By Brianna Lopez
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot for the average Barry student, including where they take their classes and what protocols must be followed on campus. While this new normal has forced everyone out of their comfort zones, student athletes have been some of the hardest hit. Almost every aspect of their lives has changed, from competitive games being postponed to coaches being unable to recruit the way they normally do. .
Pre-COVID, sports coaches would attend games in-person in order to scope out potential recruits and see how they play, what their attitude is like during a game, and how they interact with their teammates. Recruits, on the other hand, would have an official visit to Barry to tour the school with the coach and some of the players on their designated sports team.
However, the pandemic has altered this process completely.
“COVID-19 changed the landscape of recruiting immensely, because we were not able to live-scout prospects,” said Kristina Baugh, the women’s basketball coach at Barry. “This increased the value of a coach’s network, the trust built into that network, and the ability to evaluate through film at an all-time high.”
Women’s tennis coach, Avi Kigel, agrees, adding that the process is especially difficult since potential recruits are unable to compete. As a result, coaches may bring a player onto their team without being completely confident in their ability or character, because coaches have “fewer opportunities to evaluate their game and the progress that they are making,” says Kigel.
However, associate athletic director and senior woman administrator Amanda Knight does not believe these changes will be long-term. She argues that Barry sports coaches being able to increase their roster sizes this semester despite all the problems created by COVID-19 foreshadows hope for the future.
“We are a premier university with highly successful sport programs, so I don't believe that the recruiting changes have [affected us] or will affect us moving forward,” said Knight.
In fact, the baseball team has not let the inability to have in-person tryouts ruin its recruitment. The sport recently added a junior varsity team, possibly because coaches cannot conduct in-person evaluations to determine which players would be best for the team. Thus, they decided that keeping all players was a better solution to cutting players who could turn out be an asset to the team.
Kigel, however, believes that recruiting changes are affecting sports, noting that being unable to have in-person visits with current players is frustrating. While the players on the team are not directly affected by recruitment changes, the coaches place value on the players’ opinions about prospective teammates.
To combat this, Baugh reveals that players sometimes have virtual conversations with recruits to get to know them more.
While communication with team members is a key aspect of recruitment, Knight says that it is only a small responsibility of current student athletes. They must first focus on academic and physical preparation for the season, and both of which are areas the athletic department aims to support them in.
Part of this support is setting goals, one of which Knight notes is to begin playing competitively in the spring. While the department cannot be sure what competitions will look like, they are observing the ways professional sports organizations and other colleges have handled games during the pandemic as a guide.
In addition, according to Knight, the NCAA and the Sunshine State Conference continue to monitor COVID-19 cases and make changes to policies as needed. Barry’s athletic department also consistently monitors Florida’s COVID-19 numbers and discusses potential plans that, once implemented, will promote the safety and wellbeing of players, coaches, and those in the stands.
While the pandemic continues to flare across the country, Barry’s athletic department is working tirelessly to plan for the future of each sports program. Increased caution during gameplay and safe recruitment processes are just some of the ways they plan to help prepare the sports teams at Barry for what is to come.