PLATTSBURGH — Many different aspects of the sports world have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
One many may not consider is recruiting.
How exactly are college coaches approaching recruitment in a society held hostage by the coronavirus?
For Plattsburgh State men’s and women’s basketball coaches Mike Blaine and Cheryl Cole, new obstacles have been added to their recruitment methods.
NOTHING TO SEE IN PERSON
Normally, coaches have the opportunity in March and the months that follow to see high school games, AAU Tournaments, Senior Showcases and many other basketball events that feature in-person recruitment.
That’s not the case this year.
“If you are looking for recruits for next year, it’s all by word of mouth and working with people you trust at this point,” Cole said.
Verbal lines of communication are what coaches are relying on.
“In the short term, and possibly longer, phone contacts, texts and emails with folks we have been in contact with are the best ways to recruit right now,” Blaine said.
“It’s not like next basketball season will be delayed, at least we hope, because we can’t recruit, so we need to do whatever we can to make sure we are still getting the players we want at Plattsburgh.”
A REVISED APPROACH
Blaine said the men’s basketball program is trying to obtain game tapes of players the coaching staff has interest in if an opportunity to see a player in person was canceled.
For Blaine, who was named the men’s basketball coach last September, this spring was going to be the first true opportunity to dedicate toward recruiting without distractions.
“It’s difficult for us, especially because of how late we came to Plattsburgh,” Blaine said.
“Those face-to-face interactions can be so crucial to recruiting opposed to getting on the phone and working the communication lines that way, but we are adjusting and hustling. We are finding some creative ways and thinking outside the box to finish up recruiting here.”
Blaine said the Cardinals have their eyes on many different recruits and are continuing to adjust to different recruitment processes.
STAYING IN TOUCH
Cole said some of Plattsburgh’s recruits had already been accepted to the college, and it was just a matter of finalizing recruits' commitments to the team.
Usually, visits to the college and other forms of in-person communication with recruits are commonplace.
“We are texting each one of our recruits regularly and individually, and I think that’s really important,” Cole said.
“I want them to know we care about each and every one of them, individually. I want them to know when they come to Plattsburgh that this is a place that is going to care about each and every one of them. That’s so important to our program. We are family.”
While many would consider this time of recruiting an obstacle, Blaine said it is a new opportunity.
“Necessity is the mother of invention,” Blaine said.
“We may learn something about our program and recruiting process through these times that we may have never thought of before.”
Before the coronavirus outbreak affected the basketball scene, Blaine was attending countless high school contests around the northeast region, including local games such as the Section VII Class C and D boys basketball semifinals in early March.
He developed a master schedule that showcased every playoff game around New York he planned to use as March progressed.
Those plans were axed for good when the New York State Public High School Athletic Association canceled its basketball championships and regionals March 23.
Now, Plattsburgh is adjusting accordingly.
“It’s a challenge and not ideal, but it presents unique opportunities, and that’s how we are choosing to look at it from a staff standpoint,” Blaine said.
“This is an opportunity to put ourselves in position with some student-athletes that we may have not had a chance at before and may have a chance to recruit some great talent to Plattsburgh.”
BIGGER THAN SPORTS
Both Blaine and Cole stressed health needs to be everyone’s top priority even though this is an important recruitment period.
“There’s a far bigger perspective to this all, and that’s health,” Cole said. “We have to protect our elderly and people with compromised immune systems. Social distancing is real important.”
With time, sports will return and so will the ability to recruit normally.
In a sports world that has seen seasons cut short and events canceled, Blaine said it’s key to cherish all the moments being part of a team brings.
“It’s tough for us now and even tougher for those teams that had their seasons ended early,” Blaine said.
“It’s beyond our grasp in terms of college athletics. At this time, you want to remind your players of the outstanding work they put in during the season. The success and relationships they have had and made during this season will last long beyond anything else that the coronavirus prevented from happening.”
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