Recruiting Tips for High School and Club Coaches from College Coaches During COVID-19

High school and club coaches have found themselves in new territory recently when it comes to helping their athletes get recruited. The directives from governing bodies and social distancing restrictions have, temporarily, changed how they work, how their athletes can showcase their abilities, and the ways in which they communicate with college coaches. 

FieldLevel has spoken with hundreds of college coaches over the last few weeks to see how they are managing athletic recruiting during the COVID-19 pandemic and one thing is clear: Recruiting is still happening and college coaches are working harder than ever to find ways to connect with potential recruits.

The biggest change is that recruiting has gone virtual. In fact, FieldLevel saw over 1,000 open roster needs posted from college coaches in March, and new needs are coming in every day.

As Coach Burns (Head Coach, Walla Walla University, NAIA – Men’s Soccer) puts it, “We still are planning for our upcoming season. Yes, it’s harder and it’s disappointing but we’re still active 100% … We are just having to change the way we do it.”

We found the insights gleaned from our conversations with these coaches to be invaluable, so we are sharing the key takeaways below. We hope it helps guide you through this unprecedented time in athletic recruiting.

Coach Greg Finel : Head Coach, Pierce College, NWAC – Women’s Volleyball

BE PROACTIVE

The college coaches we spoke to were unanimous in their opinion that now is the time for high school and club coaches (and their athletes) to be proactive and reach out to them. 

Help Your Athletes Research and Target Schools

Talk to your athletes and find out where they want to go. Be their advocate. Create pipelines.” — Coach Finel (Head Coach, Pierce College, NWAC – Women’s Volleyball)

Find out how far your athletes are willing to move, whether their grades are where they need to be for certain schools on their list, and what major they are looking to study. That way, you can help them target schools that will be a better mutual fit and will result in the best possible experience. 

As Coach Berg (Head Coach, Monterey Peninsula College, CCCAA – Softball) us, by understanding your athletes’ goals and their restrictions, you can “Promote the athletes accordingly … versus mass-blanketing the big programs.” Encourage them to research schools they are interested in and update their Target School list. 

Promote Your Athletes

 “I can’t travel to a showcase or recruit out-of-state right now like I’d like to. If an athlete is being proactive and calling me or emailing me … I have time to answer phone calls and answer emails.” — Coach Burns

We spoke to other 4-year college coaches who still had a lot of open roster spots for the 2020 class, and are concerned about filling them during this time. They want to hear from you and learn about your athletes. They want to see your rosters and your certifications. Additionally, many of the coaches were also keen to hear from your athletes directly, and said it’s a great time to show them how hungry they are for a spot on their roster. The effort the athletes put into their recruitment speaks volumes toward their work effort and drive to succeed.

CREATE MORE VIDEO

Unsurprisingly, video is more critical than ever — even when there are no games taking place. Coaches are using this time to review everything from existing game footage to training videos, and every clip gets them one step closer to knowing an athlete.

Create Cuts From Existing Film

Film, film, film. We like to watch film! We are missing our sports too.” — Coach Finel

Your athletes can leverage the videos they already have and create new cuts that showcase different skills and athletic strengths. Coach Felderman (Head Coach, Peru State College, NAIA – Women’s Volleyball) mentioned that she is interested in seeing video that showcases development between the beginning of January and mid-March for example. 

Showcase Your Current Training and Skills

“The video starts with just good balance and athleticism. From there that’s where we’ve got to kick in as coaches. If you have a good strong athlete, the (backyard) video will show that.” — Coach Berg 

If you’re wondering if college coaches are interested in viewing backyard training sessions during this hiatus from fresh game footage, the answer is yes. Talk to your athletes about how they can best display their athleticism given the constraints of the current reality.

PERSONALIZE COMMUNICATION

At a time when coaches and athletes can’t meet in person, it’s more important than ever that your athletes personalize their communication. Fortunately, we live in a digital era where it’s still possible to “get to know” someone remotely.

Don’t Templitize Messages

“Be personal. We don’t want cookie cutter responses — you’re not going to stand out.” — Coach Burns

Standard emails with a “fill-in-the-blank” for the name don’t go nearly as far as a thoughtfully crafted message, according to the college coaches we spoke to. Some had even received emails in the past addressed to a different coach. Your athletes can maximize their communication with college coaches by educating themselves about their programs and being personal in their approach. Every communication is a reflection of the athlete, and coaches are evaluating athletes based on their character as well as their skills and academics. Coach Burns believes that character assessment is more important than ever right now, and recommends other coaches “lean on the coach assessment.” 

Leverage Video Chat Where Possible

I’m making sure we are [still] creating that family bond, because we are a small school, and that’s what we do.” — Coach Felderman

While it’s tough not meeting face-to-face, video chat has proven to be a great temporary substitute for all the college coaches we talked to. Whether it’s on Skype, Facetime, or Zoom, they are continuing to build relationships with potential recruits via video chat. Many of the coaches we talked to were also using video to create virtual tours of their campuses — often hosted by rostered athletes — to help potential recruits get a feeling of their future “home.” Knowing that this is how many college coaches are choosing to connect with student-athletes, encourage your own players to familiarize themselves with video chat platforms, and consider hosting your own “virtual face-to-face” sessions with your team to stay connected and get them comfortable with talking to coaches this way.

STRENGTHEN RELATIONSHIPS

Whether with coaches you know, coaches you’d like to connect with, or your own athletes, now is the ideal time to develop and strengthen relationships.

Connect With New Coaches

Please email us your list of players!” — Coach Burns

Right now, college coaches are spending more time on email, the phone, and the FieldLevel network than ever before, so it’s a great opportunity to start building new relationships. What’s more, the coaches we spoke with were all eager to hear from high school and club coaches and learn about their athletes. Also, with the current level of uncertainty about what next year might look like, some athletes are choosing to ride out their decision-making at Junior College, which is opening up entirely new connections between high school/club and college coaches.

Maintain Consistent Communication

The squeaky wheel gets the grease!” — Coach Finel

Coach Finel stressed how important it is for athletes to keep following up if they are genuinely interested in his program. This is a great time to check in with your athletes and ensure they are consistently messaging coaches whose programs they are interested in and sharing new video (backyard training or otherwise) with them.

BE A FORCE OF CALM

While we are all feeling a little uneasy right now, one thing never changes: your players look to you for guidance. 

Reassure Your Players That Recruiting IS Happening

I have two young men that graduate in 2020 that didn’t want to take any offers in the fall … I’ve gone into FieldLevel and promoted them to all the coaching schools within a 200 mile radius of here, and … I’ve heard back everyday from a coach looking for more information on them.” — Coach Brill (Head Coach, Music City Saints, High School Club, & Hillsboro High School – Baseball)

While recruiting has certainly had to adapt during the coronavirus, the coaches we spoke with confirmed that they are recruiting as actively as ever — just a little more creatively. Athletes don’t need to worry about open roster spots disappearing, so encourage them to stay up-to-date on profile activity and be ready to connect with coaches as they reach out. 

Note: To stay updated on changes to the recruiting process, make sure to follow the governing bodies (see more here)

Stay Close To Your Players

Relax your guys. Maybe their parents are just as upset. Be there for them.” — Coach Brill

Student-athletes have had their world turn upside down, and those graduating in 2020 and 2021 are particularly nervous about what it will mean for them. As Coach Brill says, it’s important to stay in close contact and simply be there for them right now. This time will pass.

The current situation during the coronavirus outbreak has leveled the playing field for coaches and athletes everywhere. Those who have goals can (and should) continue to work towards them. If you have any questions at all on how FieldLevel can support you right now, reach out to our support team at any time.


The coaches referenced in this article are:

Coach William Burns: Head Coach, Walla Walla University, NAIA – Men’s Soccer

Coach Greg Finel: Head Coach, Pierce College, NWAC – Women’s Volleyball

Coach Keith Berg: Head Coach, Monterey Peninsula College, CCCAA – Softball

Coach Laurie Felderman: Head Coach, Peru State College, NAIA – Women’s Volleyball

Coach Paul Brill: Head Coach, Music City Saints, High School Club, & Hillsboro High School – Baseball

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