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New challenges

Volleyball coach thinks differently in pandemic

Youngstown State volleyball vs. Green Bay at Beeghly Center on Oct. 29, 2018 (Photo by Ron Garchar)

The volleyball season could be starting in less than a month for the Youngstown State Penguins and coach Aline Scott.

Scott will have nine incoming freshmen joining the team, and if camp starts on Aug. 7, like it’s supposed to, she’ll be meeting over half of them for the first time — ever.

“I haven’t seen half of my class live,” said Scott of not being able to watch five of the nine players compete in a live match. “It’s certainly a first for us.”

There have been a lot of firsts over the past few months.

Scott has been forced to recruit during a pandemic and through the birth of her second child (Marcelo, her second son, was born on Dec. 26). Scott said she really hasn’t left the house since then. She has found other ways to get to know some of the incoming players.

Scott and her assistant coaches have used FaceTime, Zoom and other technological mediums to interact with players, but when there are only a handful of scholarships to hand out, that’s not enough interaction. They can’t see how a player reacts to adversity, intermingles with her teammates or what type of manners they display, so Scott and the staff have dug deeper.

“We always talk to coaches — there are club coaches, there are high school coaches — but ultimately I leave it up to my perception and my gut when watching a kid, and we have none of that,” Scott said. “So, we’ve really had to spend more time on the amount of people we call, the amount of people we get in touch with. We did a lot more Google searches, looking for social-media things just to try to doublecheck everything that we can on them to make sure we’re getting good-character people.

“And, we used to include parents on phone calls before, but not as much because we would get them on campus and spend a day with them,” she added. “Now we’ve been doing a lot of phone calls and FaceTime calls with parents — things that we didn’t do before.”

Recruiting for future seasons hasn’t slowed down either.

Scott and her staff have to keep an eye on next year as well. She said they’re currently figuring out the best way to make FaceTime calls while walking around YSU to show potential recruits the campus and its facilities.

While there’s currently a “dead period” when it comes to working with her current team, one that’s been extended a couple of different times, coaches are still on the prowl for prospective players.

“The recruiting has not stopped one bit,” she said. “… So, we’ve just got to keep on moving.”

There are a lot of parts in motion.

Normally, Scott and the team would have been working together for the past two weeks, preparing for the start of camp in early August. Regulations from COVID-19 haven’t allowed for any of that. In fact, some international players almost certainly won’t be back in time for camp or maybe even the start of the season because of travel bans and quarantine regulations once they do arrive.

The season is supposed to begin on the final weekend in August, and while Scott and her staff are preparing as if that will be the case, they’re also accepting that there are going to be different challenges.

“In the preseason, we usually spend all of our waking minutes together, and without being able to do family-style meals, without being able to put everyone in the same room to watch film, it’s hard to get that (team camaraderie) going,” she said. “As we progress through the phases of resocialization, it’s going to take a little bit to get the whole group on the court together. All the things we normally do to create camaraderie and build in the preseason are out the window this year.

“We’ve been brainstorming, trying to figure out how to cut that gap, but it’s obviously uncharted waters for everybody.”

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