Athletes, coaches continue adapted recruitment during pandemic

Peter Bazianos, Sports Editor

Ever since a conversation with a coach from Ball State University in Jan. 2020, junior Jackson Carsello has been receiving offers to play football in college. On April 15, Carsello said in a phone interview that he had received a total of 20 offers. On April 24, Carsello said in a text exchange that the number had increased to 24, consisting of 20 full-ride scholarships and four Ivy League roster spots, all for Division I football schools. Carsello planned to use the spring to train, meet with coaches and visit campuses. However, like other high school athletes across the nation, he has found his recruitment plans halted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The upsetting thing for me is [that] this time right now is an open time, a time when, say it was last year, I would have been able to go to schools, go to campuses, have coaches come and watch me workout, watch me lift at school,” said Carsello. “And unfortunately we’re not able to do that.”

Carsello said the pandemic is currently preventing college coaches from giving him the “eye test,” which is how coaches determine whether or not Carsello is physically the same person he claims to be online, such as by checking his height. Instead, Carsello has been communicating with coaches via text, phone calls, FaceTime, Zoom and direct messaging on Twitter. 

Paul Vignocchi, head boys soccer coach, said in a phone interview that the number one way for a student athlete to ensure that they are still being seen by coaches is to initiate conversation with coaches at institutions of interest. Even during the pandemic, Vignocchi thinks college coaches appreciate correspondence from possible recruits.

Vignocchi said although scouts will be relying more on athlete film to continue recruitment for the duration of the pandemic, a key aspect remains the same: if a student athlete has a passion to play at the next level, “there will be opportunity there.”

Senior Tyler Chron said in a phone interview that baseball players can continue the recruitment process by providing coaches with metrics, which are athletic statistics such as the athlete’s 60-yard dash time and, for pitchers, maximum fastball speed.

Recruitment for uncommitted seniors has been made difficult by the pandemic, Chron said. Travel baseball provides players with extra opportunities for recruitment, but players are unsure of the extent to which the pandemic will limit their summer seasons.

Following Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s announcement on April 17 to extend Illinois school closures through the end of the school year, the IHSA Board of Directors announced on April 21 to cancel all spring state tournaments. The IHSA also suspended summer contact days but indicated the possibility of spring sport games being played in the summer if such activity is deemed safe by the state government and medical leaders.

Carsello said the college coaches he has been in contact with have asked him how he is keeping up with his workouts during the stay-at-home order. Although he does not have a lot of workout equipment at his house, Carsello has been lifting weights, practicing footwork and doing position-specific drills to stay in shape during the pandemic.

Carsello said he hopes more recruitment opportunities will be available for him in the summer despite prior scheduling to forbid off-campus player evaluation by Division I coaches during June and July 2020.

“Hopefully [they] open all that up … so I can go visit places and coaches can go visit me [over] the summer, and hopefully all this goes away sooner than later,” said Carsello. “I know we can’t control it, but … that’s kind of the hope.”