CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The coronavirus pandemic has forced a lot of changes in the sports world, with the loss of games the most glaring.
Less obvious is the effect on recruiting.
Coaches have had to adjust on the fly, and there’s been a lot of time spent in front of computer screens.
“I’m really sick of watching film, to be honest with you,” says UVA basketball associate head coach Jason Williford.
College basketball teams were able to start contacting players in the Class of 2022 on June 15th, but unlike previous recruiting classes, coaches weren’t flying around the country to watch them in action.
“Obviously, we’re handcuffed,” says Williford. “I think the biggest challenge is not being able to see guys play and compete, especially on the AAU circuit, where you get to see the better guys go against each other, and so you miss that opportunity.”
There have been some positives.
Technology is allowing coaches access they never had before.
UVA baseball head coach Brian O’Connor says, “A lot of the travel ball teams are playing right now, so we’re actually, as coaches, watching workouts and games via livestreams, which has never really happened before in baseball recruiting.”
Williford adds, “What it’s done has allowed us to do a little more Zoom, and virtual tours, and Facetime, where you are actually face-to-face with the recruits, because most of the time we’re just texting and calling. That’s been a unique challenge, but I think, a positive.”
While the technology is opening up new doors, most coaches would agree that it's not a substitute to in-person analysis.
UVA football coach Bronco Mendenhall says, “Film is not as accurate as live and in-person evaluation, and live and in-person evaluation is not as accurate as coaching young people. Directing the drills, that’s the best way to do it.”
“It’s the nuances, and seeing how did they react defensively, live, in the moment,” says O’Connor. “Base running. Really getting to see that pitcher up close. And the other thing, the most important part of it for me, is to see their make-up. See how they interact with their teammates. See how they respond to things, and a lot of times, you can not see those types of things in a live stream.”