Nick Charlton (left) addresses the University of Maine football team after a 2019 practice as Kayon Whitaker looks on. The coach is one of several at UMaine who has adjusted to a different summer routine with fall sports canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: Ronnie Gillis | UMaine athletics

University of Maine women’s soccer coach Scott Atherley has put over 1,000 miles on his bicycle this summer after not having ridden it for 25 years.

He has also had a lot of time to catch up on his reading and refining his coaching model.

It has been a different type of summer for the University of Maine’s fall sports coaches, who have had their seasons pushed back until spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic and have had to recruit from home because the NCAA banned in-person recruiting on March 13.

That ban will last through at least Aug. 31.

For head football coach Nick Charlton, Atherley and field hockey coach Josette Babineau, their summer routines have been dramatically changed.

“Certainly one of the biggest changes has been our inability to go off campus and recruit,” said Atherley. “Our summers had been largely about going to events and evaluating players.”

All recruiting has been done via Zoom or other virtual methods.

That has meant no travel, which has actually helped all institutions save money.

“Instead, we watched a showcase in Sweden online,” Atherley said. “It has been a game-changer, but it has been a game-changer for everyone. No school gains an advantage. This is an opportunity to get creative with technology to maximize what we can do given the current rules.”

For Babineau, July typically involves a lot of travel and recruiting in Canada. Even if the fall season wasn’t canceled, she would have been unable to go to Canada because the country closed the borders to the United States.

There were seven Canadians on her roster last season and there are four this season.

“In August, we always have our summer camps. We have around 200 girls attend and that’s quite a bit of work,” said Babineau, whose camps were canceled by the coronavirus. “We also prepare for the fall season by making sure the travel plans were done and we had all the hotels booked.”

But Babineau and assistant Michelle Simpson have been busy taking steps to try to ensure the health and safety of players.

“We have been thinking about each of their situations and what is best for them and their future,” Babineau said.

That includes their eligibility because if there isn’t a spring season, they would each retain a year of eligibility.

“This is so much more demanding right now. It’s a stressful thing. We’re putting in a lot of time planning for things that may not happen,” she said.

She said Zoom recruiting has gone “very well” and she has found the calls to be a “lot deeper and more meaningful” than most of the in-person conversations. The parents can also be involved in the Zoom calls.

A lot of the recruits have been willing to make their decisions based on the Zoom calls.

“They don’t want to delay their decision and miss out on an opportunity,” she said.

One thing Babineau will miss out on is spending time at her parents’ cottage in New Brunswick, since she would have to quarantine for 14 days.

“We’ll see what happens moving forward. Maybe I’ll be able to spend more time with them in December,” she said.

Charlton would normally be in the second week of preseason training camp instead of having his players work out in small groups as mandated by the COVID-19 protocols.

Like Atherley and Babineau, there has been plenty of Zoom recruiting and virtual school tours for Charlton, and he said that is a plus for him because he has a young staff with a lot of technological knowledge.

He said they have also compiled a video folder of recruits doing drills, not just playing games. That will be helpful because “a lot of student-athletes aren’t going to have seasons this fall.”

And they have been doing everything they can to retain their roster because, with all the uncertainty, players might be tempted to transfer.

But men’s and women’s cross country coach Mark Lech said his summers are usually “low-key” so there hasn’t been a major alteration for him.

Lech coaches the men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track teams in addition to cross country, so he is busy from August through May.

“When you’re coaching all year long, you need a break at some point in time. Even the best Kenyan runners take time off after their season,” Lech said.

He pointed out that since distance running is such a “fitness-driven sport”, his runners know “if they don’t do the work [in the off-season], they’re not going to be good during the season. We don’t have to twist their arms to do what they need to do.”

He has been communicating via Zoom with other cross country coaches in America East due to the potential problem created by having cross country and outdoor track in the same spring season.

A number of contingency plans have been discussed, he said.

One of the positives from the different summer regimens is that the coaches have been able to spend more quality time with their families.

“The silver lining is I’ve had a great opportunity to connect with my family,” said Atherley, who has a wife, Lynn, and daughters Teagan and Kyelin. “Normally, I don’t have that time during the year. We’ve done a lot of things together and I’ve even had a chance to exercise with my wife. And we’ve all been able to have dinners together.”