By Tianna Johnson
High school athletes are struggling to find their fit to play at the next level.
“As a coach, it has been a tough year to see how hard my athletes work while witnessing their struggles to get seen in hopes to continue their soccer careers due to the pandemic,” said Mike Friendt, head coach of North Metro Girls u18 team.
With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the world, one thing that has drastically changed is the recruiting process for collegiate athletics, specifically soccer players.
The NCAA announced at the beginning of the pandemic they were implementing a ‘dead period.’ This is a time when there are no visits, scouting, camps, or evaluation of prospects.
As the pandemic continues to be an issue, the dead period continues to get extended, leaving future prospects working against the clock.
Traditionally, in the recruiting world of collegiate soccer, coaches are able to see future prospects at camps hosted by the school or at the prospect’s games. This would happen during the prospect’s junior and/or senior year of high school.
When a college coach becomes impressed by a player’s abilities on the field, they will then continue their interest over phone calls, emails, and texts. The communication and interest lead to the coach having the player come to campus so they can show the player what the school has to offer and have them meet the team.
Schools around the country have faced major budget cuts due to the lack of competition and other COVID-19 related changes.
Due to the “COVID year” collegiate institutions have been left with less scholarship money available to give to the athletes currently in the NCAA, which results in an additional year of competition available to the collegiate athletes that had one of their eligibility seasons canceled or drastically altered due to the pandemic.
In cases where the athlete is on a scholarship and chooses to accept the extra fifth year, the athletic program will sponsor the athlete with money that would traditionally go to an incoming freshman. This impacts the incoming recruiting prospects because it leaves less money and scholarships available than in a traditional year.
The head coach of the Purdue University Fort Wayne soccer team, Jason Burr, mentioned that typically coaches only anticipate a player staying for four years and allocate money as if that’s the case.
High-school senior and soccer player Bella Grandbois was planning to attend California Baptist University, but she said that due to the “COVID year” the program offered one of their seniors money for the extra year that would have potentially gone to her.
“I had always known the recruiting process would be challenging but never expected it to be the way it is now,” she said.
Bella’s teammate, Sydney Johnson, is also facing challenges in the recruitment process this year.
“It has definitely been hard, especially because most of the scholarship money depended on how much was left due to the pandemic and not how much we deserved based on our play like it would be in a more traditional situation.”