Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, university teams across the country have been adjusting to regulation changes and cancellations. One obstacle that has been in place has been on the recruiting side.
U Sports has a ban on all in-person visits and recruiting, meaning that teams and players must rely on remote recruiting for the time being.
There have been both positives and negatives with this type of recruiting according to Cindy Tye, the Dalhousie University Tigers women’s soccer coach.
“Over the spring and summer, we had lots of kids from outside the Atlantic bubble reach out because everyone was locked down and kids were spending more time on websites and contacting coaches,” Tye said. “In that way, we got a lot more interest.”
Fully remote recruitment
Remote recruitment means some recruits commit without ever actually going on an in-person visit, such as Inari Moore from Whitby, Ont.
“It was pretty scary and intimidating,” Moore said. “What I’ve seen and heard [about Dal], it’s only been good things. But it’s still a pretty big move, 16 hours away from where I am now to somewhere I’ve never visited.”
One way that teams across the country,like the Tigers, have been able to reach prospective players has been through virtual presentations to club teams.
“We were still able to get in front of whole teams of Grade 10 or 11 kids and do a presentation on the university and they could ask questions. That was very advantageous for us,” Tye said.
Moore attended one of the presentations.
“Those were really insightful, getting to ask where they’re at with recruiting now, what scholarship money looks like [during] COVID. It was really helpful,” Moore said.
While some players have committed without going on visits, those who were able to do so before the pandemic, such as Taylor Heard from Stittsville, Ont., have been especially lucky. Heard had participated in a Tigers-hosted prospect weekend in 2019.
“For me luckily, I was able to go for a visit last September,” Heard said. “So, I had that luxury of being able to see the school.”
Schools like Dal have been doing virtual campus visits with players, but Heard said this process didn’t compare to being there physically.
“That was a big deciding factor for me, how I actually felt when I went to the school,” said Heard. “Just looking at pictures and doing virtual tours doesn’t really do it justice.”
While the Tigers have been putting on presentations, creating recruiting videos and doing virtual tours, Tye said they’ve also spent a bulk of their time on Zoom.
“You know in the past it was just a phone call or an email, but with the [last] two kids recruited, everything was over Zoom or email. You still got a chance to talk to them and their parents. It’s something that before Zoom we didn’t do that often,” Tye said.
Tye added that they’ve been contacting players coaches and teachers about them since they haven’t had a chance to meet them in person.
While teams are hoping in-person recruiting may return soon, Tye said with COVID-19 case spikes in other parts of Canada, recruiting will likely remain remote for a while.
Although recruiting has become a far more difficult process over the last several months, Tye said some of the new methods will be helpful even once in-person recruiting returns.
“It has been a challenge,” she said. “But it’s also opened up some things that will help us in the future when this goes back to normal, whenever that happens.”