EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) – For high school athletes looking to play at the next level, it’s often said that the biggest year of their recruitment is their junior season.
Play well that year, and colleges will pay attention.
However, with COVID-19 shutting down spring sports, athletes in sports like baseball, softball and track and field are now looking for answers.
“If I was (in the) Class of 2021 right now, I’d be worried, because how do I get them to see me?” asked New Mexico State softball coach Kathy Rodolph.
That question is the same one being asked by high school underclassmen around the nation.
“We are used to making decisions based on the work these kids have put in before they are seniors,” said UTEP track and field coach Mika Laaksonen.
With spring seasons canceled or suspended and summer showcases up in the air, it puts coaches and athletes alike in a bind. For sports like baseball and softball, where in-person evaluation is vital, the summer season is massive.
Athletes play on travel teams in tournaments all over the nation and college coaches attend all summer in search of the next crop of players.
If the summer circuit doesn’t happen this year, it could make finding and evaluating players much harder, even in sports like basketball which did have a complete winter season.
“Seeing them react to in-game stimulus and situations is so important. It is going to be a challenge,” Rodolph said.
It’s not just the high school underclassmen hurt by lost recruiting opportunities. The canceled spring season means late-blooming seniors that put themselves on the map with big playoff performances won’t get that chance.
“Two years ago when we had a really good season I had a couple players end up getting college scholarships because of how deep we went in the playoffs,” said Franklin high school baseball coach Ruben Munoz. “That helps some of those fringe seniors sometimes.”
One sport that isn’t hurt by the cancelation of the spring sports slate as much is track and field. A sport based almost entirely on raw statistics like times and distances, means that coaches can more easily offer scholarships based on video and statistical review.
Like everyone though, coaches and athletes are in a holding pattern to see what happens. For now, it’s an unfortunate circumstance of opportunities lost.
“They were about to have their biggest year yet when it comes to their performances and now they don’t get to do that,” said Laaksonen. “I feel sorry for those prospects.”