Staying at home has had its bright spots for Alex Golesh, who was hired in January to be the UCF Knights’ co-offensive coordinator and tight ends coach.
Foremost, he gets to be around his two young children far more often. Whereas he would have previously been out of the house before his daughter, Corbin, and son, Barrett, began their day, he is now able to be involved in their morning routines, which he calls “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
After coaching for four seasons at Iowa State, Golesh was able to get his two kids and his wife, Alexis, settled in Central Florida before the nation basically shut down due to the coronavirus. That’s another part of his current situation where he feels fortunate.
“I get probably one call or text a day: ‘Man, is that better to be quarantined in Orlando than it was in Ames, Iowa?’ And the obvious answer is yes,” he said.
But there is plenty that Golesh longs for right now. He misses that in-person connection that’s necessary to build an authentic relationship with UCF’s players, whom he was around for just a handful of practices before the spring sports calendar was shelved. He misses the banter between coaches inside UCF’s headquarters. He misses walking around and showcasing UCF’s campus to a recruit.
Those interactions haven’t disappeared; they are still a part of Golesh’s every-day schedule. They have just gone virtual.
⚔️ NEW PODCAST ⚔️— Black & Gold Banneret (@UCF_Banneret) May 14, 2020
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Golesh’s normal work day inside his home office begins with writing letters to recruits at around 7 a.m.
By 8 a.m., he is in a staff meeting with other UCF coaches.
At 9 a.m., he sees the faces of some players on his screen. Everyone’s eyes light up at the sight of one another as if they are back inside Nicholson Fieldhouse. It’s in these moments, as Golesh watches the Knights converse, joke and laugh before settling in for the day’s lesson, that he realizes what he enjoys so deeply about coaching.
“I think we all realize the part that we love about this is the day-to-day with our players and the camaraderie with the coaches,” he said. “I think when you get that taken away from you, I think it makes you love it even more.
“That’s how you know the culture is strong in the program, because the kids actually like being around each other. The coaches like being around each other. That’s the part you miss.”
Division I teams are allowed to have up to eight hours per week of virtual contact with their players. These hours are symbiotic in this specific case: Golesh, who has been on the job for just five months, gets to nurture his budding relationship with each player, and the players can earn a greater understanding of UCF’s scheme and what is expected out of them.
Golesh said the fact that the Knights have so many returners on offense — the starting quarterback, three of their top four rushers and four of their top five receivers — makes his job a little easier. That group already has a firm grasp on what they need to do inside of UCF’s scheme and can show it on the field.
It’s the inexperienced Knights, the transfers, the college newcomers who are behind right now. Golesh is focused on making sure those players are learning as much as possible right now about UCF’s system.
But no Zoom meeting can properly replicate the work that must be done out on the field. With so much spring evaluation time wiped out by COVID-19, Golesh says that will underscore the importance of the Knights’ preseason camp, whenever that occurs. Only then will he and the rest of the coaching staff be able to clearly identify who is ready to play and who is not.
“It’s going to be a really interesting mix of how fall camp is going to have to be handled in terms of you’ve got to be really smart with these guys to prevent injuries, depending on how much time you have with them leading up to that,” he said. “But at the same time, you’ve got to strap it on and go a little bit to figure out, when adversity hits, who’s going to respond.”
Those player meetings wrap up by 10:30 a.m., at which point Golesh shifts into planning mode, “whether it’s been working on our own installation, our plan for fall camp, our plan for staff responsibilities, our plan for how we want to attack the summer when we get back,” he said. “Some sort of football, leading you up to the afternoon.”
His day might be broken up here by some P.E. with Corbin and Barrett or just sitting down to have lunch with them, which Golesh says is “really, really awesome.”
The remainder of the work day is devoted to perhaps Golesh’s greatest strength in college football: recruiting.
He was the recruiting coordinator at Iowa State, Illinois and Toledo, and there is no doubt he has a big hand in assembling UCF football’s classes for 2021 and beyond.
These afternoon hours include calls to or from possible future Knights, their high school or JUCO coaches and any family members or mentors who might be influential in the player’s decision.
“I’ve done more FaceTimes with parents than I ever have before,” Golesh said.
Connecting with recruits in this manner has been “interesting,” Golesh said coyly. It’s not the simplest way to show them everything that UCF’s campus has to offer. Trying to get each player in touch with all of the people who will be instrumental in their college football experience — academic advisors, strength staff, nutritionists, etc. — isn’t always a cinch either when everything is done remotely.
But what matters to Golesh is having that time to develop a relationship with any prospect. He said that is the most important factor toward being a successful recruiter.
“These young people are looking for somebody that’s going to have their back and take care of them,” he said. “I think I’ve always felt like if you can evaluate and narrow down exactly what you’re looking for, then go develop a genuine relationship.”
Alex Golesh has had a big role in recruiting at most everywhere he's been, from Toledo to Illinois to Iowa State.— Brian Murphy (@Spokes_Murphy) February 26, 2020
So what makes him a good recruiter? In short: honest communication and a relentless work ethic. #UCF pic.twitter.com/TLtIzYWDnH
With all in-person recruiting visits banned through June, Golesh will lean on his bond-building skills to land the kids that are right for UCF.
The Knights received a verbal commitment from cornerback Ronnie Hamrick II last week and remain in the running for some highly regarded players. More high schoolers will commit in the following weeks and months, and with so little currently going on in the sports world, there are more eyes following those decisions now than possibly ever.
Golesh is aware of this change in the landscape, but his end goal isn’t to make the most recruiting noise in May or June. None of that matters if those recruits don’t keep their word through Signing Day in December or February.
“We’ve got some really, really big needs at certain spots, and we’re in it with a lot of high-end players,” he said. “It’s just hanging on and working your tail off to get those guys before you ever say, ‘Man, we’ve got to fill up at a spot.’
“I guess I don’t really care when it happens as long as, on Signing Day, it’s the right guys that can come in and be a huge impact here.”
Proverbs 3:5,6— Ronnie Hamrick II (@rhamrick25) May 6, 2020
Golesh pulls away from his desk by 6:30 p.m., but that doesn’t mean he goes dark; he might have some more conversations with recruits into the evening before relishing the remainder of the night with his family, resting up and doing it all over again tomorrow.
There is a lot that UCF’s coaches and players want to do right now that they just can’t. But Golesh believes what is being accomplished right now will play a significant role once teams are allowed to reunite and the games begin.
“I think this period will really show what the culture of your program is around college football,” he said. “Are these [players] really going to hold each other accountable? Are staffs really working towards what they need to be working to? I think it will be a fascinating season in that regard.”