Athletic showcases are a traditional part of the fall sports season here at Bridgton. As we can probably all attest, the COVID-19 pandemic is great at is throwing a wrench into the best-laid plans, as was the case for our Wolverine football and baseball teams, who traditionally host fall college showcases for their respective players. That said, Coach Izaryk and Coach Marcella both found ways to make the best of the situation, creating new formats for their players to be seen this fall by collegiate recruiters.
Early in the season, Coach Marcella learned that our football team would be unable to travel to our normal showcase hosting site in Marlboro, Massachusetts; however, he remained committed to providing a showcase event that coaches could attend both virtually or in person. He was delighted to land at the Seacoast Athletic Complex in Epping, NH. “It was like replacing Drew Bledsoe with Tom Brady,” Marcella shared. “The facility was perfect for what we needed, with both indoor and outdoor practice space and an outdoor pavilion for our college fair. With the D-1 schools mired in an ever expanding dead period for recruiting, the number of visiting schools represented did shrink a bit, but our young men were outstanding nonetheless. They performed each drill, group, and team activity with precision and great energy! All of the coaches in attendance were excited to see some live football and a chance to observe potential recruits in action.”
Coach Izaryk decided to pursue a virtual-only fall showcase for his baseball players during the second week of November. Izaryk hosted two virtual sessions, one for hitters and one for pitchers. The addition of the new Rapsodo data collection software, an improvement made possible by the generous philanthropic support of several Academy donors, also provided new technology to help illustrate player growth during the showcase. “We have been extremely fortunate in recent years, receiving significant donations to support our program,” Izaryk shares. “The Rapsodo software has been amazing. It tracks various baseball-specific metrics such as exit velocity and launch angle of a batted ball, the spin rate of a pitched ball, spin direction, and many other data points. By utilizing Rapsodo and displaying the data in our video stream, college coaches could use the metrics to effectively evaluate our players remotely. In the past, the most common data shared was a radar gun reading of a thrown or batted ball. The feedback from college coaches was overwhelmingly positive, and we will certainly plan to do these types of showcases again moving forward. Our players were able to get in front of over 150 coaches at the end of our fall season, a time when many coaches are looking for the final pieces of their respective recruiting classes.”
Both coaches shared the sentiment that while the pandemic has forced them to make significant changes to program and planning, it has also brought about new strategies and ideas that may be beneficial in the future as well. “The Covid-19 pandemic has forced changes in the way we live, work, and play,” shares coach Izaryk. “Many of these adjustments have been invasive, unpleasant, and disruptive, however, there are some things that we have learned from and will build upon.”