With COVID-19 shutting down the spring season for the Central Lakes College Raiders, baseball head coach Brian Voigt and softball head coach Ray Austin see challenges with their current players, but also recruiting new ones.
“It’s still kind of an unknown,” Voigt said. “First and foremost it’s seeing how it’s all going to work with the academics for the kids who are currently here. I think for some places it kicks some kids who have already committed into a place of limbo. Now it’s just trying to reconnect with kids we have met within the past, and kids that we haven’t talked with kind of restart because there are going to be colleges where there is not much movement.”
Voigt has kept in contact with the recruits. The NJCAA guidelines during the pandemic are strict. Only texts and phone calls, no home or campus visits until April 15.
“We have to make sure we take care of the kids who are already here,” Voigt said. “Normally they are only here for two years and we have seven kids who have that sophomore year back. So trying to figure what’s the best thing for them — whether it’s another year or moving on — overall recruiting is always difficult and no one has ever seen this before, so you’re not really sure what steps are going forward.”
For the softball program, Austin thinks the biggest loss is not being able to promote his own program on the field.
Austin thought he had a good team coming into the 2020 season and a big recruiting tool he uses is the success of his program.
“It would have been fun to send clips to recruits saying ‘we have won four games in a row,’” Austin said. “That works against us equally as a chance to show our program.”
Every spring sport athlete will get another year of eligibility, which throws another wrench in the process of Central Lakes sophomores moving to four-year schools. Voigt had seven sophomores and Austin had four coming into the 2020 season.
“It’s the same as what we have going on,” Voigt said of other schools. “It’s just a matter of figuring out which seniors are going to stay.”
Voigt mentioned how his players get recruited to other schools because a senior at their position is graduating.
Now with an extra year for everyone, the athletes who miss out will likely be Raiders.
“The end goal for these kids is to get their degree,” Austin said. “So if they have been at CLC for two years, there are not a lot of classes they can take. I don’t think I will have any of my four sophomores back.”
Austin even mentioned he has freshmen who took classes through PSEO in high school might be one-year kids as well.
As of now, Voigt said there is no need to panic about recruiting. He’s already had many early commitments which is not unusual. Where it starts getting unusual is no high school games to find more talent.
“With us being a two-year we don’t get that many early commitments because we are trying to find that diamond in the rough and get to games,” Voigt said. “There are kids that we don’t get until July. I think we will see a lot of kids trying to hold out because they are hoping the summer season will be a go.”
Austin said he’s been talking with a lot of high school coaches for recruiting.
“It’s a lot of word of mouth from coaches,” Austin said. “There are some recruiting sites that we use, and then just past history. I’ve seen kids play as juniors and sophomores and there are a lot of kids who come to our winter skills camp and play in our fall league at CLC.”
Where it becomes a challenge for Voigt is when he has only seen a player compete once or twice.
“A lot of our guys get found in the spring and early summer,” Voigt said. “We finalize our team in early June, but now with no games, it’s going to be hard to find that small-town school kid who started playing well last year and was looking forward to having a good senior season.”
Since recruits cannot come on campus to visit, Central Lakes has started doing virtual tours.
Through Facebook Live, Central Lake admission has been administering virtual tours to give recruits a sense of what campus is like.
“That’s the one good thing that will come out of this,” Voigt said. “There will be a lot of virtual tours in the future and it’s really going to help kids and family get comfortable with Central Lakes.”