Recruiting the next generation of Gator athletics

Coaches strive to bring in student athletes with passion for Allegheny community

From newly-hired coach to experienced veteran, the student-athlete recruitment process can be both grueling and rewarding. With spring sport seasons coming to a close, coaches are concluding their recruitment for next year.

Some coaches had to start from scratch because the upcoming season will be the inaugural one. In the case of women’s field hockey and men’s lacrosse, the coaches had to dedicate additional time to find the right athletes for their first teams.

“I think the biggest challenge with a new program is to make sure that people know that you exist,” said Valerie Lohr, head women’s field hockey coach. “As silly as that sounds, it’s a new program and there’s a lot of excitement for us, but there might not be as much press as you would like in the field hockey world.”

We need to make sure that the beginning stages of that is a pretty large number because it’s going to dwindle down and get down to a smaller scope at the very end.

— Angelo Panzetta, head men's soccer coach, Allegheny College

In order to combat the need for players, Lohr has tried to make her program visible by traveling all over the country, visiting tournaments and having face-to-face conversations with players.

“We’re not here just to start a program; we’re here to create an experience,” Lohr said. “We want to have a wonderful experience with passionate, powerful women who want to make the best versions of themselves in this world and give all they can to their school and community, so we reach out throughout the country to find these hardworking, talented young women to grow the sport and have a great time.”

Men’s Lacrosse Head Coach Tommy Pearce took the same approach. He described how most of last June and July was spent on the road attending recruitment events.

“The NCAC has really great teams in it, so in order for us to be competitive in the NCAC, we also want guys to be great athletes and good lacrosse players,” Pearce said.

Pearce stressed the importance of bringing in players who will mesh well with the campus community. He said that because lacrosse is new to Allegheny, finding well-rounded players is even more important.

The coaches for the new sports are not the only coaches who travel looking for talent. Head Men’s Soccer Coach Angelo Panzetta also regularly attends showcases to look for talented soccer players. One of his main goals is to increase the pool of players interested in coming to Allegheny.

That combination of three things: a good citizen, a good student and a good golfer. If you get those three, you got a pretty good chance to do pretty well here.”

— Jeff Groff, head men's and women's golf coach

“I think that’s one of the biggest things that all of us coaches have that we know when we identify players and start the interest of Allegheny,” Panzetta said. “We need to make sure that the beginning stages of that is a pretty large number because it’s going to dwindle down and get down to a smaller scope at the very end.”

Other coaches, like Head Softball Coach Beth Curtiss, host tournaments on campus, where they try to make possible recruits feel at home.

“For our fall tournament, we try to provide an atmosphere in which recruits and parents can come and the recruits (stay) overnight and they watch us play and then we do a big overnight,” Curtiss said. “We run a clinic where we invite athletes to come in and participate, and it allows us to see them in person here and actually get a chance to coach them up in drills and stuff.”

One of Allegheny’s more experienced coaches, Jeff Groff, head golf coach, said the online presence of the recruitment process has influenced the way coaches recruit players. Groff, who has been head coach for 18 of his 34 years at Allegheny, noted the simplicity of online scouting, though he also attends summer tournaments.

All of the coaches emphasized the importance of finding good students for their teams. This includes people who are proficient in their studies as well as people who are good citizens. Coaches determine this via research and discussion with parents and coaches.

“What type of person are they; are they a good citizen, do they make good decisions on and off the course and so through their parents and their high school coaches you kind of get a sense of what they’re all about,” Groff said. “That combination of three things, a good citizen, a good student and a good golfer. If you get those three, you got a pretty good chance to do pretty well here.”

Some coaches select players because of their attitude, no matter their personal skill level. Assistant Women’s Field Hockey Coach Margaret Maclean prefers personality over skill level in a potential student-athlete.

“I really look for attitude, class, manners and all of that stuff,” Maclean said. “You don’t want someone who’s going to be a problem or make someone else on the team feel bad.”

Lohr concurred with her assistant, stating that attitude is the first thing she looks for in a possible recruit. She mentioned how you cannot teach kindness.

“They understand that at the end of the day, this is just a game,” Lohr said. “It should be fun, it should be that you have measurable goals but this is nothing to cry about or be stressed about, this is fun time.”

Lohr emphasized that she did not want players coming because of the new program. She wanted players who wanted to come to Allegheny because they want to attend the college.

“You’re going to love being here plus you get to play high-caliber field hockey, build a winning program and be involved with all of these people working to make you the best version of yourself,” Lohr said.

Lohr said she likes to emphasize academics and community involvement. She wants players who do not just go to school and play a sport but those who also care about contributing to other organizations and the community.

It should be fun, it should be that you have measurable goals but this is nothing to cry about or be stressed about, this is fun time.

— Valerie Lohr, head women's field hockey coach

“In terms of talent, we’re looking for top talent,” Lohr said. “We want the girls that have been trained and have those wonderful basics and that higher skill level plus work ethic. They have to want to work.”

Coaches here believe that by bringing students to Allegheny on tours, that one-on-one interaction will be very influential, according to Panzetta.

“For me, and I think for most of the coaches here, the big thing is when we identify a recruit, we’re trying to get them on campus,” Panzetta said. “We feel if we can get them on campus to show them what Allegheny can do for them, show them the facilities, get to interact with them on a one-on-one basis, that’s going to be a big thing in the process.”

As for numbers, it differs for every sport on exactly what the coaches need to build a functioning team.

Pearce seeks to bring 20 to 25 lacrosse recruits for the team’s first season so it can practice functionally.

“It’s hard to just practice when you have enough for a lineup for a game but nobody to practice against,” Pearce said. “We think that gives us some room to bring in future recruiting classes before that first group graduates but also have enough guys to practice functionally.”

Groff hopes to bring in three to four men and women golfers every year, and he described the model he has been using for more 20 years here to determine great recruits.

“Obviously the talent-wise men golfers that are in the lower to mid-70’s; women golfers we’re looking for women that are the high 70’s and low 80’s,” Groff said. “That’s kind of the standard that we use to build off of.”

Curtiss will be looking for pitching, catching and utilities next year. She said the team is always looking for utilities and will be looking for players who can hit the ball. She also talked about how much she loves working at Allegheny and credits the tremendous group of women she gets to coach for her position.

Lohr hopes to bring in more attackers, defenders and possibly one more goalie. She will still keep her prerequisites of manners, class, hard work and academic strength.

All in all, the coaches expressed gratitude to have their jobs and be able to enjoy their work.

“Coming straight out of college and having a coaching job is really exciting,” Maclean said. “I’m excited to start a new program and just see where this takes me in my career and see where it takes our program.”  

Lohr is more than thankful for the support from administrators, students and the entire Allegheny community.

“We are just so grateful and thankful to the athletic department and to the president, vice president and the board of trustees for believing in our vision and for helping us achieve this amazing program and the opportunity to show everybody what we can do,” Lohr said.