The coronavirus pandemic is altering the athletic seasons of students across the state, but for high school senior athletes these changes could impact college aspirations.
The Virginia High School League announced last month all fall sports would be postponed until December to promote the health and safety of student athletes.
Billy Haun, executive director of VHSL, said the decision was made after considering the changing information of the pandemic and the responses from athletes and parents.
The delay can cause an issue for athletes hoping to attend college for their sport.
“It has an impact, but not as big an impact as you might think,” said Kris Sears, sports information director for William & Mary. “Really the whole of everything that’s happened since March with the coronavirus has certainly had an impact when it comes to recruiting for coaches.”
Sears said a significant amount of college recruitment for fall sports happens over the summer. But since March, the NCAA has suspended all in-person recruiting efforts through Aug. 31.
The NCAA conducted a study of more than 600 college athletic coaches that showed 52 percent believed the pandemic is delaying their recruitment efforts for the class of 2021. The study also showed 51 percent of coaches believe the pandemic will have an impact on recruiting athletes for future years.
As a result, the way college athletics recruiting happens will be different moving forward.
Sears said coaches at William & Mary have already altered their recruitment methods since in-person activities are limited. Many of them are using video conferencing platforms and social media communication to connect with student athletes across the country.
“The benefit of the day we live in now is that everything is on video,” Sears said. “If you go on social media, I think any kind of potential student athlete that’s being recruited will have their films on their pages.”
Part of the issue is that many of these student athletes are depending on athletic scholarships to attend college. According to data from the NCAA, the average athletic scholarship is approximately $18,000. The amount of these scholarships depends on the division, sport and athlete.
Sears said each athletic program at W&M has a set number of scholarships allowed under NCAA rules. Those scholarships from year to year are based on what students are returning to the program, transferring or coming.
William & Mary had to cancel a number of fall sports in July, including football, because of the pandemic. But the college will honor scholarships for students who had already signed a national letter of intent or specific scholarship papers, Sears said.
Kyle Neve, athletic director at Lafayette High School, said the changes to athletic seasons will have less of an impact on students looking to attend division one schools, such as Virginia Tech. That’s because many of those “high level” athletes started the recruitment process long before their senior year and many have already made commitments to schools.
The greatest impact will be for students looking to play at division one and division two schools because without the seasons, they might have less footage of their playing to send to recruiters.
Neve said another impact is that more students will turn to club sports, many of which are still continuing. Even prior to the pandemic, recruiters would attend club sporting events more often because it allows them to look at athletes from all over a region at one time, as opposed to at just one or two schools.
But now that the options for high school athletics have been limited, Neve expects more students to look at club sports more than their high school teams.
There are some benefits to the delay in sports season.
For example, Neve said many high level athletes would graduate from high school early and start college because many college coaches want to get them into training as soon as possible. Those students might remain in high school longer with the delay in athletics and be able to participate in activities.
The delay also gives students’ bodies a break. Many high school athletes are challenging their bodies from season to season but this delay in athletic events might give them more time to recover.
But the delay causes even more disappointment for student athletes and Neve said the greatest loss is the students’ experiences.
“This whole deal for high school sports is just sad for the kids,” he said. “You just want the kids to have their full experience and they’re not going to get that. I’ve been involved in high school sports my whole life and there’s nothing like it.”
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