Adapting to a COVID-19 culture is crucial for all coaches at the collegiate level as they are dealing with a new challenge they have never seen before.
Recruitment is one of the vital aspects for every collegiate sport. Athletes that are recruited on an annual basis are brought in to be the talent of the future for the school. With so many high schools cancelling their spring and fall sports since the pandemic hit, obtaining the necessary information to select recruits has become increasingly more difficult.
The limitations that are now present with recruiting have changed the entire facet of the process substantially. Each coach and sport at Marist has dealt with these newfound obstacles in a variety of ways.
“You build a unique bond with them, get to know their personality, and learn who they are as people,” Marist’s football recruitment coordinator and defensive line coach James Groce said.
Getting athletes interested in playing for a team usually starts with the personal connections made and that is an aspect of recruiting that has been absent with the inability to meet players in person. Understanding the character of the recruit is just as important as the skill level for coaches. Sports are just as much a mental game as they are a physical one, knowing that a player will be able to endure anything they are tasked with is monumentous.
Assistant coach for the Women’s Volleyball team, Kelsey Lahey, shared the story of a recruit they had high hopes for, but it didn’t work out because of the lack of drive they saw in the athlete.
“We had a kid last year that we thought we really wanted and when we got her on campus, there was no real connection and that was a good sign that we did not offer her yet,” Lahey said.
It was meeting this potential recruit in person that actually stopped the volleyball program from offering an athlete that may have not been fully on board with playing at Marist. No matter the sport, it is often a person’s integrity that determines if they get recruited and with the on-going pandemic, figuring out the true nature of each athlete becomes more challenging to decipher.
Trying to get to know players internally is an integral part of the recruiting process, but the evaluation portion of it is another major challenge that all coaches are struggling to deal with. Instead of being able to watch a game in person, coaches must solely rely on film.
“We used to see a kid five to ten times if we wanted to and now with it down to zero, we have to rely on the word of people such as high school coaches, travel coaches,” Marist baseball head coach Chris Tracz said.
Tracz emphasized how they need to fill their roster which has resulted in them recruiting players who have never suited up at the varsity level. They are basing their assumptions off past film, junior seasons, and the trust of coaches they have never met. It is definitely much more of a gamble for programs when they know so little about a player, but necessary if they plan on getting a solid team on the field once athletics return.
This virus has not only hurt the coaches, but also the athletes being recruited. The majority of them have had a shortened time span to display their skill sets, which can be very detrimental to their value in the eyes of scouts.
“A lot of kids we have recruited have had great senior years and that has bumped them up in our eyes and the majority of kids this year have not been able to play their senior season,” said Jim Parady, the head football coach at Marist.
Losing the opportunity to prove what they have is huge for athletes that may have been on the fence for certain colleges. With little high school sports in play, if a coach is hesitant on a player, they may end up passing on them, resulting in both parties missing out.
Making major decisions on assumptions that a player will produce is difficult for athletic programs, which is why losing an entire season of play trifles with the process. College is a life changing decision and student athletes prefer to know what they are committing to before they accept any offers.
For many high school athletes, visiting the campus is a necessary step before accepting any scholarships. The visit to an actual campus allows recruits to get a feel for the school, as well as the coaches and culture of the specific program.
The Marist College campus as a whole has always been a draw for not only athletes, but all students. From the view of the Hudson River to the exquisite architecture of the buildings, Marist does not fail the eye test, and enticing recruits with the gorgeous campus is just another aspect of the process that has diminished because of the pandemic.
“Because the virus is well-known now, young men know they have to commit without visiting,” said Men’s head Basketball coach, John Dunne. “This has now become one of the hardest parts about convincing athletes to play at Marist.”
Dunne further explained how the campus presents well online, but it still does not do justice when comparing it to actually walking around campus for the first time.
Marist’s campus is a significant draw by itself — as it is often referred to as one of the most beautiful campuses in America — and not being able to sell it properly certainly hurts.
One of the newest attractions to the school is the newly renovated McCann Center. McCann is such a grand building that coaches make sure to highlight it at the end of their tour with a recruit. Groce discussed this tactic when showing a recruit around and confirmed that McCann is usually the last stop on a tour. The training facility becomes the last thing these recruits think of after leaving the campus, and it leaves a lasting impact on their decision.
Tracz expressed how great it is that the field, weight room, locker room, and coaches office are all within roughly 500 feet of each other, and with baseball being an outdoor sport, that convenience is an enormous positive.
There are many new limitations with recruiting that coaches never had to deal with in the past. Marist athletics has had to adjust and whether that be taking more advantage of video, talking to potential recruits through zoom, or selling the school with its beauty, the coaches have found a way.
Although difficult, recruitment has proven to be possible in the midst of a pandemic. The coaches at Marist had limits put on them, but nothing will stop them from recruiting the next generation of Red Foxes.
Edited by Nick Stanziale & Dave Connelly