Ready to Recruit in Person, College Coaches Move Toward Normal

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Some prospects are poised to barnstorm schools once the dead period lifts, seemingly as determined as their suitors to make up for lost time. Players may sign for the 2021-22 school year in most sports until Aug. 1, and many recruits for future years are looking toward the early signing periods that have become increasingly popular and start as soon as November 2021.

Like coaches, players and their parents have said that trips to campuses are particularly crucial to settling their plans.

“They matter a lot because I won’t be narrowing any schools down or making a decision until I take my visits,” said Jazian Gortman, a point guard from South Carolina who is among the country’s most sought-after men’s basketball players.

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“I can see how the environment is, the campus, the locker rooms, the gym,” said Gortman, who expects to visit roughly a half-dozen schools in the coming weeks. “I can meet some of the trainers, I can get to know even more about the coaches and how they coach.”

Of course, some elements of pandemic-era recruiting, like video calls, will likely linger, particularly because this generation of prospects has grown up enveloped by technology. Dain Blanton, the beach volleyball coach at Southern California, said picking the right medium for a pitch might just be the newest challenge to “the art of the coach finding out as much information about the recruit as possible.”

“You’re recruiting, and you’re, in a sense, trying to court that athlete,” Blanton said. “One may like a Zoom meeting. One may like an in-person meeting. One may like to come to the university again just because they haven’t taken an official visit while another might have already seen it.”

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Similarly, coaches, many of them eager to declare that they have been vaccinated, know they may face months of navigating a thicket of health rules imposed by their schools, as well as local governments, states and recruits’ families, even as the pandemic ebbs.

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