Like most other things this past year, athletic recruiting for the incoming class was disrupted by the pandemic.
“I’ve been coaching for 18 years at Kenyon and 20-some years as a head coach, and I would say this will probably be one of the most unique challenges that I will face as a coach,” Ladies head soccer coach Kelly Bryan said. Nonetheless, Kenyon completed its Early Decision admissions for the Class of 2025, and the Lords and Ladies rosters for next fall are starting to take shape.
Recruitment for the incoming class looks different from other years. “Most of our meetings with recruits took place via Zoom or Google Meet, instead of having them spend a night on campus and attend classes,” explained Ladies soccer captain and midfielder Chloe Webb ’23.
“It’s forced us all to be really creative, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s just different,” said Bryan. She felt lucky that the recruiting process had begun prior to the pandemic. “We were able, for small snippets of this fall semester, to give some in-person tours,” she said.
Lords head coach Chris Brown believes that the lack of visits did end up having an impact on the players Kenyon recruited. Additionally, both coaches were not able to go and see their recruits play in-person. Brown notes that the “last [recruitment] event we went to was in December 2019.” He added that relying on video recruitment makes it more challenging to see some of the smaller details the coaches look for.
Ladies soccer captain and defender Thaise Sudano ’22 acknowledged the difficulty high school athletes face in committing to a college without an official visit. “It’s definitely hard to make a decision about coming to a school when you can’t actually meet the players or just get to walk around the campus,” Sudano said.
During the pandemic, Kenyon’s Athletics Department created videos for recruits, showcasing the Lowry Center and the other athletic facilities. “I don’t know if we would have been able to have that same opportunity if we have people on campus, so it’s actually really nice and fun to do that project,” said Bryan.
When the games do return next year, there will be some logistical challenges. “I think there’s a lot of [teams] here that the rosters might be a little larger than they might typically be and that just another process product of [COVID-19],” Bryan said. “I think it will be a challenge, but I think it’s a challenge that we’re all up for and looking forward to because it means that you know people care enough and they want to be here.”
More team members on campus will have an impact off the field, too. “It’s going to be a bit more challenging to create a unified team dynamic in the sense of even being on campus right now,” said Sudano.
Both coaches are operating with a roster capacity. When asked about the potential for people to get cut, Brown said, “At this point we will wait and see exactly how that all pans out, but we’re not taking anything … off the table.”
During the fall semester, primarily first-year and sophomore athletes dealt with a phased return to play. The Ladies were eventually able to have an intrasquad scrimmage later in the fall. During the upcoming spring season, the Lords and Ladies will be missing the large majority of their first-year players, who are not currently on campus. As a result, the Lords and Ladies will not have all of their athletes together on the field for the entire 2020-21 academic year.
Bryan was thankful that she got to spend time improving the skills of the young players in the fall. The phased return to play in the fall forced players to work on their individual games rather than needing to prepare for weekly competitions.
As for those currently on campus this semester, both teams will begin training soon. The Lords and Ladies will look to return to some sense of normalcy, with scrimmages planned for later this spring. Brown hopes the athletes that do play the games, including the spring athletes who had their season cut short last year, will get “a reasonable amount of games and it becomes a worthwhile experience.” Additionally, Bryan is looking “forward to providing that excitement and entertainment for people as soon as we can.”