Athletes’, coaches’ recruiting difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic

May 21, 2020

In the midst of a global pandemic, the COVID-19 outbreak has affected the futures of potential student athletes, especially within college recruiting for student athletes and coaches alike.

“To our fellow student-athletes and everyone else in this country, thank you for making an enormous sacrifice. Your sacrifice is not in vain; it protects millions of people around the world, including our family, friends and loved ones,” a letter to NCAA Student-Athletes from members of the NCAA Student-Athlete Advisory board wrote, “Our collective sacrifices can save countless lives. We see you. We appreciate you. We are you. You matter.”

Spring and summer months are crucial for athletes and coaches, where athletes showcase their athleticism and colleges host visits and camps.

“A negative is not being able to compete my junior year, being such an important part of the process, in order to show my improvement,” junior Mckenna Cinotte said, “Especially as a spring sport athlete, coaches are not able to look at this year’s performance and base their recruiting off of it. It’s giving recruits and colleges more time to talk about the school and build a connection, which is very important in the recruiting process.”

On May 13, The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)  lengthened their recruiting ban on all in-person recruiting activities through June 30, which extends the dead-period by almost a month. For many athletes, the extension of the dead-period decreases their chances of connecting with coaches and touring campuses and training facilities.

“I did have plans to visit several colleges over spring break. Besides just messaging these coaches and possibly being on calls with them, there isn’t much I can do,” junior Jack Mielke said, “I have kinda reached a consensus with the coaches that we will just have to see how this all pans out, then possibly rekindle plans for visits from there.”

While on-campus visiting, the NCAA is still approving and encourages athletes and coaches to communicate using phone calls, text messages, and emails.

“However, I believe that this puts more pressures on student-athletes  to do research on colleges they are interested in and that they need to reach out to coaches. I don’t believe any athlete is going to suffer from this if they put in the work and are truly motivated to find their next home,” North Central College women’s soccer coach Andrew Gamarra said, “Every college and program want to be able to show what they have to offer and how they can benefit from attending their school. The issue is we lose that Wow factor and showing someone online is much different than seeing in person.”

While sports events and seasons were canceled, athletes can now use their free time to research athletic programs and contact potential coaches.

“This is hard to say every student is in a different circumstance. However, I believe that this puts more pressures on student-athletes to do research on colleges they are interested in and that they need to reach out to coaches,” Gamarra said, “I don’t believe any athlete is going to suffer from this if they put in the work and are truly motivated to find their next home.

On March 30, the NCAA announced their decision to grant current college senior athletes another year of eligibility for the 2020-21 school year, which can potentially affect future athletic rosters.

“I agree with the NCAA ruling on extending the eligibility of players.   While there will be issues to be worked out (roster size, for those offering athletic scholarships – where does the money come from) it was the correct thing to do,” North Central College men’s baseball coach Edward Mathey said, “This will not only be a one year impact, as all players on this spring rosters will be granted an extra year. However, the timing of this doesn’t leave enough time for this year’s seniors to have been planned for.”

High school athletes within spring sports and those who have signed national letters of intent with college programs could potentially find themselves in a different situation then initially intended.

The biggest challenge for me is not knowing what I am training for exactly. When track or cross country is in season, we had goals to aim for,” senior Isaac Wagreich said, “now I am just finishing off the season with my high school coach, and then we will be heading into summer training not knowing if we will even have a fall season.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns regarding the virus, the current status of fall sport participation has been left uncertain.

“As I type this on May 17th, we are still planning to have a fall cross country season.

We’ve discussed a number of possibilities like smaller meets, delayed starts, etc., but nothing has been decided yet,” Elmhurst college men’s cross country head coach Jordan Bartolazzi said, “We are very hopeful and optimistic that we’ll be able to compete this fall.”

As various areas in the United States have seen gradual openings, the question of how will sports return has surfaced. In response to the questions, The NCAA’s COVID-19 Advisory Panel organized nine principles to help guide institutions.

“It is also important to take into consideration that there will not be a quick, single day of re-emergence into society,” NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline said in regard to ‘Resocialization in Sport’, “We will re-emerge in a manner that recognizes COVID-19 will be around until there is an effective vaccine, treatment or both. That is why resocialization should be rolled out in a phased way that helps assure sustained low infection spread, as well as aids in the ability to quickly diagnose and isolate new cases.”

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