For sports in the year 2020, almost nothing has been normal. Prep athletes around the country have seen their seasons delayed and even in some cases canceled entirely. But the ripple effect of these delayed and canceled seasons is more profound than just the practices or games themselves. For many prep athletes here in Coronado, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected many chances of being recruited to play sports at the collegiate level. With fall and winter sports still on the back burner, many Coronado High School (CHS) athletes have had to rely on their networking, past years’ films, and creative thinking to continue getting in front of college coaches.
“When we had our first lockdown, I mean, you really couldn’t do anything. You couldn’t play tournaments or practice. It made getting seen by colleges so much more difficult.” said senior golfer Tucker Gilmore. Gilmore also noted that even golf, an already socially distanced sport, took time to return to normal and that staying connected and in front of college coaches became even more difficult than it already was.
Some students started looking beyond state lines for opportunities to play and compete in their respective sports. Senior Baseball player Brady Roulier talked about how he considered changing schools saying, “When all the restrictions on sports came down this fall, I did have some consideration of heading out of state so that I could have a season elsewhere. But ultimately, I decided to end up staying here. I have a showcase coming up this weekend with schools I’m hoping to get looks from. But that will be my first opportunity to get in front of any college coaches since last season.”
Gilmore also talked about how he has traveled out of state, but in this case, to play in tournaments to get in front of college coaches, since many California prep golf tournaments have been canceled. ”With the pandemic and strict restrictions here in California I started looking at tournaments I could play independently out of state in places like Arizona, cause I knew that those tournaments would be my best opportunities to get in front of coaches right now,” said Gilmore.
For so many of the collegiate hopeful seniors at CHS, networking with college coaches has been vital over the last eight months. Roulier talked about the importance of staying connected, saying, “It’s key to make sure you stay in touch with coaches. You realize now how important your current high school coach can be in helping you get an opportunity at the next level. And for me, I’ve been making sure that I get as much film out to college coaches as I can.”
Shannon Hanlon, a current Senior and Rower at CHS, also echoed how important staying in touch and networking with college coaches has been, saying, “All our races have been canceled unfortunately due to COVID, and it has definitely not been a normal season for us. My coaches have done a great job of making the best of it and keeping us safe. Because of this, staying in contact with interested universities has become even more important than ever.”
Another critical aspect of the recruiting process that COVID-19 has hindered is crucial official visits. For those who may be unfamiliar, an official visit to a University is defined by the NCAA as “Any visit to a college campus in which the school finances any part is considered an official visit. Coaches usually save invitations for their recruits, and getting asked is a huge step on your recruiting journey.” As it stands, NCAA Division I schools have suspended all in person official visits through April 15, 2021. However, all NCAA Division II schools have resumed regular recruiting regulations.
Hanlon, who was fortunate to take some official’s visits before the COVID-19 outbreak back in February, talked about the struggles of not being able to visit and tour the universities that have shown interest. “Fortunately, I was invited to visit some universities in February. I didn’t get the opportunity to take any this fall since the NCAA has suspended any in-person contact between coaches and athletes until spring 2021 due to COVID-19. However, I’ve found it really hard to make a decision when I haven’t taken an official [visti] at all the universities I am looking at. College coaches have been great with coordinating Zoom calls between girls on the team, coaches, and recruits.”
Gilmore also talked about his inability to take visits saying, “For me, I’ve been talking with Cal Poly and UC Irvine and I was hoping to meet with the coaches there. But with no in-person visits allowed it wasn’t something that I was able to do. It just makes the decision that much more difficult with no school run visits right now.”
2020 has provided many prep athletes with challenges that few have had to face, and the recruitment process is not an exception. Yet despite all the challenges in their way, many CHS athletes like Gilmore, Hanlon, and Roulier have continued to be creative and continued to push to play at the next level in sports.