Student-athletes find new ways to get to know prospective colleges, in person visits suspended

Christian Rockamore

As COVID-19 spreads, student-athletes face hindrances in their college committing processes. 

Division I college coaches always start the recruitment process  on Sept. 1 of the students’ junior year. Emails, phone calls and official and unofficial visits are all a part of the process as coaches allow the athletes to get a feel for the team environment. Due to the pandemic, these methods, such as in person visits and meetings, have not occurred, making it more difficult for athletes to make a decision and commit. The National Collegiate Athletic Association has suspended in-person recruiting through Jan.1, 2021 for Division I programs at the earliest. 

College Guidance Counselor Elizabeth Clark has helped student-athletes adjust to these changes.

 “Athletes have to complete the same requirements as non-athletes in regards to applications,” Clark said. “I met with all recruited athletes on an as needed basis on Zoom in the spring and summer to help them get a jump start on their applications.”

Because the recruitment process is lengthy, student- athletes can often forget to stay in continual communication with college coaches. 

“More than ever before, it is important for student-athletes to advocate for themselves,” Clark said. “They need to keep the lines of communication open with college coaches rather than waiting to be contacted.”

Junior Chase Kennedy, who wants to commit for football, has regularly communicated with the coach at one of the schools he’s interested in.

“I talk to my position coach at least every other day on the phone,” Kennedy said.  “I really enjoy talking with him because most of the time the conversation has nothing to do with football, and he is just checking up on me seeing how things are going and how I am doing.”

With the social aspect of the college recruitment process at hold, athletes have to really think about what they want in a college.

“In my decision of what college I want to attend, the campus environment, roster status, fan base and social life will all be  factors,” Kennedy said. “If I did not have that to go off of, I would know it is the school for me based on how much a school contacts [me], whether it is [mailing] graphics or somebody from the program reaching out.”

Those who have already committed have faced fewer hindrances. Senior and Syracuse University lacrosse commit Kyle Rolley said his visit to the college was a deciding factor in his choice to attend. 

“I flew up [to Syracuse] for the day and immediately fell in love with the campus,” Rolley said. “That’s when I knew that was where I wanted to play college lacrosse. Personally, I would not want to have to choose a college without even visiting the campus at least once… I was grateful to have the opportunity to visit so many schools before COVID-19 hit.”

 As a result of the pandemic and the cancellation of seasons, coaches are unable to see athletes play games in person. Fortunately, senior and volleyball captain Lilly Lutz was able to get noticed by coaches before the pandemic.

“Without a season, there was really no way for coaches to see players play,” Lutz said. “So, for me, coaches had only seen me play earlier in the season and [in] past years.”

Coaches are learning to improvise as recruits cannot see the teams that they will be joining in person and develop bonds with other players. Zoom calls and other forms of online communication are being utilized as alternatives.

“It’s definitely a shame that in-person experiences weren’t a possibility with everything going on,” Lutz said. “Schools have done team and coach Zooms, which were creative ways to have some interaction.”

With in-person activities being suspended, student athletes are realizing the importance of college visits. Not being able to visit the campus has a heavy impact on the athletes’ college decisions.

“I am super lucky to have been to camps and visits before the pandemic began because visits definitely have a big impact,” Lutz said. “I’m sure recruits who don’t have that option are struggling a lot.”

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