Tasked with building a first-year program from scratch, Shenandoah University wrestling coach Tim McGuire has seen that challenge evolve in the wake of the response to COVID-19.
In response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has prompted a nationwide halt to sports across all levels, SU announced on Friday that it was canceling the rest of its spring sports season. Peripheral athletic activities, like in-person recruiting trips and on-campus visits by recruits, have also been put on hold by school officials.
That means McGuire has had to adjust as he works to build the Hornets’ first roster, which will begin official competition when school reconvenes later this year. He’s approaching the current state of affairs, he said on Monday, as a chance to turn a negative situation into a positive one.
“I think this is a time where we need to be a little more creative and select with our approach, but adversity, complicated, uncomfortable, these are situations where we can really shine and separate ourselves from the competition,” McGuire said on Monday. “I’m really looking to take advantage of this. It’s going really well with this group. I go for walks and kind of do virtual tours and talk about the city and show them around there. I can still show them the lake and kind of how beautiful spring is around here, so it’s a lot of just talk in a different way, get real personal, talk about each other’s families, about what’s going on, really try to make a deeper connect.
"And so once you’re done making that deeper connect, then I can be a little more direct and honest about what exactly what we’re gonna be doing with this program and the type of guys that I want, so it really allows me, I think, to stay focused and try to overcome these adversities to use it as advantage, basically.”
McGuire, who landed his first official signee last month, said on Monday he has 11 verbal commitments and 15-20 other wrestlers that consider Shenandoah their “No. 1 choice.” McGuire echoed a statement he made a month ago when he said confidently that the Hornets would compete with a full roster for the 2020-21 season.
Though recent responses to COVID-19 have eliminated in-person interaction with incoming student-athletes, McGuire said Shenandoah’s wrestling recruits — who have grown accustomed to using technological resources like FloWrestling and TrackWrestling — are equipped to use social media as a source of chemistry building.
McGuire had hoped his newly formed Shenandoah Regional Training Center, a place where top-ranked high school wrestlers can train in Olympic-style practices, would serve as a place where future Hornets could acclimate themselves to their future coach and teammates.
“That whole regional training center right now has been put on hold and we haven’t actually been able to hold a practice. That had got a lot of excitement in the community, a lot of excitement from VAWA, the Virginia Wrestling Association, and stuff,” said McGuire, who noted that Shenandoah’s chemistry building could be slowed if the Hornets have to wait until the fall semester to meet their new team.
McGuire, who has yet to fill out his coaching staff, added that he missed out on a prime chance for social networking with fellow coaches when the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships were canceled.
Asked if he was worried about the potential long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Shenandoah’s wrestling program, McGuire replied, “Trying to build something and trying to build something well, I get worried about everything. So I’m definitely worried about it. There’s always gonna be the budget thing. In every industry across the board, every school is gonna have to deal with different budget things and what’s gonna happen with that. That’s always gonna be a concern, not just mine, for everyone in every department.”
McGuire added that there is always the concern of the unknown surrounding the length of the pandemic.
“I don’t know how long this is going to last,” he said. “I have no idea what the future is going to look like or feel like, but we’re trying to prepare and put ourselves in the best situation to handle whatever happens.”