The COVID-19 pandemic has restricted travel — and 5C coaches are feeling the crunch when it comes to recruiting.
Pomona-Pitzer baseball coach Frank Pericolosi was used to traveling to the East Coast twice a summer to recruit. Now, he’s only traveling locally.
“It has been very difficult to recruit nationally this year because of our inability to fly and all of the cancellations of tournaments and showcases,” Pericolosi told TSL via email.
“This will likely be the most California heavy recruiting class we have ever brought to campus.”
It isn’t easy to find replacements for recruitment weekends, where potential recruits — fondly referred to as “prospies” — are hosted with participating members of the teams.
“We invite recruits to come to campus and stay overnight for two days to get to experience what it’s like to be a Pomona-Pitzer student-athlete. They get to go to classes, engage with current students, talk to the coaches … Now that we’re in a pandemic, that’s been different,” said Emma DeLira, the P-P women’s track and field coach.
“The biggest challenge in recruiting during the pandemic is that everyone has less information.” — CMS swimming and diving coach Charlie Griffith
Many coaches are leaning on the convenience of local and online recruitment.
Rather than having recruitment weekends in person, DeLira hosts her recruits in triweekly Zoom meetings, often giving tours.
“I walk around with my phone around campus and show the buildings, the track, the cross country course, things that you would see if you did visit campus,” DeLira said. “[High school seniors] are trying to figure out whether or not Pomona or Pitzer is a school they want to attend without even setting foot on campus,” she said.
The physical gap between athletes and campus isn’t the only issue, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps swimming and diving coach Charlie Griffiths said.
“The biggest challenge in recruiting during the pandemic is that everyone has less information,” he said. “Over the past nine months, many high school students lost the opportunity to compete, so it is harder to track their athletic improvements or potential breakthrough performances.”
In the meantime, Griffiths said CMS is relying on Zoom and virtual meetings.
“Any way that we can bridge that information gap helps.”
Online recruitment isn’t completely new for P-P, DeLira said — its cross-country and track and field teams have long used an online database to get in touch with and gauge interest from potential student-athletes from around the world.
“For cross-country and track, we have a system that allows the athletes to enter information through a database … They end up emailing us, we follow back with an email, and then we start the process of talking to prospective student-athletes and … helping them through the process,” she said.
CMS teams rely on similar one-on-one communication, where “often prospective students reach out to us through our online recruiting questionnaire or with an introductory email,” Griffiths said.
Although not being able to watch potential recruits’ games has been unfortunate, DeLira said there have been positive changes in the recruitment processes this semester, with the recent suspension of standardized test requirements being one of them.
“I think what’s been helpful is how Pomona has made SATs and ACTs optional,” DeLira said. “I think it allows [recruits] to showcase themselves in other ways than in the past, where maybe they were overlooked or not looked at before.”
“I am very proud of the resilience of our student-athletes and their continued dedication to their education, as well as their hard work.” — CMS football coach Kyle Sweeney
Pericolosi said the accessibility of Zoom meetings with recruits garners positive reactions from athletes — and their parents.
“The initial Zoom meeting with recruits and their families has been very beneficial, and recruits and parents seem to like it,” he said.
The removal of the costs for the recruits to visit schools has also been a convenient side effect of the pandemic. According to Pericolosi, “the biggest difference [he has] seen is that families are far more concerned with financial aid than in previous years,” so the elimination of travel costs is a relief to those who are struggling financially due to the effects of the pandemic.
Kyle Sweeney, the CMS head football coach said the pandemic has “greatly impacted” the recruiting process for both coaches and athletes and said CMS is closely considering athletes’ families during the recruiting process.
“Because each prospect’s family has been impacted [by the pandemic] in a different way, we do our best to work with families as their situation evolves,” he said via email.