What Student-Athletes (and their families) Need to Know About Changes to the College Recruiting Process Due to COVID-19

  • Published on August 4, 2020

Christian BuckPerformance/Executive Coach | Sport Psychology Specialist | Author8 articles Follow

As the globe feels the ramifications of the COVID 19 pandemic, it’s safe to say the sports world is no different. Questions about the future of college sports go unanswered and student-athletes find themselves in the difficult position of determining how this will affect their personal recruiting process. My goal is to offer some detail and explanation about the current recruiting process for you to be aware of, then create an action plan that best suits your needs. 

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1. DON’T PANIC

In early May 2020, Front Rush, in partnership with Next College Student Athlete, completed a survey of 600+ college coaches. The survey responses show 98% of college coaches think they will have all or most of their athletic scholarships. 

The truth is coaches are unsure how the recruiting process (and college athletics in general) will unfold over the next six months. The Ivy League and NESCAC (as well as some other colleges) have already declared that there will be no sports participation of any kind until January 1st, 2021. Due to this delay, there will be a subsequent lag in the recruiting process as well. It’s important to remember that every high school student-athlete in the country is experiencing the same issues you are, so try not to worry about college coaches filling open roster spots – they aren’t. 

Class of 2020 high school graduates should rely on their future college coaching staff for details about what to expect for the upcoming Fall season as well as access to athletic scholarships.

Here is a helpful guideline for the Class of 2020 from the NCAA:

Students with an expected Spring/Summer 2020 graduation date who initially enroll full time at an NCAA school in 2020-21 will be academically eligible to receive athletic scholarship, practice and compete in the first year of full-time enrollment.

2. BE PATIENT 

The NCAA Division I Council Coordination Committee adopted a “dead period” until August 31st, 2020. Division II has extended a “quiet period” through July 31st where in-person recruiting is allowed on campus, subject to public health guidance and conference decisions.

This means coaches are not allowed to meet with a recruit in person nor do any on-field scouting this summer. In other words, don’t expect any DI or DII coaches to be on the sidelines of any showcases. I do encourage student-athletes to visit potential campuses even though you are not be able to meet with the coaching staff, as long as it’s safe and follows CDC guidelines. 

3. NOW IS THE TIME TO GET BETTER, NOT DISCOURAGED

It’s more important than ever for student-athletes to maximize their online presence and to be proactive in starting recruiting conversations with college coaches. The changes in the recruiting process due to COVID-19 are ongoing, but that doesn’t mean student-athletes should stop trying to get recruited altogether. Recruits should continue to correspond with college coaches, making sure to relay what they’ve been doing to improve. College coaches may reach out and ask student-athletes, “What have you been up to?” and the response shouldn’t be something like, “Not much, really.” 

Instead, recruits should use this time to continue to improve. Lifting, running, sprints, yoga, mixed martial arts, cross-fit training, and sport specific drills are great alternatives if they can’t practice with their team. That way, when college coaches ask potential recruits what they’ve been doing over the last several months, recruits can boast, “It’s been great! I’ve been working really hard. I even took up yoga to improve my flexibility!” 

4. GET FILMED

Due to COVID-19 restrictions in recruiting, college coaches have pivoted to watching film – a lot of it. Assistant coaches at Yale, UVA, the University of Albany, Sacred Heart University, and St. Bonaventure told me they have resigned themselves to recruiting from their desk this summer. Most summer showcases are offering film packages. Recruits should take advantage of them as a way to target particular coaches by forwarding game film directly to the programs they’re interested in. 

Film can be a double-edged sword. In normal circumstances, players can take the best plays of the summer and condense them into a highlight reel. But, because coaches will not be physically present at these events, the organization that manages the showcase will forward game film to the coaches directly. Because of that, coaches have the option to rewind and re-watch positive OR NEGATIVE plays. Coaches are always looking for the complete player, in particular for how a player reacts to mistakes or bad calls. 

5. PREPARE TO ATTEND PROSPECT DAYS THIS FALL

Exposure is going to be key for high school athletes to be successfully recruited over the next six months as college coaches become clearer about their own recruiting process. One of the best ways for athletes to get direct exposure to the coaches of the programs they are interested in is to attend the program’s prospect days. Since prospect days are all-day events held on campus, it gives the coaching staff an in-depth introduction to potential recruits. It also gives the recruits an idea of what it would be like to play for that program. 

College programs usually have one or two prospect days set per fall season – although this year prospect days still remain a question mark about when, or if, they will have them. To make sure you’re on the cutting edge of this information, go to the program’s website of a school of interest. There you will see “Recruiting Questionnaire” in the menu bar. On that questionnaire, register an email address. This allows that program to email any new information to registered recruits concerning the program, including prospect days. With all the changes due to the current environment, there should be numerous emails sent to prospective recruits to keep them informed.

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Sports from professional to T-ball have been affected by this pandemic. March Madness was cancelled. The NBA season is in question. MLB is converting to a 60-game season. College football could still be cancelled this season. The Ivy League and NESCAC have cancelled sports until January. It’s important to recognize that this is a global pandemic, and that you are not alone in trying to understand the new recruiting landscape. In reality, there aren’t a lot of answers, but let’s not let it get the best of us. Be patient. Stay focused. Remain diligent. That’s how we will find success in the end.

Christian Buck specializes in academic and executive coaching through sport psychology. He is a professional affiliate of The Bertram Group and can be reached at  info@thebertramgroup.com

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