COVID-19 affects student-athletes now and in the future

Rio runner trains with college in mind

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Rio Americano High School varsity track and cross country athlete Ross Gowan has been working for years toward a spot on a Division I collegiate team. But now, as COVID-19 has closed schools and ended the track season, the senior has lost his final season to catch the eye of recruiters.

“I’ve been training very hard for months so that I can run college level times and I am definitely in shape, too,” Gowan said. “But now I can’t race to get those times, and it is very frustrating.”

Many concerns revolve around the economy, potential loss of jobs and cancelation of schools, but there are other significant effects on student-athletes.

The spring sports season has roiled by uncertainty, as most students cannot compete as long as school is closed. The National Collegiate Athletic Association has canceled all events, including the profitable March Madness basketball tournaments.

Future NCAA athletes have experienced severe consequences with the NCAA having put in place a recruiting dead period until at least April 15.

While telephone calls and written contact are allowed during this dead period, no unofficial or official visits can take place, in-person recruiting is banned and all National Letter of Intent signings have been postponed until April 15 or later.

For seniors, official visits and signing days often happen in the spring. For certain sports, timing is also a critical part of training.

“I’ve changed up my training so that I can still run well in a couple months,” Gowan said. “I know there are a lot of other people in a similar situation as me, so I’m staying hopeful that there will be competitions held in the next few months.”

Luckily, Gowan got into his top school, Cal Poly, academically. Although this doesn’t take away from the frustration as he tries to earn a spot on their men’s roster, he is hoping he can walk-on once he is enrolled if there are no more races.

While this was Gowan’s last season, many juniors face similar struggles, as the recruiting process often begins long before senior year.

Unofficial visits and recruitment camps for juniors have also been postponed. The NCAA says it took such precautions for the health of all staff and recruits, despite the challenges it creates for student-athletes and coaches.

In sports where coaches cannot simply look at times, in-person recruitment is an important part of the process that has come to a halt.

For soccer, it is common to attend ID Camps in which coaches can watch you play in real life without traveling to hundreds of high school or club games.

“I was super excited to go to the UC Irvine soccer ID camp because that is my top school but it was canceled due to COVID-19,” junior Sammy Merri said. “That makes me think I won’t have as many opportunities to show off my skill to get a scholarship.”

Spring tournaments also offered recruitment opportunities for baseball, softball and club water polo.

Junior Gianna Nocetti plays water polo and is actively searching for a college to challenge her academically and athletically as she has in high school.

“One of the biggest tournaments to be scouted by college and national team coaches was postponed and is most likely going to be canceled due to the coronavirus,” Nocetti said. “I was planning to go on multiple recruiting trips in the upcoming weeks but those have been cancelled.”

The NCAA’s decision to freeze recruiting forces Nocetti to improvise in order to stay in touch with coaches and continue to demonstrate her interest. She has reached out via email and phone to maintain a relationship with recruiting coordinators as well as coaches.

“I have started making highlight videos to send to college coaches because they will not be able to watch me play as much as I had been hoping,” Nocetti said. “Unlike individual sports, I can’t simply send coaches my times so it is going to be a detriment to my ability to be seen by more colleges.”

Many student athletes express hope that coaches will be understanding in this situation since the international outbreak creates new obstacles in many aspects of life.

The fear of losing years of hard work and commitment to their sport has encouraged these prospective student-athletes to take extra steps to save their chances of competing in college and continue doing what they love.