Off The Field: Coaches enticing undecided recruits the old fashioned way amid COVID-19 pandemic


Photo credit: Autumn Bohner

Brendan Murphy, Assistant Sports Editor

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)  cancel all spring sports seasons and championships, effectively putting an end to recruiting trips for coaches and prospective athletes for the foreseeable future.

Coaches of spring sports have to do a majority of their recruiting in-season since high school athletes play during the spring as well. However, this pandemic isn’t just hurting spring sports, it’s also effecting fall and winter sports as well.

Assistant Athletic Director and Head Women’s Soccer Coach Andrew Smith has had to work with his coaching staff on finding new ways to recruit younger players and enticing undecided players from the class of 2020 to choose Marywood.

“We did a Zoom meeting with the 2020 non-commits a few weeks ago to answer any questions they had,” said Smith. “All of them visited and had their overnights so that wasn’t a big thing. It’s not like they couldn’t get to campus. Marywood is fortunate in that they have rolling admissions…so that’s one bonus for us.”

According to Smith, money could become a major factor in the decisions of the final few players that coaches have on their radars for the incoming class of first-year students.

“I think one of the hang ups is probably, depending on their family situation, parents could be unemployed because of this…and the cost of Marywood could impact whether they can afford it in the fall or not,” said Smith.

Soccer coaches often look to the summer months and the early fall as they scout younger recruits for the future. Smith said he is no exception.

“Summer is a huge recruiting time for us. There are tournaments almost every weekend. That’s where we usually get a jump on sophomores and juniors,” said Smith. “We’re fortunate that we already have a big list of kids we’ve seen in the past, but what we’re missing is those younger classes and identifying those players for the future.”

Recruiting websites such as Next College Recruiting Athletes (NCSA) have surged in popularity over the last decade as tool that many college coaches use to discover new potential recruits. Coaches use sites like this to find a player that may not have been on their radar but the athlete may be interested in the school.

Outside of watching game film, coaches have had to recruit the old fashioned way by talking to student athletes and their coaches directly about the type of player they’re looking into. Head Softball Coach John Butash has been almost exclusively using this method to recruit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This would be the time where high school games would be going on and we’d be out watching [recruits] play,” said Butash. “We’re relying more on video and email with their travel coach, email with their high school coach.”

Summer is a big time for recruiting for most sports. Baseball and softball are especially big during the summer months and Butash said he typically uses that time to his advantage.

“Some of [the recruits] were already on our radar,” said Butash. “I’ve seen them play this past summer in travel ball, so we know what we’re looking for and who I have on my radar.”

Social media has dominated the internet over the last decade and according to Butash, coaches can use it to stay in touch with their recruits during these trying times.

“Luckily we have social media. Years ago, obviously, there was no social media and it would probably just be a phone call on a landline just to check in,” said Butash. “Social media has made it easier because you can at least have contact in a variety of ways with your recruits.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, college coaches have had to be creative in finding new recruits and try to get commitments from players who are still undecided. With all in-person recruiting on hold through at least the end of May, coaches will have to continue handling recruiting and enticing undecided recruits in creative fashion.

Contact the Writer: [email protected]

Twitter: @B_Murphy_MU