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National

Q&A: College coaches on recruiting in the COVID-19 landscape

April 27, 2020

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.

 

For this second installment of the USTA's college coach Q&A, we examine how the coronavirus has affected college recruiting and scheduling. Read on to hear from Penn's Sanela Kunovac, North Carolina Central's Curtis Lawson, Alabam A&M's Willis Mbandi, Bentley's Rick Edelmann and Nichols' Paul Brower.

 

Fore more, read our first Q&A installment and visit our college recruiting information page.

 

Q: What have you been doing to find and talk to recruits?

 

Sanela Kunovac, Penn Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division I)

 

“First and foremost, we have been fielding and answering a lot more emails. It’s very usual for us to receive 10-12 recruit emails per day during a typical spring season, but nowadays it seems like that number has more than doubled. We have also been reviewing the results for the past nine months of USTA and ITF tournaments, and have been reaching out to players via email, the UTR message function and more.”

 

Curtis Lawson, North Carolina Central Men’s Head Coach (NCAA Division I)

 

“My coaching staff and I are in steady communication with recruiting agencies, colleagues and established points of contact in the tennis community… in addition to checking the transfer portal. Likewise, we are routinely contacted by both domestic and international prospects. We use various forms of communication to talk to recruits: phone, email, text, WhatsApp, etc.”

 

Willis Mbandi, Alabama A&M Men’s and Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division I)

 

“Fortunately, I had completed my recruiting for 2020-21. I’m communicating via emails and text messages with my 2021 recruits.”

 

Rick Edelmann, Bentley Men’s and Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division II)

 

“I am taking a similar approach to recruiting and have been having a really good recruiting year. I am going to have a slightly larger team this year than the last few years, which may be a trend for many programs because you never know what is going to happen. Many students may encounter financial hardship over the coming months. There is much that is unknown, and institutions are a bit worried about retention rates and incoming first-year classes.”

 

Paul Brower, Nichols Men’s and Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division III)

 

“I have been spending a ton of time on different sites looking for new prospective players. I have been searching YouTube, NCSA, BeRecruited, IMRecruitable and the NCAA transfer portal on a daily basis for new additions. It is very different than going out to tournaments and showcases, but it has allowed me to engage a number of prospective recruits, who wouldn’t traditionally have been on my radar. The use of Zoom has also become key as I have been setting up calls with recruits and their families regularly. We have had some great videos done at our recent conference championship matches, and they have been very valuable in introducing Nichols to recruits and families.”

 

Q: Will you take a recruit without watching them play?

 

Sanela Kunovac, Penn Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division I)

 

“Yes, but only under certain conditions. We have had a chance to watch a fairly large number of recruits for the fall 2021 class over the course of the last nine to 10 months. That being said, it is possible that we’ll start a dialogue with recruits whom we haven’t had a chance to watch yet. In those instances, we recommend for recruits to send us as much video footage as they have available—from practice, match play and even fitness sessions. We also do a fair amount of outreach to recruits’ coaches and that’s been very helpful as well. After detailed talks with a recruit, their family, their coach and having had a chance to view fair amount of video, we would be open to offering a spot without watching them play live.”

 

Curtis Lawson, North Carolina Central Men’s Head Coach (NCAA Division I)

 

“Hypothetically, a cautious yes, under the premise that: a) the recruit’s credentials and profile meet or exceed the high standards of our program; b) the source of the referral is a trusted and established resource; and c) under the presumption that we aren’t able to watch the recruit in person but can watch a video of them.”

 

Willis Mbandi, Alabama A&M Men’s and Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division I)

 

“I would consider it, if I can make a sound judgment going by referrals, ranking or UTR.”

 

Rick Edelmann, Bentley Men’s and Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division II)

 

“I am really serious about always trying to get out and see players on the court live. I trust my eyeballs, but that is not always possible. I will look at video and value results. I am not quite as interested in rankings or ratings, as I find the systems put weight in areas I may not think as important. In many cases, you are not able to see a player play, and I have taken many players over the years without having seen them play. The biggest thing is trying to find the right fit for the team, the player and the institution. I want a player who wants what the university has to offer and is team-first minded.”

 

Paul Brower, Nichols Men’s and Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division III)

 

“I have always been willing to take a recruit without seeing them play. There is enough information out there on websites like UTR and TennisRecruiting.net to get an idea of the level. As long as the student has been engaged in the process and displays a good attitude, I am happy to welcome them into the program.”

 

Q: If a recruit is able to put one together during this time, would sending some video footage be useful?

 

Sanela Kunovac, Penn Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division I)

 

“Yes, absolutely. If recruits are trying to prioritize their time on court and figure out what to record, we would strongly suggest point play. In addition, if they have full matches recorded from previous tournaments, we strongly encourage them to post them on a private YouTube channel and share the link with the coaches. Not all the coaches will have a chance to see the entire match, but that video would help us get a feel for their play, especially nowadays in absence of being able to watch them live. The more tennis-related footage they can provide at this point, the better it is.”

 

Willis Mbandi, Alabama A&M Men’s and Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division I)

 

“Absolutely, only if it’s safe to make a tennis video.”

 

Rick Edelmann, Bentley Men’s and Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division II)

 

“I will always look at a video, but I like to see live for myself. However, given the circumstances, any information is helpful.”

 

Paul Brower, Nichols Men’s and Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division III)

“Video footage is always beneficial. I have had a couple of late recruits who have shot videos within the last couple of weeks. While the videos aren’t as refined as ones I have seen in the past, it was enough to somewhat gauge their level of play.”

 

Q: Has your school gone test-optional? If yes, does that mean that you can be admitted without a SAT or ACT score?

 

Sanela Kunovac, Penn Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division I)

“No, Penn has not gone test-optional, and at this point, we have not received any indications that it will happen. That means that recruits should continue to study and prepare for their standardized tests and register for the upcoming exams. We have heard that the college board will try to make it possible for students to test at least once a month starting in July or August, so if that schedule stays, it should give plenty of testing opportunities for the Fall 2021 incoming class.”

 

Willis Mbandi, Alabama A&M Men’s and Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division I)

“Yes, Alabama A&M will waive test requirements.”

 

Rick Edelmann, Bentley Men’s and Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division II)

“Bentley University is an institution that puts a lot of weight into the testing, however this is a different year and I am not sure that the tests will be administered in a timely manner. I think it will be a year in which all institutions will approach with an open mind and perhaps look at testing if available, but not make it a requirement.”

 

Paul Brower, Nichols Men’s and Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division III)

 

“Nichols has been test-optional for about six years, so I have had a number of recruits choose this admission path. About half of my roster applied as test-optional.”

 

Q: How are you now approaching scheduling for the fall and spring in 2020-21?

 

Sanela Kunovac, Penn Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division I)

 

“At this point, our fall and spring scheduling process has not yet changed. That being said, it’s possible that as we learn more of how the COVID-19 situation is going to play out into the summer and beyond, we might need to make adjustments.”

 

Curtis Lawson, North Carolina Central Men’s Head Coach (NCAA Division I)

 

“As a general practice we make all reasonable efforts to set at least 75 percent of our schedule a year in advance. This is the case for our 2020-21 schedule.”

 

Willis Mbandi, Alabama A&M Men’s and Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division I)

 

“I’m optimistic when it comes to scheduling. I’m scheduling like I’ve always done, but I also understand I might be forced into making changes.”

 

Rick Edelmann, Bentley Men’s and Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division II)

 

“I met with my administration last week and we are approaching everything the same as always—an early return in the fall and scheduling as usual. Bentley is also planning on a spring break training trip as usual. If the financial landscape changes, we may have to adjust. It may mean that we trim a day or two off our Florida trip, but it is still very much in the works. I feel really good about the program and think the university values the players and the team.”

 

Paul Brower, Nichols Men’s and Women’s Head Coach (NCAA Division III)

 

“Schedule-wise, I am looking at a slightly later start to our fall seasons. I want to give as much time as possible for things to get back to normal. I am also likely to push a couple of dates that we would have played in the fall out to the spring season.”

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