Iowa field hockey taking different approach to recruiting during COVID-19 pandemic

Coaches have been holding visits over Zoom instead of hosting in-person official visits.


Hannah Kinson

Iowa midfielder Ellie Holley runs after the ball during a field hockey game between Iowa and Duke at Grant Field on Sunday, September 15, 2019. The Hawkeyes were defeated by the Blue Devils, 2-1 after two overtime periods.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Reporter

The Iowa field hockey team takes a person-first approach to recruiting athletes; not only does the squad want a high-value player, it wants a high-value person.

“We take the approach of recruiting the people first and the athlete second,” assistant coach Michael Boal said. “We are definitely in a situation where we try to look at the whole picture of the athlete being able to help us and we feel that they would fit well within our program and our values. . . but we also want to make sure the impressions of what we want match up.”

The coach added that the process for recruiting can take anywhere from a couple months to a year or more, depending on the athlete. That process is also different for field hockey because of how many international athletes it recruits compared to some other Iowa programs.

Iowa field hockey boasts six international players on the team, giving the coaches a lot of experience recruiting around Europe as well as Tasmania.

Being from the United Kingdom himself, Boal has taken the lead on recruiting international players over the past couple years. He said that recruiting internationally is essentially the same as recruiting in the United States, just with a bigger time commitment. The coaches go out to watch the athlete play in their home country and make sure to build a relationship with that athlete.

Hailing from the U.K., senior midfielder Ellie Holley said that one of the main reasons that she decided to come to Iowa was because of the emphasis that the team put into finding and developing foreign-born players.

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“With eight internationals on the team [when I started], having Michael as our coach, it just felt like I wasn’t going to be the only one with all these questions, you know, everyone was in the same boat.” Holley said.

Normally, it is important for the coaches to have prospective players come out to Iowa and experience the program and Iowa City in person. Since field hockey is not played at the high school level in the state of Iowa, all recruits come from out of state. For a lot of them, it is their first time in Iowa or even the Midwest.

Because of COVID-19, the dead period for recruiting for field hockey and all other sports has been extended until at least Sept. 30. However, coaches can still communicate with prospective athletes digitally, including via social media.

“[COVID-19] has really thrown a wrench into our plans,” head coach Lisa Cellucci said. “What we’ve been doing is holding virtual official visits and spending a few hours taking the prospect and their parents through campus via iPhone or over Zoom. . . Ideally, we would like to get these prospects on campus because there’s nothing like experiencing Iowa City in person.”

The field hockey team also has experience recruiting siblings. This year, freshman Sammy Freeman joined her sister, senior Nikki Freeman. Sisters Lokke and Sofie Stribos are on the roster as well.

With siblings, the coaches emphasize recruiting each person for who they are and not tying them to their sibling throughout the recruitment process and their career with the team.

“Even when you have siblings, we try to make sure that we give them the same attention that they would any other student, or person, that we’re recruiting,” Boal said. “Although we usually already know a lot about [her], she deserves the same opportunities to get to know us and for us to know her as an individual.”