High school sports programs around the country are trying to figure out what the fall season will look like. In California, the sports season will be delayed until December or January. So, what does that mean for students hoping to play in college?
Julian Jenkins is a Senior Regional Recruiting Director for Next College Student Athlete, the largest athletic recruiting network in the world.
“So it puts you in a pickle. 'How am I going to get recruited? My son is not playing for these 3-4 months, how is he or she in her sport gonna get recruited' and that’s a big question," said Jenkins.
In baseball, a pickle is when a base runner is caught between two players throwing the ball back and forth. Off the field, it's students who are now trapped in the stands.
“Our number one job is to help them fill their roster spots every year with potential candidates for these opportunities," Jenkins said.
They work with college and high school coaches, club coaches, athletic administrators and families. They were online before the pandemic and have been around 20 years.
“College coaches don’t have endless time. They’d love to be everywhere at all times, they’d love to go to every single high school game, every club tournament, but they can’t be, so they come to our website and reach out directly to our people and say 'I need an outsider hitter in volleyball, I need a quarterback in football.'"
Before Covid-19, recruiters from NCSA were at every live sports event you can think of. More than 500 last year. Now, there's lots of layers to what happens next, as regions try to figure out what the sports season looks like.
Jenkins says students should know that a pause on the field doesn't mean a pause in college recruiting.
“A lot of these students have academics. A lot of them have game video, but in sports like baseball, soccer, softball, they have skills video and some experience they can share with college coaches,” Jenkins said.
California's sports season might be delayed but other states aren't at this point. Which means the push to get ahead and the competition to get to that next level just got more intense.
“The power of technology is very powerful and there’s a big technology gap out there. But we’re encouraged by students using their cell phones and filming themselves in their workouts and we cannot minimize the positive power of coaches,” Jenkins added.
As for developing players who may or may not have been discovered, Jenkins stresses training and practice.
“Not necessarily the type where you have the whole team there, you’re giving them the platform. We have Zoom and Microsoft as opportunities to connect, where coaches are saying this is your workout,” she explained.
Colleges are still filling their rosters and NCSA is still getting contacted about athletes. Some are traveling, playing tournaments in other states. And there's a new dynamic out there.
All of a sudden, there's time to network. To figure out what school you really want, or perhaps, to work on your SAT score. To get your grades up. To properly fill out that college application.
“Can you build relationships with colleges? Absolutely. If there is a delay it's maybe in certain sports that haven’t developed a virtual, but every college coach out there is having to develop more virtually because of the dead period of when college coaches can physically see players play in person has been pushed back for months,” Jenkins said.
Some athletes are taking community college courses so they have a leg up for college should they decide to further their athletic career. And Jenkins says, a word of advice for students and families, this is a small time out in your lifetime. Which means, keep your eye on the ball and your focus on your grades and everything else will fall into place.