By Scarlett Beard ’22
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, athletes all over the world are readjusting their sports schedules. Unable to play with their teams and bring their skills to the next level, many lack a vision for their futures as student-athletes.
For one demographic, even more challenges persist. The Class of 2021 is struggling to adjust to an interrupted recruitment season during the most critical time in their high school athletic career. Usually, at this time, Class of 2021 student-athletes would be visiting campuses and facilities, narrowing their college lists, and even committing to universities across the country.
COVID-19, however, complicated those plans. Since schools have been shut down, there has been a “dead period” during which students cannot have face-to-face contact with recruiters. The relationship building is completely different in the recruiting process, as it is now done entirely over the phone and the Internet.
The new process has created numerous challenges. Coaches can’t watch student-athletes play live, so their opinions must be based on their performance reel alone. For example, someone could have a majority of bad hits, simply capture one incredible one, and forward the anomaly along to recruiters. This makes it challenging for talented and determined athletes to compete authentically in this important process.
The rising senior class would typically be ready for a final commitment to a school. However, since the “dead period” is being extended, a boundary shift has emerged between coaches and interested student-athletes. For athletes that do not have games or meets due to the pandemic, college coaches cannot see them play.
Athletes who play sports in the fall and winter seasons, such as basketball, volleyball, soccer, tennis, cross country, track, football, have already completed their seasons or seen them pushed back. This setback has been disheartening for student-athletes. In an effort to persevere, athletes are instead communicating with coaches over Zoom. They are also learning more about colleges through virtual tours and online research as opposed to visiting schools.
“Everything is by email which is not as straightforward as talking to coaches in person which makes it difficult,” Sam Genatt ’21, a lacrosse player at Poly Prep Country Day explained. It is a challenge for many students to organize and participate in online events rather than undergoing the traditional process.
Student-athletes are shifting their attention to raising SAT or ACT scores, as test scores may end up counting for more than they have in previous years. For sports that still have a season, such as baseball, tournaments are starting to occur in certain states that allow it. For baseball and softball, players may be allowed to play in places that have opened up, such as places in the south.
Only D3 schools permitted to travel can come to these games because the D1 “dead period” is still in place. There are also no camps this summer, which is a great disappointment to athletes. During these camps, athletes get to meet and play for college coaches while exploring the campuses. Without these important camps, students don’t have the opportunity to see the school atmosphere or impress coaches in person.
It is unclear what the result of the pandemic will be for these seniors, as the rules have been adjusted, and both students and coaches are left to find a solution and move forward.