Monday, November 23, 2020
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COVID-19 and Its Impact on the College Recruitment Process

The NCAA announced on Sept. 16 that the extension of the dead period for in-person recruitment for Division I sports would be set to Jan.1, 2021. A dead period is the time in which recruiters are unable to scout and offer any athletes commitment to their schools. 

California was the first state to mandate a stay-at-home order, which has been in effect since March 19. With quarantine taking place, the NCAA initially planned to have a dead period at least up to June 30 this past summer. With no statistics showing the virus declining, the NCAA decided to extend their period up to July 31. Now, due to the pandemic still being a major hazard to the public, the NCAA updated its extension decision to Jan. 1, 2021. 

In regards to the continuous expansion of dead period extensions endowed by the NCAA, many people fear they will not see their favorite sports play at all during the 2020-2021 academic school year. This issue has not only impacted athletes, students, and staff but also parents, who always look forward to this time of year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a major toll on the sports world in many college campuses, and UCI is no exception. From games to simple daily workouts, this fall season is one of a kind. With the issue regarding athletics and how UCI’s college recruitments are taking place, coaches and students have worked together to make the best of their restrictions while continuing to stay safe and healthy.  

This postponement, which continues to be pushed back due to the growth of COVID-19, has not only impacted the incoming freshmen student athletes but also created a lasting domino effect on the classes of student athletes that follow. 

The consequences of this delay may not allow freshmen to get the playing time or experience that they hoped to gain when joining UCI Athletics. As coaches are essentially behind schedule and new athletes are slowly coming in, it is harder for teams to adapt to their new environment and build team chemistry; being an athlete in 2020 is a different experience for these incoming recruits compared to the previous years.

Within different sports, coaches continue to work hard and make the most out of their year, using creative outlooks to interview prospective student athletes and find which fit best for their team. 

UCI Women’s Golf Head Coach Julie Brooks breaks down the process of how recruiting would normally look like and how the staff and team have adjusted to the fluid nature of this pandemic. 

“Normally we would invite prospective student athletes (PSA) to campus, show them how beautiful UCI is, show them our athletic facilities and the golf courses that we play/practice at. Because of COVID-19, coaches have been in a recruiting dead period meaning no prospective student athlete may come to campus on an official visit or an unofficial visit,” Brooks said. 

This invitation to UCI allows students to connect with the athletes and allow them to envision themselves in their shoes. During the visit, athletes are also able to learn more information about classes, schedules and interesting opportunities that they may decide to pursue. 

“[Coaches] get to see how the PSA interacts with the current players, and see their personalities,” Brooke said. It is an important interaction that can make or break a team. Since every member has an impact, these visits are necessary to form a well balanced team that has synergy.

Now, student athletes will miss out on an opportunity to see if UCI truly fits what they are looking for. This will also mean that they do not get the experience past athletes have endured, which is heartbreaking to those who have worked their entire lives to get to this point. 

With these visits prohibited due to safety precautions, coaches have been relying on Zoom calls and tournament results to determine their pick of athletes, according to Brooks. Although not the most accurate depiction of athletes, it allows students and families to be safe, which is the number one priority at UCI. 

On these calls, coaches have the opportunity to meet their PSA and get to know them through a computer screen. This is not the ideal way to meet them, but it is the best way to communicate due to the pandemic. The goal of these virtual conferences is for students to become more comfortable getting to know the players and coaches virtually face-to-face, rather than through daily emails or messages as a form of communication. 

Women’s golf has begun practicing on campus since Oct. 19, following social distancing guidelines in regards to this pandemic. Luckily, golf is a spacious sport where individuals can spread apart and wear face masks, thus following the COVID-19 safety procedures.

“Everyone has their own equipment and it is easy to social distance on the course and at practice, it feels great to be able to have them [her team] come out and get some good short game work in,” Brooks said.

Unlike many other sports at UCI, everyone owning their own equipment in golf makes practicing a much easier process. Since they have tournaments to look forward to throughout the rest of the school year, there are high hopes that those will not be cancelled.

Malia Nazario is a Sports Intern for the 2020 Fall Quarter. She can be reached at mnazario@uci.edu.