"It used to be if you got held back, it was a scarlet letter, something you would never want," one Bethesda lacrosse parent told me. "Now, it's being done as a badge of honor."
But many top lacrosse camps, including Madlax, group so-called "select" teams by the players' projected high school graduation year. That scheme encourages redshirting. Held-back players are guaranteed to be older than their non-redshirted campmates, and thus, the thinking goes, they enjoy better odds of making the select squads, which means better coaching, which means better exposure to college recruiters, which means a better shot at winning an athletic scholarship. A redshirt also has a greater chance of gaining admission to, say, an Ivy League school because of the weight given sports extracurriculars.
To get those potential payoffs, moms and dads have to gamble an extra year of private school tuition. At Landon, which goes from third through 12th grades, that bet costs from $34,061 to $35,159. Lots of folks are taking that action. The anonymous parent briefly considered redshirting his boy after learning that half the incoming eighth-graders at Landon, where the kid hopes to someday play varsity lacrosse, were "holdbacks." (Landon spokesperson Meredith Josef would not confirm or deny that redshirt ratio, citing "students' privacy.")