When the pandemic first hit, we were all asked to put our lives on hold. Everything took a pause: school, social outings, work, and sports. Athletes across the country were left worrying how they would be able to stay on top of their recruiting process with games, camps, and tournaments being canceled, and with the NCAA continuously extending the dead period, where coaches are not able to recruit essentially, the question remaining was how they were going to be able to showcase their talent virtually. The college recruiting process in sports is scary enough alone, but adding a pandemic, and a book of new rules left many feeling very uneasy.
“When I would talk about the recruiting process with my coaches and teammates it made me nervous, and when we found out everything was canceled and coaches were not gonna be able to see us play till who knows when that just made my nerves even worse” said Mary Murphy, a junior lacrosse player.
As the months went on and states began implementing their phases, many felt as though there was a disadvantage due to some states allowing sports to continue in person and other states still being in complete lockdown. Athletes on the East Coast were able to return to competing by the end of July while athletes in the West Coast hadn’t even seen their team in person since the pandemic began. This called for teams to travel across the country in order to play, and there still being risks to traveling, teams had to wonder to what extent they should go in order to gather film to send to coaches.
“This past summer I saw more out of state teams than I think I’ve ever seen before, which is actually weird because you’d think with the pandemic you’d only see in-state teams,” Murphy recalled her experience playing lacrosse over the summer. “ I didn’t even know they were allowed to travel in, and it was July so we were at the peak of the pandemic.”
Athletes had to find different ways to get notices and looks from coaches. Many colleges and independent events hosted “virtual camps” set up on Zoom and Google Meet. Essentially you would prop your device anywhere where you had enough space and complete various skills in drills while in the meeting. However there are many ways something like this could go wrong, a big issue being wifi connection, especially if you are outside. Another way athletes were able to showcase their talents to coaches virtually was by uploading videos compiled with various clips of their skills, either from a game or drills they set up on their own. People were forced to get creative.
Murphy was a part of one event like this: “I attended an event like this early in quarantine. It was just awkward, with the connection sometimes cutting in and out. I wouldn’t do it again.”
Another major concern for college bound athletes is the extra year of eligibility the NCAA granted to current college athletes in March of 2020. What this means is current players are granted a guaranteed extra year to play for the team, financial aid included. This is a worry for athletes that verbally committed before the extra year was granted because they were given a scholarship or roster spot with the expectation that the seniors on that team were leaving, and if some of them decide to stay, that means there are less roster spots available for that team. As for athletes who may have been in contact with a coach of a school they are interested in, it will become very competitive with limited spots. Some schools every senior has decided to stay, that means no incoming freshmen will be able to be recruited. These are very difficult decisions not only for athletes, but coaches as well.
“ Yeah it was an unfortunate discovery, but the school I was interested in already didn’t have many seniors leaving, and a few decided to stay, and I already was on the end of a very competitive list for roster spots so I wasn’t surprised when I had to ultimately start looking elsewhere,” Murphy explained. “But I feel more bad for seniors, I am a junior so I have more time but some seniors were completely cut off and not left with much time to find anything else to do.”
As we see things start to return to somewhat normal, and the NCAA continues to update it’s rules, there is hope that athletes nationwide will be able to get on top or back into the groove of their recruiting, but there are thoughts that this will affect recruiting in the future even if things do go back to normal.