Recruiting during a pandemic: A new challenge for Middlebury Athletics

By Sam Lipin

Recruiting athletes to Middlebury has always been a long and arduous process, but now the task is even more challenging. Without traditional identification camps, scouting trips or in-person meetings, Middlebury coaches have explored new ways to engage with and evaluate prospective student-athletes. 

Video workouts, junior tapes and Zoom showcases now color the recruiting landscape. These are all band-aid solutions, of course, but they are helping coaches remain confident about the talent they are recruiting. 

For Kate Livesay, the head coach of the women’s lacrosse team, Zoom showcases have been particularly useful in identifying talent. In recent months, she’s sent high school players workouts and drills that they can perform live on Zoom. Livesay explained that while the assessments fail to demonstrate in-game skills such as game IQ, stamina and explosiveness, the new format does offer positives. 

“The Zoom aspect where you’re face to face really does bring a nice intimate connection to recruitment,” Livesay said. She said the team will try to incorporate this new method in the future. 

The intimacy of one-on-one Zoom calls allows Livsay to connect more with recruits and give live, nuanced feedback on fundamentals such as footwork, cradling and shooting mechanics.

Meanwhile, Bob Ritter ’82, the head coach of the men’s football team, has heavily relied on game footage of his recruits to assess talent. While strictly observing athletes through a screen is no easy feat, Ritter remains confident in the talent coming to the team next fall. 

Danny Diedrich ’21.5 looks to catch the ball against Colby on Oct. 12, 2019 (Courtesy: Benjy Renton)

Ritter did admit that without in-person interaction with recruits, identifying athletes that will gel well with the team and coaching staff is a difficult task. For a coach who views team camaraderie as a pillar of any successful team, the pandemic has given Ritter a novel challenge. 

 “I think that continuing the strong culture that we’ve established is going to be important, and I think we’re going to have to work at it more than in the past,” Ritter said.

As to the effect that this abnormal year of recruiting will have on Middlebury athletics, Livesay conveyed a confident tone. 

“I think we are going to be dominant,” she said.