North Texas Daily

Three North Texas coaches on the return to normal post-dead period

Three North Texas coaches on the return to normal post-dead period

Three North Texas coaches on the return to normal post-dead period
August 09
15:00 2021

With the over 14-month long NCAA recruiting dead period over for more than two months, coaches have been able to return to normal recruiting operations.

From hosting visits to watching athletes compete in-person, coaches across the country — and at North Texas in particular — have now regained invaluable face-to-face interaction with recruits. Women’s golf head coach Michael Akers said he was the first North Texas coach to have a recruit visit once the dead period ended.

“June 1, it opened up, and I had a [recruit] visit on June 1,” Akers said. “It’s just been driving me crazy not to be able to do the most important part of the job which is to identify good students, good golfers, and also make sure their personalities are going to blend in with what we’re trying to do. I think that’s so important. I’m spending a good chunk of my life with these people and I certainly treat it like a family.”

One of the main challenges coaches faced during the dead period was trying to establish connections with recruits and get to know them by only virtual means. Director of track and field Carl Sheffield said he and his staff typically have three to four in-person contacts with an athlete before offering or signing them, something which was impossible during the dead period.

“Having [student-athletes] be comfortable with our campus life is a huge part, not just for us but for the student-athletes also,” Sheffield said. “You want to find kids that feel comfortable where they’re going to spend the next four years.  Being able to walk around and meet the student-athletes on their specific teams, that’s a huge part of the recruiting process. We as coaches get a chance to talk with them and get to know them, but it’s just so different when you’re in-person.”

With a roster made up entirely of international players, tennis head coach Sujay Lama said the global aspect of tennis could have made it even more difficult to continue recruiting during the pandemic. Lama said he and his staff responded by making the most of the situation, and feel they came out of the dead period much better prepared than they could have been.

“We feel like we are ahead of the game,” Lama said. “That’s just because we knew we can either make excuses or use that as an opportunity. Tennis is a very global sport with players from all over the world. Connecting and getting to know them, telling them about what we have to offer and trying to get them interested in college tennis, that’s what we did. We got the head start and felt like we took advantage of a situation that really could’ve been a disadvantage.”

As he has returned to watching players compete in person, Akers said he has relished the opportunity to more thoroughly evaluate players and their personalities.

“When you’re watching someone play at a tournament you can see so much,” Akers said. “You can see how they treat their fellow competitors. If they hit a bad shot how do they react? So many personality traits come out over the period of a four-hour or five-hour round of golf. To get back out here and make those evaluations, I’m really excited to be back out on the trail.”

With recruiting now essentially back to normal, Lama said lessons learned during the dead period will continue to influence the way his entire staff recruits. From conducting virtual tours to doing Zoom presentations for recruits, Lama said the adjustments forced by the pandemic have made him and his staff more effective as coaches and recruiters.

“I think the pandemic changed the world,” Lama said. “As bad as it was, it also made us realize there are many different ways to work and be efficient with our time. […]It has made us think outside the box and now that you combine that with what we already had before, I think we became better coaches and better recruiters, no doubt about that.”

Featured Image: Located next to the Waranch Tennis Complex is the Track and Field Soccer Complex on Nov. 11, 2020. Image by Zachary Thomas

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John Fields

John Fields

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