COVID-19 has altered the normality for many high schoolers, especially for those in the college sports recruitment process. The adjustment of some colleges to COVID-19 has resulted in fewer or no sporting games and events that used to provide a form of revenue for the colleges. As revenue decreases, many colleges have been forced to cut budgets, often defunding sports that bring in little revenue and female sports that make less profit than male sports. Along with the limitations placed on how many students are allowed on campus, these measures have reduced the allowed number of high schoolers recruited as the National Collegiate Athletic Association allows senior athletes to remain an extra year.
The (NCAA) Division I suspended all in-person recruiting through Jan. 1, 2021, although NCAA Division II and Division III have recommenced regular recruiting rules. An essential step in previous years of recruitment, students are now unable to visit the campus and talk to current college students about their prospective decision to attend the college. This new development has made it more difficult for students to determine their desired college as visiting the college personally helps them to really comprehend the atmosphere of the campus. “It’s hard to get a feel for the school and the team when you can’t go on an official visit,” said senior swimmer Olivia Mason.
Additionally, the inability for the recruiters to see and talk to the athletes in person has created another barrier. Many athletes might be overlooked as the recruiters can no longer see their skill in person and on competition day, with the added pressures and social interactions.
“Because college coaches are not allowed to go on campuses to watch practices and games to see a player’s size, build and ability firsthand, many opportunities have been lost for players to get noticed,” said junior Jaeden Kinlock, linebacker on the varsity football team and wrestling state qualifier.
Many athletes themselves have been unable to attend tournaments during the summer to win championships and broadcast their statistics. Instead, they have to maintain their online presence through videos broadcasting their schools and communication between them and desired colleges on these websites, which can create a disparity between actual skill and video performance. Recruiters can no longer factor in stress and athletes’ demeanors into their selection, two categories that weigh greatly in recruitment in a typical year.
In response to these complications, recruiters and coaches have resorted to various methods to recruit prospective athletes. A top alternative is recruiting websites like NCSA, where colleges and coaches are able to communicate and view athletes’ statistics. Websites such as these have become a staple in current times as recruiters evaluate the athletes’ abilities and interact with their potential athletes. Even events, such as town halls, are held to allow for these interactions and accommodate the new restrictions.
Other online communication methods have been implemented as well. “This year meetings with coaches have been completely virtual by using different methods of communication such as Zoom, FaceTime and phone calls,” Kinlock said.
This fully virtual connection is now the new normal in athlete-coach relations. These more personal online communications help the coaches know the athletes better, yet many note that they are still unable to fully grasp the personality and talent of the recruit.
Despite these disruptions, prospects are still looking good for Heritage athletes. “I have received many text messages and phone calls from various schools and coaches,” Kinlock said. “Although the recruitment process is different, college recruiters will always find a way to reach out to athletes they are interested in.”
He has currently received five college offers, including three Ivy Leagues, proving that although more difficult, the recruitment process is still occurring and thriving. Simply now, coaches and recruits are interacting through new mediums to combat the effects of the coronavirus on sport recruiting.