Game rescheduling and having to sit out because of exposure to COVID-19 are just a few ways the pandemic has affected the life of student athletes. But with the virus extending through the school year and interrupting the normal recruiting practices, the collegiate future for some athletes seems uncertain.
Arcanum High School athletic director Abbey Moore says her athletes have had to deal with the impacts first hand.
While athletes still play in Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) leagues and other travel leagues during the spring and summer months, there is still a limited number of fans allowed, meaning college coaches may not be in attendance.
However, Moore said that hasn’t been as much of a problem as anticipated.
“A lot of the AAU [basketball] tournaments broadcast the games virtually, allowing coaches to watch. Personally, I attended some of these games and college coaches were there. It all depended on where you went and how you did.”
This allows college scouts to potentially be able to recruit more athletes by watching multiple games remotely rather than focusing on only one game in person.
Moore, also the varsity women’s basketball coach, highlighted one of her players, junior shooting guard Madelyn Fearon, who is currently being scouted.
Fearon is playing up to her best potential this season. For as long as she can remember, she has dreamed of playing basketball at the college level.
So far, she has received offers from Ohio Christian University and Kentucky Christian University. The junior also expressed that she is hoping to obtain an offer from Indiana Wesleyan University, a program she has had her eye on for a while.
Fearon revealed that most of the scouting actually takes place during the travel and AAU season rather than high school games. The AAU season, as she explained, is how a player gets attention by scouts. If they are hooked, scouts will appear at their high school games.
During the pandemic, Fearon has had very little face to face conversation with recruiters. This is very different for many going through the recruitment process, as athletes normally go on campus visits and get plenty of facetime with coaches and potential future teammates.
“I have only been allowed to go on one official college visit so far this year,” Fearon said. “You are not allowed to go on any during your freshman or sophomore year.”
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Fearon explained that many colleges and universities are not allowing official visits during this time, making it hard for student athletes to make important decisions about what school they would like to play for.
Miami University's women's basketball recruiter and assistant coach, Tiffany Swoffard, agreed that a lot of the recruiting process has changed since COVID-19.
In a normal year, Swoffard and many others would go to tournaments where hundreds of teams would be playing against each other. There, they would be able to not only watch the few kids they had gone in to watch, but also get to see kids play who were not on their list.
As many gyms have had a limited number of fans, Swoffard has had to “check with [her] networks [more often] to see if [she] missed any kids.”
Although many recruiters scout players at AAU tournaments, they would also visit athletes at practice. COVID-19 restrictions have prevented recruiters from stopping in to view practice.
Swafford said today's technology is a huge help during the pandemic.
“High school coaches uploaded their practice films and live streamed their games so we can still watch them,” Swoffard said.
She also stated that Zoom has been a very helpful tool in order to talk to athletes and their families. Miami University has been on a recruiting shutdown for nearly a year, meaning scouts and recruiters are not able to go to tournaments or into prospective student athletes’ homes.
Because of the recruiting shutdown, Swafford has also not been able to make home visits since last March. Home visits allow recruiters to go into athletes' homes and see who they truly are, as they get to talk to prospective student athletes' parents, grandparents, and close friends.
Right now, Swoffard says the biggest recruiting challenge is not being able to have kids on campus. Future RedHawks are not able to visit facilities and meet with coaches during the pandemic.
Moore’s Arcanum Lady Trojans, located in Arcanum, Ohio, finished their season as Section Runner-Ups.
With the high school basketball season over, Arcanum and Miami University head into a new territory: spring sports. With many sports being played outside, this gives fans and athletes a better opportunity to watch games while maintaining social distance. This is one more step on the path to getting life and sports back to normal.