COVID-19 closures affect senior athletes relying on college scouts

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Photo credit: Max Menache

Karely Molina Martinez staff writer 

Benjamin Maman staff writer 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CIF postponed both fall and winter sports, cancelling the in-person practices that began in the fall of 2020. Without practices and games, colleges could not physically scout potential athletes.

The lack of physical scouting concerned senior athletes who were depending on being recruited during their final year of high school. District Director of Athletics Tim Ellis is hopeful for the return of on-campus sports so that senior athletes will have access to college scouting opportunities. 

“I’m the internal optimist with all this. I think that if the number goes our way, we will have competition, probably not going to look the way competition has looked in the past, there may be a limited number of spectators allowed to participate,” Ellis said. “But my internal optimism for everything is that I hope our young kids can get back on the fields, get back on the court, back on the track, get in the pool and have some sort of athletic competition.”

While senior athletes were hoping to get scouted this year, Ellis realizes that many students have already secured their sports for their college sports. 

“It’s a rare case that a kid has had no contact with a college, comes in as a senior and then all of a sudden gets a lot of contact from colleges,” Ellis said.“Most of our kids that have the ability to play at the next level have already been contacted or been in touch with those schools that they’re interested in.”

Ellis noticed different techniques being used by senior athletes to draw the attention of college recruiters. 

“What student athletes are doing is putting together highlight films from prior competitions and sending those off to prospective colleges or even junior colleges,” Ellis said. “We’ve learned to get creative in terms of how we get ourselves noticed by colleges by using videos, by using this media that we have and making our highlight videos. That’s kind of the only way we can get stuff out.”

Senior football player Max Menache, and others on the football team, adapted and made homemade highlight videos for the recruiting process. Menache turned to club sports in order to gain more access to practice time. With the lack of in-person practices, it is important to Menache to seek the most out of his opportunities. 

“For us seniors, we’re really missing out on scholarships opportunities or big Division I offers, even if it’s just preferred walk-on opportunities. There’s really nothing positive going on when it comes to scouting,” Menache said. “For juniors too, this year is very important, that’s when most people tend to get their offers. It’s very normal to get them senior year but I guess you see them more in juniors, or at least interests, you start to build interest among colleges.” 

With strict goals planned for the future, Menache acknowledges that teams and seniors have to work harder once practices do return in order to catch up. 

“Especially for upperclassmen, we’re out there and we have something to prove. We’re looking for that scholarship, that offer, so we’re gonna do everything in our power to make that happen. We are going to have to get results quick,” Menache said. 

Similarly, senior basketball player Aaron Liberty realizes that once the school is cleared for in person practices, senior athletes will have to make the most of their final opportunity. 

“I don’t think it will affect our performance. If anything, I think we would play harder due to the fact that we haven’t played. Personally I’ll play every game like it’s my last because the future is unpredictable,” Liberty said.

Despite positive attitudes and high hopes from some seniors, High School Athletic Director Vonzie Paysinger noticed that the mindset of some senior athletes shifted as a result of the cancellation of in-person practices. 

“From what I’ve seen, it can go either way. Before the winter break, they were motivated to do it because there was hope that they would play. But after the winter break, numbers jumped so fast and for some of the kids, the interest level has dropped because they don’t see the opportunities and they are less hopeful that they’ll get back on the field,” Paysinger said. “Before the break they were working hard, but now you can just see the attitudes have changed because they don’t think they have a chance to do it.” 

For senior soccer player Sara Schwartz, getting recruited by college scouts would have been a dream come true. However, because of the pandemic, her dream plans have changed. 

“When I was little, I remember watching a movie that basically portrays the Hollywood dream of playing a game in front of a college coach that you really wanted to impress. It starts out bad, but then it ends really well and the main character ends up being recruited and going to their dream school,” Schwartz said. “I always thought that’s how life would go because as a 9-year-old, movies are real life to you, but in reality, that is not the case, especially this past year. It is really disappointing not being able to have your movie dream come true, but we have to work with what we got, and so far it’s not impossible.” 

Besides being hopeful for the recruiting experience, much of Schwartz’s college decision relied on recruits, “I love sports so I definitely want to go to a more athletic centered university, but I also want to go to a university that fits my major [kinesiology], so I’m keeping my eyes open for those schools.” Factoring in those two choices, this year’s sports would have played a big role in her final decision. 

“Being recruited is one of the most exciting things about playing a sport competitively, but hopefully next year’s seniors will have the opportunity to play in front of many college coaches,” Schwartz said. “This season would’ve determined if I really wanted to play soccer in college or not…I might’ve gone to a university that I didn’t really love, just to play soccer. Even though the experience on the team would’ve been amazing, the school could’ve been not for me.” 

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