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Digital Recruiting Poses Unique Challenges To College Coaches

(Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The days of emailing college coaches the dates, times and field locations for travel softball games have temporarily come to a halt for aspiring college softball players due to the global outbreak of COVID-19.

As a result, recruiting has looked quite different this summer for athletes and college coaches alike. In many cases, the recruiting changes have prompted some next-level creativity this summer on the parts of both the athletes and their recruiters, as this recruiting season has been anything but normal in softball.

Because of COVID-19, the NCAA’s Division I Council Coordination Committee instituted a recruiting dead period on March 13, the day after the NCAA canceled the Women's College World Series and all other winter and spring sports championships. During that dead period—which has since been extended several times and is now set to last through at least Aug. 31—in-person contact with recruits and off-campus recruiting is prohibited.

Thus, instead of traveling to tournaments and recruiting events around the country for most of the summer, college softball coaches have been limited to remote recruiting via live streams of games and various digital recruiting services. Companies such as AthletesGoLive have helped to bridge the gap between potential college softball student-athletes and college coaches, but challenges still remain.

"I personally do not like recruiting everything off of video or a live stream," Marist College head softball coach Joe Ausanio told Softball America. "There are so many intangibles that you can’t see on the video that I personally look for. Unfortunately, it’s where we are at today, but I hope this changes soon."

Ausanio, who has been at the helm of Marist's softball program for 12 years, is not the only college coach who feels this way. Due to glitches in technology and the limitations that digital recruiting presents, this summer has been unlike any other on the recruiting trail.

Some of the limitations that digital recruiting presents are view obstructions, faulty camera angles and internet connections that disrupt the overall flow of the recruiting experience.

"In the future, I hope to see more people behind the camera narrating play-by-play so that it is easier to understand who is pitching, hitting and catching," New York University head softball coach Now-Allah James told Softball America. "Another component that lacks online is that it is hard to tell how hard a pitcher is throwing."

And the inconveniences and difficulties that come with digital recruiting will likely be present in the lives of college coaches for several more weeks. Instead of preparing to wrap up recruiting in the coming days and weeks like they typically would during a normal recruiting season, college coaches are likely to be glued to live streams for the remainder of the summer, as every day of recruiting is critical for the foreseeable future due to the uncertainties that COVID-19 brings.

Some positive aspects of digital recruiting, however, are the highlight clips that athletes are able to generate from their games. These clips are easily able to be sent to college coaches who may not have tuned in for a certain game or at a certain time during a game.

"The best thing about it is that kids can take clips from their games and put together highlights," James added.

And while it is difficult to get the full scope of a player's abilities through digital mediums, most college softball coaches agree that digital recruiting is better than no recruiting at all.

"Of course there are some kinks that are getting worked out, but I think it's a great idea to live stream games," James added. "At least we have a safe alternative."

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