VHS soccer players find pros and cons to recruiting during COVID-19
By Lila Cohen, Reporter
The nationwide shutdown caused by COVID-19 has affected the college recruitment process in nearly every sport. Athletic fields around the country are quiet, leaving soccer players to work their way through the maze of recruitment from their homes.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced on Sept. 1 that in-person recruiting would be suspended for both male and female Division 1 soccer players until Jan. 1, 2021. However, in-person recruiting has resumed for both Division 2 and Division 3.
In-person player-coach interaction is especially limited this year, so coaches and players have to connect with each other remotely. Some athletes use recruiting networks such as the Next College Student Athlete (NCSA). The NCSA allows athletes to place a profile on their website where coaches can then find potential recruits. The organization offers a free package, but pushes athletes to pay upwards of a couple thousand dollars to get the complete experience. The most expensive “MVP” tier promises to analyze how an athlete would fit with a coach and school.
“[The NCSA is] supposed to match you with coaches, kind of like a dating app,” VHS boys soccer captain Jakob Heuschert said.
Many athletes choose to reach out to coaches through email, because it is accessible to everyone and free of cost. Emails sent to potential coaches include an athlete’s basic information, such as their name, high school, personal stats, and highlight reel.
The shutdown has given coaches more time to look seriously at players who reach out through email, so players are taking full advantage and sending out as many emails as they can.
“[You have] all these college coaches sitting at their houses, especially over the first few months of the pandemic. What else are they going to do? They're probably going to be on their computer the whole day,” junior Bellamy Cox said. “You might as well shoot as many [emails] as you can… and they're more than likely to read them.”
Heuschert echoed this sentiment.
“[Now is] a really great time to be sending any footage or any emails to coaches, because they don't have many other things to do besides look at their emails.” he said.
Possibly the most important change to note that the NCAA has made to their recruiting process this year is the addition of an extra year of eligibility for college seniors.
This change has left the high school class of 2021 competing for fewer spots on rosters, greatly affecting the recruiting dynamic.
“(COVID-19 is) definitely affecting recruiting in a variety of ways.” Heuschert said. “I'm class of 2021… and if I'm hoping to play [collegiate level soccer] next year, there needs to be open spots on the roster. But because of COVID-19, the college graduating class of 2020 [can] decide to stay for another year. So what that means is that their rosters are still super full.”
For many athletes, the shutdown has been the first break they have had from competitive soccer in years.
“I think when COVID started and I had a break from year-round soccer for the first time in four years, it was kind of nice. I sort of started to realize that, although soccer is my favorite thing to do, it's something that I felt like I didn't need to continue doing as a profession,” VHS girls soccer co-captain Phoebe Wilke said. “That's also part of COVID―it's given a lot of people time to think about where they actually want to go and what they actually want to do with their future.”