5 questions surrounding COVID-19 and college recruiting
Currently, the NCAA Division I Council has suspended in-person recruiting until at least Jan. 1. Both college coaches and potential recruits are adjusting to this unprecedented situation, and more changes will most likely be coming. It’s a confusing and challenging time to be a student-athlete in high school, especially for those who have dreams of competing at the college level. Official recruiting visits and many recruiting tournaments remained on a long list of cancellations and postponements during the summer. The good news is that now much of the college recruiting process is happening through local collegiate combines and showcases like the events coming to the National Sports Center this fall.
The National Sports Center will add to the cause of highlighting recruits with it’s boys and girls college recruiting showcases and combines meant to introduce athletes to college coaches who were unable to recruit effectively during the past summer months. The boys and girls fall College Showcase will run Nov. 7-8 and the second annual Girls Premier ID College Combine will be hosted inside the newly established M Health Fairview NSC Dome on Oct. 31. The showcases and combines provide players a snapshot of collegiate soccer and are excellent opportunities for serious players to create connections with and be seen by college coaches.
Leading up to the event, I spoke with two recruiters on how this year’s recruiting timeline looks a little different compared to previous years. Bryce Gustafson attended the NAPHL’s first recruiting showcase at the NSC Super Rink in September since holding off on all scheduled events due to COVID-19 concerns. Tori Burnett will be one of the many college coaches attending the NSC Premier ID College Combine and NSC College Showcase looking for Macalester’s next starting 11.
1. How has on-campus contact changed with recruits?
T: “We are very lucky at Macalester to still be able to host on-campus visits as many institutions have pushed them back to the spring. In a typical year, we would find a date and time that worked for both us and the prospective student athlete and go from there, but there are so many more safety precautions now. We have to reserve a time slot to tour our athletic facilities, all while wearing masks and maintaining at least 6 feet of distance. We cannot tour any other buildings as the college is hoping to limit the contact between on-campus and off-campus persons. To combat this challenge, our colleagues have created a few virtual tours of the main buildings that allow students to see where they may learn, eat and live at Macalester.”
B: “This can be a bit different for Junior hockey compared to colleges. Right now there isn’t a set process since we are in the beginning of the year and the season is just starting to kick off. Down the road, players will start to visit the team and practice with them to allow the organization to watch them practice with the team. As to what kind of rules will need to be followed, I would expect the team to make sure the prospect is not feeling sick and make sure to pass a few tests before joining the team such as taking temperature, etc.”
2. How has “on the road” contact with recruits changed?
T: “Although only Division I has a true suspension of in-person recruiting until January 2021, most Division II and Division III schools have strict travel regulations for their employees. This means that most coaches can only recruit in state, some may not be able to go away from campus at all.”
B: “When I attend showcases and games to scout prospects, it all depends on the location of the game or event. For example, I have been attending showcases at the Super Rink in Blaine which is allowing spectators to go and watch the game but with limitations. To eliminate the amount of people I interact with, I turn to getting the prospects contact information to talk to them via email or over the phone.”
3. Has technology allowed you to connect with potential recruits in a unique way? If so, how?
T: “My coworkers at Macalester have done a phenomenal job creating new virtual prospect days where we invite hundreds of potential student athletes to jump on a Zoom meeting and listen to our coaches, professors and current student athletes to help them get a sense of what coming to Macalester would be like, even when it is difficult to get the whole picture from on campus visits. We have been utilizing more video calls and including our current student athletes so that our prospects can get a better sense of our culture.”
B: “For the NAHL, we have a thing called Virtual Scouting which gives prospects the opportunity to showcase their individual performance to NAHL and NA3HL teams. It provides a chance for the prospect to upload videos and highlights that will be broken down by scouts, and that information will be sent out to NAHL and NA3HL organizations. Streaming games online can also help provide a chance for scouts to watch prospects especially when traveling can be hard nowadays.”
4. What are the benefits of college combines compared to traditional recruiting?
T: “Combines are an ideal space for college coaches to recruit as there are many different players from a variety of backgrounds and teams in one area. This allows us to see many players all at once rather than one game every 80 minutes or so, making our ability to assess more players easier. It is also beneficial as most combines have the players’ GPAs, contact information and other pertinent details, whereas unless the team manager gives you a brochure at a game, you might not know who a player is or how to reach them for future recruiting purposes. For players, it is an awesome opportunity to meet new people and be seen by many college coaches.”
B: “Such things like showcases or combines that happen throughout the year is massive for our recruiting process. We treat these events like a big ticket as we can capture and scout multiple teams and players that all come together to play in one place. Like I’ve mentioned before, traveling can be difficult during these times, so having these events where a lot of teams and players all come together and play multiple games is huge to have.”
5. What’s been the biggest hurdle to get over during this pandemic regarding recruiting for future classes?
T: “Not being able to see people play in person is really difficult. Most players are producing nice highlight videos, but there is still something to be said about seeing someone play in person. It is hard to decipher just how driven and competitive someone is on video, and it is even harder to assess the intangibles like leadership, sportsmanship and who they are as a teammate. The intangibles seal the deal for me as I want players that want to win and want to do things the right way. Finding new creative ways to uncover those attributes is a current work in progress for us.”
B: “The biggest hurdle is making sure everyone is safe and healthy during this pandemic. When we invite players to come practice or join our team for any given reason, we want to make sure nothing goes wrong and we’re not potentially exposing someone with COVID-19 to a whole team of 23 players. Since it is early in the year for junior hockey, it will be very interesting to see how the season goes, but we are confident that with the right guidelines in place we will have a successful season.”