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Southeast CC soccer coaches face recruiting challenges

Staff Writer
Syracuse Journal-Democrat

It wasn’t even two months ago when Alex Scheuler and John Hakari were hired as the new men’s and women’s soccer coaches for a brand-new soccer program starting in the fall at Southeast Community College. They knew recruiting would be a challenge since many high school seniors already made their college decisions. Then life changed drastically with COVID-19, and recruiting became even more difficult. High school soccer is one of the spring sports that was canceled because of the ongoing pandemic.

“It’s hard when I can’t see them play live, it gives you a feel for how they are as a player,” Hakari said. “Also, when you can’t meet face-to-face, it’s difficult. Text messages and emails don’t really pull weight.”

“One of the obstacles is dealing with prospective players with interest without having film,” Scheuler said. “Without film or any sort of game footage to go off of, it’s hard for me to really sign you unless your club or high school coach can vouch for you.”

Regardless of those obstacles, Scheuler has managed to sign 21 players, and he’s still trying to fill about nine more positions. One positive with everyone being at home right now, Scheuler said, is they are easily accessible.

“Everyone is looking at their phones, tablets and computers, so I will see messages and be responsive most of the time,” Scheuler said. “This really gives me time as a coach to lay down the framework and outlines for what I want the team to look like.”

Hakari has 17 student-athletes interested in joining his women’s team, and many of them have a lot of talent, he said. He said recruiting has been a roller coaster during this tumultuous time, and he has highs and lows.

“We are trying to fill a team during a global pandemic, it’s a crazy time,” he expressed. “We don’t have the numbers yet, but we do have the talent.”

When a player is interested, Hakari said they are able to take a virtual tour of the campus, with help from admissions representatives in Beatrice. In addition to calls and texts, he’s also doing a lot of video chats. Both coaches are looking forward to getting back on the field.

“We'll have to build up an insane amount of fitness after this shutdown of matches across the country, along with minimal time to gel on the field,” Scheuler said. “I am already beginning the process of laying out preseason plans. Every team at every level will have this issue with getting back to normal operations.”

Meanwhile, the construction of the soccer field is progressing nicely, said Bob Morgan, Beatrice Campus Director. The rough grading of the field is complete, and work on the fine grading is being done now.

“It is exciting to see the green space change to a great entry point to the college,” said Morgan.

The first soccer match is set for Aug. 26 at Northeast Community College in Norfolk. The first home contest will be Saturday, Aug. 29. Men’s and women’s games will be back-to-back.