Amid COVID-19 lockdowns, the Highline Athletics Department and coaches have had to adjust accordingly recruiting for next year’s teams.
As women’s soccer Head Coach Tom Moore put it, “It’s been rough.”
“A lot of kids like to visit the campus of the school they may go to, and this has made it difficult for a lot of out-of-area kids to pull the trigger and make the jump without seeing campus,” Coach Moore said.
Coach Moore mentioned that because everything recruiting-wise has been virtual. They haven’t been able to watch potential recruits play in person as well as have important face-to-face conversations with them.
“We missed at least five separate events that we would normally pull players from because of the quarantine, unfortunately,” he said.
Coach Moore also added that he really hasn’t taken anything positive away from the virtual process of bringing players in.
“The one thing it’s done is leveled a lot of the playing field since players are left with only conversations, pictures, and videos to really get a ‘feel’ for the program,” he said.
“It will change the landscape moving forward for recruiting, I think. A lot of programs have thrived for one reason or another that I couldn’t explain during this time,” Coach Moore said.
The virtual recruiting process hasn’t only affected Coach Moore’s ability to bring players in, it’s also aided in pushing players who have already committed, out.
“There have been a few that have committed and then have had second thoughts of leaving home and decided to stay home instead of coming here in the fall,” he said.
“Those are tough just because you spend a lot of time trying to make this happen, and Covid has definitely not helped in the recruiting process.”
With recruiting instead having to be done over the phone, Coach Moore said that he’s unable to give student-athletes a feel for what his program really has to offer.
“I think the biggest difficulty is not being able to have a prospective student-athlete sit in our team room and talk face-to-face with players and staff,” Coach Moore said.
“You get a very good idea of how competitive and family-driven the program is when you’re right in it, but trying to get those important feelings across over the phone is virtually impossible, no pun intended,” he said.
Despite the difficulties in recruiting, Athletic Director John Dunn said that everyone in the athletics department is continuing to work with what they have available to them, virtually, of course.
“We have continued to recruit via phone, text, email, Twitter, FaceTime, SnapChat, etc.,” Dunn said.
“Clearly it has been much tougher to recruit and the learning curve continues to move as more information comes to light,” he said.
While men’s basketball Head Coach Che Dawson was fortunate enough to have been able to squeeze in a few campus visits for his recruits, he reiterated Coach Moore’s sentiments about not being able to meet with recruits interested in potentially signing with the school.
“It’s different not being able to get a feel for the recruits in person, but everyone is having to deal with the same dynamic,” he said.
Unfortunately for Coach Dawson and the men’s basketball team, they were denied their chance to shine in the NWAC tournament this past season because of concerns surrounding COVID-19.
“We were really proud of the young men in this group,” Coach Dawson said. “They played together and with a purpose most of the time. They might be collectively the best group we have ever had in the classroom. All five of our sophomores have a chance to play at a four-year school next year.”
If there’s one positive to take from the virtual recruiting process, it’s the amount of time that everyone has had on their hands.
“A lot of people, including us, have a lot more time to communicate now,” Coach Dawson said.
Women’s basketball Head Coach Daimen Crump echoed Dawson’s words about having more time to communicate with those interested in committing to Highline via athletics.
“It’s been easier,” Coach Crump said about being able to reach potential signees.
Coach Crump even went on to add that he really hasn’t had any problems contacting recruits because it aligns with how he usually recruits anyway.
“I do a lot of online recruiting, so it hasn’t been an issue for me,” he said. “It’s all the same, except for the lack of visits.”
Contrary to what Coach Moore said about the virtual recruiting process taking place in light of COVID-19, Coach Crump has actually had the opposite experience.
“The recruiting process has been fine, I didn’t really have any problems this year,” he said.
As was the case for Coach Dawson and his men’s team, Coach Crump’s team also missed out on an opportunity to build upon their second straight NWAC tournament appearance this past March.
“I told them good job for turning the season around and making the playoffs again,” he said.
“The sophomores were sad that we didn’t get to play our last game, but I think they were at peace with it because they were all injured.”
On another note, Dunn said that the coaches “have done a tremendous job filling their rosters” despite the social distancing guidelines in place and that there’s optimism in the fall.
“We anticipate very strong numbers in the fall,” he said. “Our message to the recruits and the returners is we are students first and athletes second, so we will continue to support academically and we’ll figure out the athletic part when things change with regard to Covid-19.”