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May 11, 2020

Taking Control During a Pandemic—What Prospective Athletes Can Do in Spite of the Coronavirus

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March 12, 2020, the day the NCAA cancelled March Madness, may very well go down in history as the day the sports world stood still. As the coronavirus spreads, there is tons of uncertainty around the situation, and much of society seems to be at a halt—including in-person athletic recruiting, which the NCAA has banned until at least June 30. As a former Division I athlete, I can only imagine the kind of anxiety prospective college athletes are facing as they approach the home stretch of their senior season with this added load of ambiguity attached. Luckily, high schoolers in the recruiting process still have several things they can control, even though things everywhere else seem to be spiraling. Here are a few steps high school athletes can take to help themselves out in the recruiting process, even as recruiting is at a halt.

1.)   Pandemic or not, the best thing any high school athlete looking to make it in the NCAA can do at any given time is maintain a strong academic performance—even if classes might be held online for the rest of the spring semester. Because most college athletes do not receive full rides, many coaches look for bargain athletes; that is, high school athletes who come to college with partial academic scholarships.

Here’s why: let’s say a coach is looking at two athletes who are identical skills-wise. Athlete A has a 4.0 and has secured a 50% academic scholarship for her freshman year in college, while Athlete B has a 3.0 and no academic aid. The coach will more than likely prefer to recruit Athlete A, because that coach can offer her a 50% scholarship rather than a full ride, which saves financial room on that coach’s roster. That coach can also be confident that Athlete A will adjust well to the demands of a college classroom. So to any high schoolers who are anxious about their recruiting potential moving forward, just know that you can help yourself out by maintaining strong grades and continuing to apply for as much academic aid as possible. Your GPA will be especially important as standardized testing protocols remain up in the air this spring. As a bonus, many college admissions deadlines have been pushed back to June 1st, which gives you time to polish up your submissions and really make them shine. 

2.)   Keep training! Although your current competitions might be cancelled, elite athletes can still gain fitness between now and whenever their next season begins. Go outside and do some drills. Play catch with your siblings. Try some yoga, or go for a run. The weather is lovely this time of the year and staying in a routine and working out can boost endorphins as well as aid both physical and mental health benefits. If you’re stuck inside, you can still get to work too. Fill a backpack with books or canned goods (or anything that will weigh it down) and do some squats, overhead presses, or lunges. Work hard on your core and try some balance drills. Try a bodyweight or resistance band workout. And be sure to maintain good sleep, nutrition and hydration habits as best you can. It is always easier to stay in shape than it is to get in shape, so don’t wait for the gyms to open back up to take care of your body.

3.)   If you are in consistent contact with a coach or have already signed with a team, shoot them a quick text or an email to check in. It doesn’t have to be long or particularly poignant, but a “Hey Coach! I just wanted to reach out and make sure you and the team are doing all right!” kind of message shows that you care, and coaches like athletes with character. Like most people, coaches are stressed right now, so a bit of human interaction, even from afar, will probably be a welcome shift from all the logistical messages they are receiving from their universities and the NCAA. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend reaching out to a coach for the first time until recruiting processes return to normal (several coaches have gone on the record saying they are halting recruiting efforts until further notice).

Like I said, it is a stressful time to be involved in collegiate athletics, so prospects don’t want to overdo it. Be patient—this will pass. New recruits are smart to wait to contact coaches if they aren’t too deep in the recruiting process. If you do decide to reach out, just know that coaches might not respond right away, which might be discouraging. But at the very least, athletes can always research programs or take a virtual tour of some athletic facilities during this stall.

While there are many variables out of our control right now, there are still three proactive steps that prospects can tackle to pass the time. There are choices to be made during this pandemic. As an NCAA hopeful, it is up to you to make the most of a bad situation—a skill that is imperative for athletes at any level.