By David Brackman
Whether or not your sport was completely paused, every athlete – from Little League to high school to college to the pros – has been adversely affected by the coronavirus.
Spring sports ended abruptly and nobody played or even practiced for most of the spring months. A few sports returned on a limited basis in the summer, but almost exclusively at the pro level. In many parts of the country, fall sports were canceled, postponed or curtailed at the college and high school levels.
All levels of sports have begun to reemerge in recent months, but some cavernous stadiums remain empty or with just a few thousand fans scattered in the stands. At no level are things back to normal. And normalcy won’t return until most of America is vaccinated. That won’t happen until sometime in the summer or fall of 2021 (we hope!).
For high school athletes who desire to play in college, the situation is especially frustrating. How can a player impress a college coach and get recruited with no recent games in the past and an uncertain future?
mygotgame.com has a number of resources for aspiring college athletes. Our Recruitment Playbook is among the important tools we offer that can assist high school students, their parents and coaches in navigating the confusing and sometimes overwhelming process of finding the right fit in a college athletics program.
But what kind of “pandemic prep” can a high school athlete who dreams of playing at the college level do NOW (early 2021) to improve his or her chances of playing in college, especially with the coronavirus literally hanging in the air?
Taking command of career arcs
Now, more than ever, it is evident that high school players need to take command of their futures.
We recognize that there are dozens of elements to a teenager’s life. But we won’t talk about jobs, family and sibling relations, girlfriends and boyfriends, religious and faith-based activities, and other extracurricular activities inside or outside of school here. We’ll zero in on sports and school.
In both their sports and school lives, athletes sometimes take for granted, overlook or may not realize that they can commit NOW to actions that will help them down the road in their college quest. Athletes with any free time during the pandemic would be smart to use it wisely to take command of their career arcs and manage their priorities.
You love your sport and you want to play at the college level. But you missed practice time. You may have lost your season, or at least part of it, to the pandemic. Depending on your age, you may have more time to build an impressive resume at the prep level, but on the other hand, you may be approaching high school graduation.
Regardless of your situation, you can improve your chances of playing in college. Rely on the skills you learned in your sport (patience, coping, determination, self-esteem, etc.) and resolve to continue your sports journey by moving on to a college roster spot. There are more than 1,350 NCAA and NAIA schools out there – along with 525 NJCAA (two-year institutions) - looking for more than 140,000 new athletes every year.
What can you do now? Be the first player at practice. If practices are suspended, work out on your own. Devise a workout plan with your high school or club coach that will have you in the best shape possible when the season does begin. Then make a schedule and don’t cheat it. Practice with 110 percent intensity. Consider modifying your diet to give you the best nutritional advantage.
Now is no time for complacency. For motivation, always keep your ultimate goal of playing in college at the top of your mind. (Hang a sign in your room if you must.) Get pumped. It will drive you to better results.
You must adopt the proper mental attitude to achieve your athletic goals. No excuses. When you do return to competition, your “pandemic prep” will certainly pay off.
Your high school education is of paramount importance, so don’t cheat it either. With on-campus recruiting visits on hold and visits by college coaches banned or restricted, colleges have fewer ways to evaluate high school talent than in the past. Now is the time to dedicate yourself to academic excellence in addition to athletic superiority.
A recent trend by colleges and universities to downplay (or, in some cases, eliminate) the importance of college entrance test scores (or not require them at all) has also shifted the focus of college admissions offices to the importance of a student’s high school academic record.
Many high school students transitioned to online learning in the spring and some have returned to classrooms, while others continue to “attend” classes from home. Some are even in a “hybrid” model, where they attend school a few days a week and learn remotely in the remaining time. These scenarios are welcomed by some and loathed by others.
Again, athletes can apply the skills they have developed from playing sports to address classroom issues. Be proactive. Communication and teamwork are more important in these times than in the past. Time management is also vital.
Grades are more important than ever. Not just a student’s overall GPA, but the classes themselves. Students who have the opportunity to take Honors or Advanced Placement (AP) courses should consider doing so. Your extra effort to be the best student you can be could make a significant difference.
Rely on your classmates and friends to build a learning community even if you have to do it partially online. Form a study group. Establish a dialogue with your teachers and keep it active. Colleges will usually require you to submit a recommendation letter from one or two of your teachers, so build those relationships now.
During the pandemic, stepping up your academic game could be the key to you stepping into the college athletic game.