Breaking the press

How coaches are dealing with recruiting during a pandemic

Andrew Hart, Sports Reporter

“The obvious answer is that it’s really different,” said Kelly Thompson, head coach for the women’s basketball team, when asked about recruiting during a global pandemic.

“We’ve had to really make adjustments on a grander scale, but also just week to week in some cases,” Thompson said.

Technology has flexed its muscle when it comes to connecting with others in the time of a pandemic, and it has proven no different for coaches seeking out the next blue chip prospect to entice toward their program.

Despite the unorthodox nature of this year’s recruiting process, some coaches are finding themselves in a better position than they would be under normal circumstances.

‘Weirdly enough, we are ahead of where we would normally be,” Thompson said.

Thompson emphasized that she received an early commitment from a recruit and is awaiting decisions from two others — all before the first week of November, which under normal circumstances, is when the first game of the season would be played.

While on a recent conference call with other women’s basketball coaches from across the country, Thompson noted the moment longtime University of Rochester Coach Jim Scheible asked if other coaches had been receiving more early commitments than normal. The response was overwhelming.

“Every single coach in the call said ‘yes,’” Thompson said.

Justin McKenna, an assistant coach for the men’s lacrosse team, echoed the same sentiment.

“I actually think we’re a little bit ahead when it comes to juniors and sophomores… seniors we’re about on par where we usually are,” said McKenna, when referring to recruits in their high school classes.

State to state travel restrictions and concerns for personal health have left coaches unable to evaluate prospects in-person at practices, games and showcases as usual. Game film has come to play an even larger role in the recruiting process because of travel restrictions.

“There are obviously a lot less in-person events. But there are in-person events and on the lacrosse side of things, we actually get film sent to us from those events [tournaments, showcases]. Those films are sent out with contact lists and master schedules,” McKenna said.

Access to these types of films and contact lists are due to actions taken by the Intercollegiate Men’s Lacrosse Coaches Association, the governing body of college lacrosse, which made it mandatory for showcase events to distribute these resources to coaches.

Additional restrictions put in place by the university have made it impossible for recruits to come to campus on official overnight visits, an important step in fully experiencing a day in the life as an athlete at RWU.

Some coaches have relied on technology to overcome this hurdle too.

“We were really quick to jump on virtual recruiting sessions,” Thompson said.

These meetings were designed for prospects interested in playing at RWU, while also offering an opportunity to meet current team members and coaches. Although recruits are not allowed on official overnight visits, they are still allowed to tour campus while adhering to COVID-19 guidelines imposed by the university.

Despite the efforts coaches have made to attract athletes, some still seem to be closely examining their next moves on school and athletics due the fluidity of the pandemic.

“We’ve seen that a lot, like outer region prospective student athletes are looking to stay closer to home due to COVID,” McKenna said.

“We’ve had to get really creative, for sure,” Thompson said.