practices usually before or after the academic day when lack of sleep or the ordinary pressures most youth experience aren’t even given a thought, you dig deeper and perform at the highest possible level, over and over again.

Anyone who has had even a passing association with an activity or avocation that involves such demands will know what I mean. That’s what sets some kids apart. And the pursuit which most often embodies, which captures this essential every time is athletics.

Athletics is merely another way for colleges to gauge the drive and commitment of perspective students in order to determine which men and woman can make the grade- pun intended. In this healthy competition it is not always the most talented kid who wins. Sometimes it is the one who plays the best game!