COVID-19 disrupts college athletic recruitment process

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Mei Corricello

High school athletes typically count on their junior and senior spring seasons as a crucial part of the college recruitment processes. This year, cancellations due to COVID-19 and the shelter-in-place order are disrupting that structure. Student-athletes and college coaches are finding ways to work around these challenges through online tools, but this year’s obstacles are uncharted territory for everyone. 

“Although the [club] volleyball season has not been officially canceled, everyone understands that the season is over,” junior and volleyball player Viktoria Marysheva said. “Now, college coaches are unable to come see me play live, and I cannot see their coaching methods first-hand.”

A basic college recruitment process begins with student-initiated emails. Coaches recommend that the emails include up-to-date game film and athlete information. If a college is interested in learning more about the athlete, they then communicate with the student. Later, scouts travel to watch recruiting prospects play at tournaments and possibly make offers. They then invite student-athletes on unofficial and official  visits to their schools and make official athletic scholarship offers. Finally, recruits make their decisions and commit.

“Campus visits and in-person interactions were a valuable part of my recruitment process,” senior Jonathan Leslie said about his commitment to play football at De Anza College and New Mexico State University. “I think [not having that] will affect the process negatively, because [athletes] will not get to fully experience the schools they are considering.” 

Because of COVID-19, all school and club athletic events were postponed and then canceled for the spring and summer seasons. The full scope of its effects remains undetermined, but there is discussion among local league officials regarding future seasons. 

“When the first volleyball events were canceled, I was upset, but I hoped it would not last long,” Marysheva said. “Now that the cancellations are long-term, I’m practicing by myself at home and the park.”

Although there is no way to make up for the lost game film and in-person interactions with coaches, athletes are coming up with new ways to build connections with college coaches, such as making improved highlight videos with old film and scheduling video calls with recruiters. Some colleges provide virtual tours for student-athletes to see the campuses of schools they are interested in online. 

“The shutdown has affected a lot of what we as coaches can do in regards to recruiting players to our programs,” De Anza College womens’ basketball coach Michael Allen said. The most challenging part is not being able to bring players on campus, as players are committing to schools that they have visited already. However, I’ve been finding players through networks I have for recruiting without having to go anywhere.”

Despite the difficult circumstances, prospective student-athlete and college coaches are finding ways to progress with their decisions. The future is uncertain, and everyone involved will be forced to adapt to the impacts of the pandemic. Both recruits and recruiters are working with what they have to keep the college recruitment process as smooth as possible.