Athletes Deal With Challenging Recruiting Process Amid Pandemic
The process of high school athletes being recruited to play in college may be involved to begin with, but it has been all the more challenging during the coronavirus pandemic due to virtual meetings as opposed to in-person communication between college coaches and athletes, as well as for athletes who missed all or a portion of their seasons due to the impact of the virus.
Newtown High’s football team has five athletes who have plans to play collegiately. The Nighthawks were not able to play traditional 11-on-11 football in the fall due to the sport being classified by the Connecticut Department of Public Health as high risk, but the team got to play 7-versus-7 touch football.
“Since this year has been very out of the ordinary, the already difficult recruiting process has been much more challenging to navigate for the class of 2021. With NCAA in-person recruiting restrictions and extra eligibility being granted to last year’s graduating class, these seniors have had to jump over extra hurdles to get where they are,” Newtown High School Football Coach Bobby Pattison said.
“The recruiting process was very difficult and frustrating this year because there simply are not enough spots. Many current college athletes did not use a year of eligibility. There is now a logjam of athletes competing for limited scholarships and roster spots,” Pattison added.
One of the football players, quarterback Jack Street, is planning to continue his career at Milford Academy with hopes the year helps in his recruiting process.
Street’s teammate Connor Breslin has been recruited to play football but is undecided about where he will go to school. Breslin is all too familiar with the difficulties of the recruiting process at this time.
“I’d say first and foremost it has made things extremely difficult to visit the various schools that I’ve been recruited by. Not being able to step foot on campus and talk to coaches in person was a huge drawback and limited my ability to truly get a feel for schools, their staff, and the coaches,” Breslin said.
“Things would [have] been extremely different in many ways. The opportunity that is a senior season would [have] been available and helped to get more film that interests potential recruiters. The biggest change would [have] been the ability to not only visit schools but attend games to get to know what a program was really about. Speaking with students and players alike also gives you a better idea of what the school is like academically and if it is right for you,” Breslin added.
“To be honest, I’m not sure what really could be done to help. I think that maybe extending recruiting periods would definitely help make up for the lost time but I’m not sure if any one idea could fix the problems being faced,” Breslin added.
Julia Gerace is a basketball and lacrosse player at Newtown High, and will be playing lacrosse at Catholic University of America.
“COVID affected me because I didn’t get to play as much as I wanted to and get film to coaches who I wanted to see me play. Luckily, I had gone to see some schools before the pandemic and was in touch with several colleges as the pandemic unfolded, and I worked it out in the end,” said Gerace, who missed her entire spring lacrosse season last year.
Gerace said that had things been like a typical year, she would not have felt as much pressure to make a decision.
“I would have had more time and more exposure to colleges. The pandemic made it a little more rushed because you weren’t sure if you were going to play at all during the summer,” she added.
“I honestly feel like the NCAA is doing the best they can given the circumstances. There is only so much you can do given the situation, so I think they are doing well,” Gerace said.
NHS athlete Karl Miller will compete at Nichols College.
“I play baseball, so last year I had no season at all and the NCAA didn’t really do anything to help the mass amount of athletes to my knowledge, it was my summer team that helped me get into college. COVID was definitely a setback and it didn’t help that nothing was done to help us. Student-athletes weren’t given a fair chance to show what we could do in our [respective] sport,” Miller said.
“COVID has affected my recruiting process because I didn’t have a chance to really get out there and play in front of a lot of coaches and scouts, so I had to spend a lot of time reaching out to colleges... I got pretty lucky that Nichols saw me play at one of the tournaments my team played in. It definitely made things way harder on me and a ton of other high school players, but luckily I was able to find a school I liked and will be attending next year,” Miller said.
“This past summer could have been a lot less stressful without corona because so many schools couldn’t go to showcases and tournaments that they were supposed to go to due to COVID protocol. Things would’ve been a lot different without corona for a lot of athletes, and it’s unfortunate things turned out this way,” Miller added.
Fortunately for Miller and many others, they found a way to get recognized and made their college plans.
With the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference planning to proceed with a shortened winter sports season for most sports beginning in early February, and with hopes to have a spring season this year, many more athletes will have the opportunity to showcase their skills in the coming months. Athletes in high risk sports will not or may not have the same opportunities; wrestling, and competitive dance and cheer have been canceled, and the spring sport of boys’ lacrosse could be in jeopardy even if other sports are played.