Tips from College Coaches for Athletes + Parents During COVID-19
If you’re a student-athlete, you’re probably wondering how COVID-19 is affecting the recruiting process. You are not alone. The directives from governing bodies and social distancing restrictions have, temporarily, changed how you can showcase your abilities, communicate with college coaches, and keep the momentum going to secure a roster spot at one of your target schools.
(Note: Coaches, you can find Recruiting Tips For Coaches During COVID-19 here)
The good news – Recruiting is still happening
FieldLevel has spoken with hundreds of college coaches over the last few weeks to see how they are managing recruiting during the pandemic and one thing is clear: college coaches are working harder than ever to find ways to recruit and communicate with potential recruits.
The biggest change is that recruiting has gone virtual. In fact, over 1,100 open roster needs were posted by college coaches in April 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.”
Coaches provided some valuable insights to us and we wanted to share them with you during this unprecedented time in athletic recruiting.
The college coaches we spoke to were unanimous in their opinion that now is the time for coaches and their athletes to be proactive and reach out to them.
Research and Target Schools
“I’m really encouraging [athletes] to see what things are out there.” — Coach Sarinana (Head Coach, California Bulldogs, High School Club – Baseball & Softball)
Now is a good time to decide what you want from your college experience and determine what needs you have. How far are you willing to move? Do you have the grades you need for some of the schools on your list? What major are you looking to study? The more you can think about these questions, the more likely you are to target schools that will provide the best mutual fit and result in the best possible experience.
Work and communicate with your coaches so they can get you in front of college coaches at the right schools. As Coach Berg (Head Coach, Monterey Peninsula College, CCCAA – Softball) said, by understanding your goals and restrictions, your coaches can “promote athletes accordingly … versus mass-blanketing the big programs.”
Communicate with College Coaches
“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 working hard to fill them during this time — that’s good news for you if you haven’t committed yet. They want to hear from you during this time and are keen to meet the right athletes who are hungry for a spot on their roster. As far as the coaches we spoke to were concerned, the effort you put into your recruitment speaks volumes about you — specifically your work ethic and drive to achieve your goals. In other words, it’s time to put in the effort to stand out.
At a time when coaches and athletes can’t meet in person, it’s more important than ever that athletes personalize their communication. Tone, language, and content provide a glimpse into your character. 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 and information don’t work nearly as well 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 or templates that they had seen before. Every communication is a reflection of you and coaches are evaluating athletes based on their character as well as their skills and academics. Coach Burns told us that character assessment is more important than ever right now, in the absence of face-to-face meetings. You have the opportunity to maximize your communication with college coaches by educating yourself about their programs and being personal in your approach.
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 (Head Coach, Peru State College, NAIA – Women’s Volleyball)
While it’s tough not meeting face-to-face, video chat has proven to be a great temporary substitute for all of 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 their current athletes — to help potential recruits get a feeling of their future “home” and teammates. Knowing this is how many college coaches are choosing to connect with student-athletes, make sure to familiarize yourself with video chat platforms so you are comfortable with talking to coaches this way. The same guidelines apply to video calls as in-person meetings: relax, find a quiet area, maintain eye contact, and smile.
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 (Head Coach, Pierce College, NWAC – Women’s Volleyball)
No new footage? This may not be a huge problem. The coaches we spoke with were all enthusiastic about seeing new cuts from existing video footage that showcase different skills and athletic strengths. Coach Felderman mentioned that she is interested in seeing videos that showcase development between the beginning of January and mid-March for example, so now is a great time to review existing footage and highlight different sections.
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 are a good, strong athlete, the (backyard) video will show that.” — Coach Berg
If you’re wondering if college coaches are interested in viewing home training sessions during this hiatus from fresh game footage, the answer is “yes” if it can show a glimpse into your athletic abilities and techniques. Coaches can learn a lot from seeing how you train — from your physicality to your tenacity and attitude. As Coach Sarinana put it, ultimately, “[Coaches] want to start seeing some of your skillset.” Talk to your coaches about how you can best display your skills and athleticism via training videos given the constraints of our current reality.
WORK ON YOUR GRADES
“You have the time right now to do that extra credit or raise that paper grade.” — Coach Berg
Time away from organized sports means there’s more time to dedicate to academics. While it might be hard to find the time to revise an essay or take extra credit with your regular practice and game schedules, now is a great time to work on your GPA. Work with your teachers to find out what you can do to raise your grades and make sure you’re aware of the academic entry requirements for the schools you are targeting.
Don’t have an official transcript yet? Many schools can provide an unofficial transcript in the meantime. Reach out to your school’s administration department and inquire — letting them know how it can help your efforts.
Whether with coaches you’ve already been in touch with or coaches you’d like to connect with, now is the ideal time to develop and strengthen relationships.
Leverage Your Coaches For Introductions
Right now, college coaches are spending more time on email, phone, and online more than ever before, so it’s a great opportunity to start building new relationships. Ask your coaches where they have personal connections and learn more about those programs to see if they’d be a good fit for you. Also, continue researching and targeting schools and talk to your coaches about making connections with them on FieldLevel.
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. Many coaches talked about how athletes got their attention thanks to sheer persistence. Yes, they had to have the athleticism necessary to make the final cut but it was interesting to hear how they got on a coach’s radar in the first place. Think about why you want to play for that program and why you think you’re a good fit based on your research before talking to coaches.
Don’t be afraid to send regular, personalized, messages to coaches whose programs you are interested in and continue to share new videos (backyard training or otherwise) with them.
“I have two young men that graduate in 2020 who didn’t want to take any offers in the fall … I’ve gone into FieldLevel and promoted them to all the 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 to changes from the coronavirus, coaches confirmed that they are recruiting as actively as ever — just a little more creatively. Try not to worry about what’s outside of your control, but do stay up-to-date on your profile activity and be ready to communicate with coaches as they reach out.
The current situation during the coronavirus outbreak has leveled the playing field for athletes everywhere. Make sure your FieldLevel profile is up-to-date, keep an eye out for profile activity, and stay proactive in your approach. If you have any questions at all on how FieldLevel can support you right now, reach out to our support team at any time.
Note: To stay updated on changes to the recruiting process, make sure to follow the governing bodies (see more here)
The coaches referenced in this article are:
Coach William Burns: Head Coach, Walla Walla University, NAIA – Men’s Soccer
Coach Ernie Sarinana: Head Coach, California Bulldogs, High School Club – Baseball & Softball
Coach Keith Berg: Head Coach, Monterey Peninsula College, CCCAA – Softball
Coach Laurie Felderman: Head Coach, Peru State College, NAIA – Women’s Volleyball
Coach Greg Finel: Head Coach, Pierce College, NWAC – Women’s Volleyball
Coach Paul Brill: Head Coach, Music City Saints, High School Club, & Hillsboro High School – Baseball
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