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Athletic department redesigns recruiting with a virtual visit

September 4, 2020

Due to the COVID-19—and Bowdoin’s first ever semester with entirely remote learning for most students—the College’s athletics department has adapted its recruitment procedures. This year, prospective recruits and high school student-athletes can visit the Bowdoin athletics department’s “virtual visit” webpage, where they will find a virtual tour of the College’s athletic and academic facilities, testimonials from Bowdoin coaches and athletes and a virtual information session featuring members of the Office of Admissions and the athletics department.

Scott Wiercinski, head coach of the men’s soccer team and a panelist for the virtual information session, hopes that these resources will give prospective recruits insight into athletic life at Bowdoin beyond what can be found in admissions literature.

“The admissions materials are kind of a 40,000-foot-level view of the programs and the different offerings [of] Bowdoin athletics,” said Wiercinski in a phone interview with the Orient. “Where some of the print materials from admissions are a little bit static, the dynamic ability [of] a Q&A is a little more particular to candidates’ interests or questions.”

Establishing the virtual visit was a collaborative effort—administrators in the athletics department, as well as Bowdoin coaches and athletes, all had a role in creating the resource.

“A lot of the impetus for that project came from our coaches, who were looking for new and creative ways to be able to engage students in an environment in which they aren’t able to visit campus,” said Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan in a phone interview with the Orient. “We were really fortunate to have a nice collaboration with [the Bowdoin College] Sports Information Office.”

Beyond the virtual information session, one of the main attractions of the virtual visit page is a video tour of Bowdoin’s campus, led by Aine Lawlor ’21, a member of the women’s soccer team and an admissions tour guide. As the video pans from one athletic or academic facility to another, Lawlor explains how prospective student-athletes might navigate these spaces. While Lawlor tailored the tour to athletes, she also thought it was important to discuss academic and social life at Bowdoin during the tour.

“Athletics is just going to be a part of your Bowdoin experience,” Lawlor said in a phone interview with the Orient. “There’s a lot of variety and a lot of opportunity, and I’m trying to give the tiniest little snapshot of what some of those opportunities are.”

“I thought [Lawlor] did a nice job of referencing the ways in which she and other members of our athletic teams are engaged across campus,” Ryan said. “I think it provided a very realistic viewpoint of what life is like as a student at Bowdoin.”

Athletic teams have also been staying in contact with recruits through Zoom and FaceTime calls, with many team members and one-on-one. On these calls, athletes discuss a number of topics, from team dynamics to practice logistics. These discussions tend to center around the specific experience of being on a certain athletic team—highlighting team traditions and athletic facilities—as opposed to describing the general experience of being a Bowdoin athlete.

“For me, one of the biggest draws to swimming at Bowdoin was our coach and assistant coach,” said Anna Constantine ’23, a member of the women’s swim team who has participated in two of these calls, in a phone interview with the Orient. “They do a really good job of prioritizing swimmers’ mental health, academics, physical health and a lot of things beyond just swimming, so that’s one thing we talk about a lot.”

Despite the fact these calls usually lasted an hour or longer, Constantine felt that it was hard for her to get a sense of the personalities of the recruits over Zoom.

“I think it’s probably more helpful for [prospective students]. It’s hard on a Zoom meeting with a bunch of people on the team to really get a sense of the one person that doesn’t know everybody super well,” Constantine said.

While Zoom meetings  don’t replicate the experience of physically visiting Bowdoin and meeting current athletes, the athletic department hopes that these remote initiatives will give prospective student-athletes a sense of Bowdoin’s offerings, both athletically and academically.

“We’re empathetic for the challenge that they’re facing during their college search process,” Ryan said. “But whether it’s at Bowdoin or any other institution, there are a lot of people who are more than willing to spend the time to help make sure that they have the information that they need to make a well-informed decision.”


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