LAFAYETTE — Boulder rising senior Ethan Kruteck and Dawson School junior to-be Hunter Watts are just a couple of fish in a pretty large sea of Colorado lacrosse athletes who are looking to take the next step in their game.
If nothing else, the Prep School Lacrosse Showcase that is being held at Dawson School this week is giving both players elite exposure to some top-notch coaching.
But, more than that, it's a rare opportunity to get looks from multiple college lacrosse coaches this side of the Mississippi River.
"It's nice because people from the West Coast don't get a lot of exposure, so for something to be right in your backyard that has all these good coaches here, it's a great opportunity to get that," said Watts, whose brother Wyatt recently committed to Tufts. "At this camp, if there's a college coach here and you might want to go there, you're playing for him basically."
While the sport is still growing immensely popular in Colorado and elsewhere in the West, the East Coast still reigns supreme and is the reason why most showcase events that include team tournament play take place in that region.
But director Tim McDonnell has assembled a fine line of coaches from Division I to Division III programs for the showcase camp in Boulder County that is now in its second year of existence.
If one were to sit and observe the camp for awhile, one would see that it wasn't a case of coaches evaluating play on the sidelines. This was Princeton head coach Matt Madalon running drills for about 125 players from Colorado and several other states. Alongside him, helping do the same skill work sessions, were an assistant from Pennsylvania (Patrick Myers); Penn State associate head coach Peter Toner; and Bowdoin College assistant coach Cooper Quenneville.
On another field, Williams College head coach George McCormack was helping coordinate another group of kids during the game-style portion of the camp.
This was a much different experience for Kruteck, who played on a travel team this summer to get more exposure.
"I'm looking to play in college, and it really just felt like a great chance to get seen by some coaches I'm interested in playing for that's close to home," Kruteck said. "I played for Denver Elite this summer and we went to Baltimore and Philadelphia for some tournaments. This feels a little more low key, and it's not about playing in front of coaches. It's nice to get instruction from them."
The camp, which McDonnell said he envisioned staying at Dawson for the near future partly because of the beauty of the area itself, was open to any high-school aged player of any talent level on a first-come, first-served basis.
In addition to the Colorado contingent, the camp drew players from California to Connecticut and from Texas to Minnesota — though McDonnell said more locals took advantage of the opportunity this year as compared to last.
As much as it seems beneficial to the athletes, the coaches also seem to relish the idea of being able to interact with the athletes out on the field, getting a beyond-the-surface look at a player without violating NCAA regulations regarding contact prior to one's senior year.
"I enjoy this layout because you actually get to coach and get your hands on the guys out on the field," Madalon said. "The recruiting process is wild, where you just really sit, watch and evaluate. Here, you can come out and try and teach them some things, see how they react or adapt to your coaching style.
"It's a cool setting, and the coach-to-camper ratio is amazing. It's cool to watch a kids progress over a two-day camp, to see if they are actually working on things you want them to or maybe just telling you they're working on things."
McDonnell also runs the main Prep Lacrosse Showcase event in Connecticut right after Memorial Day — an invite-only spectacle that includes a few more players and many more coaches. Even he said a player really can't beat the type of environment the camps have to offer in comparison, though.
"We want there to be a significant teaching component to this," McDonnell said. "I'd like to believe that all the players will walk away from this with some new skills, and I'd love it if a coach like Matt walks away maybe with a player or two on his mind for the future."
The boys camp continues Wednesday at Dawson, and on Thursday there will be a girls camp also featuring a small group of high-level coaches from schools including Princeton, Florida and Notre Dame.
More information on the girls camp, which still has a few open spots, can be found at preplaxshowcase.com.