Q&A: College coaches on COVID-19 impact

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By USTA.com

As the college landscape continues to evolve due to COVID-19, the impacts are being felt by programs across the country. Administrators, coaches, student-athletes, and even high schoolers and USTA juniors in the recruiting process are among those who have been impacted, as it relates to college tennis.

USTA.com caught up with members of the college coaching community to get their thoughts on some of these issues, both in general and as they relate to the coronavirus. Read on to hear from Harvard’s Traci Green, NC State’s Simon Earnshaw, Bucknell’s Bruce Myers, Florida Southern’s Trish Riddell and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps’ David Schwarz.

Q: What is your advice for junior players and parents as they look to be recruited?

Traci Green, Harvard Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division I)

“My advice to players looking to be recruited is to stay calm, stay positive and be realistic about what can actually take place right now during a pandemic. Parents should try to stay calm as well. I wouldn’t stress about not going on in-person visits, however, I would try to utilize school websites a lot more, campus virtual tours and team social media pages to get a feel for schools you have on your list. If you are in 11th or 12th grade and you are permitted to talk to coaches directly, I suggest you reach out to coaches via email with updates and ask them about their timeline and interest in you. The reality is most coaches are likely recruiting more than they normally would due to the spring season being cut short. They are also easier to reach.”

Simon Earnshaw, NC State Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division I)

“I’d say more than ever before, be proactive and don’t necessarily wait for the coaches to contact you. Reach out and try to engage in as much communication as possible. Be clear and direct. The past few weeks have shown just how quickly everything in our world can change. The more both players and their parents can be involved, the better this is for everyone. Then it’s really a question of trying to keep up and develop relationships as you would expect them to develop once you’re part of a program. Relationships are much better when they are two-way and that’s the same with the recruiting process.”

Bruce Myers, Bucknell Men’s Head Coach (NCAA Division I)

“There are certainly many great resources available from the online guides, ratings and reviews available. Use everything to help narrow down your choices. There are so many factors to take into consideration when simply looking at a college—size of student population, teacher-to-student ratio, location of school, climate, majors/minors available, etc. When you factor how you are looking to be a student-athlete, you also have other very important elements to consider—level of play, facilities, sports medicine, nutrition, mental performance—so there is a lot of information to digest.

“But my number one piece of advice I offer is to be realistic in your level of tennis, potential upside and what a college coach is looking for from their recruits. With the growth and acceptance of UTR, it is a much easier process to gauge the level of a program as well as for a coach to get a pretty good understanding of your level as well. There are always underlying issues which will have a negative impact upon your current UTR… but remember coaches do not want to hear excuses, but much prefer the stories of overcoming obstacles and making improvements because that shows grit, which is something every coach wants and cannot be taught.” 

Trish Riddell, Florida Southern Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division II)

“With most campuses being closed, in-person visits are not an option, but you can certainly communicate and research some schools online. Many schools have virtual tours and you can also get information about the academic and tennis programs. It’s a great time to do research on potential opportunities for college tennis, and reach out to coaches at the schools you feel would be a good fit for you.”

David Schwarz, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division III)

“Players should obviously keep in touch with coaches and ask them if their recruiting timelines and/or criteria are being adjusted in any way. Related to that is the question of how the inability to visit campuses for potentially several months will impact the coaches’ decisions to make offers. For example, would a coach make an offer without an on-campus visit? I also think players updating coaches on any physical activities they are able to do is helpful.”

Q: Can you discuss what your athletic department is doing to help your program?

Traci Green, Harvard Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division I)

“Our university and athletic department was one of the first to shut things down and start to social distance. We now have Zoom classes and team meetings, and voluntary wellness workouts. Technology has definitely kept us connected as a team and institution. I’m sure we will continue to implement more technology into our program in the future.”

Simon Earnshaw, NC State Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division I)

“I would say it was clear when I came to NC State that they wanted to be successful in every sport and understood the piece that a coaching staff can be the main difference maker. There were high but clear expectations and although historically that level of achievement hadn’t been present, being able to have control and that support from the get-go was the help I needed. There was a plan that if you were able to achieve specific benchmarks then you would be supported more and more based on that. For me, that was the most important piece, as simple as it sounds. I was provided with a pathway where I had a good degree of control and our mutually high expectations matched. I think for many that could create a ton of pressure or be a situation that could cause some trepidation, but it’s one of those things where I was looking for that and felt I could thrive in that environment.”

Bruce Myers, Bucknell Men’s Head Coach (NCAA Division I)

“Our athletic program, along with so many others, currently have circled up pretty tight and have put together different game plans based upon and depending upon NCAA decisions and the reality of the current world. Seeing a rather substantial decrease in annual fund disbursements to the individual conferences, I think our department is trying to tackle this from two related but different standpoints. First and foremost, Bucknell has enlisted the assistance in our University Advancement to increase our fundraising a great deal. I am very lucky that I have a great alumni base who support the program.

Secondly, I believe that every university will be looking for creative ways to stretch budgets much further than in the past—reduce travel costs by sharing trips amongst programs, more regional play, versus out of region—while continuing to strive to enhance the student-athlete experience. Recently over the last few seasons we have [made several department-wide improvements that] allow us to remain competitive in the Patriot League, which has always been the goal of the department.”

Trish Riddell, Florida Southern Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division II)

“We are encouraged to continue recruiting, and we are speaking with admissions constantly regarding potential incoming students.”

David Schwarz, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division III)

“We aren’t dealing with athletic scholarships in Division III but my department is working closely with the coaches on budget, recruiting, schedule, etc.”

Read the rest of the Q&A on USTA.com

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