EDITORIAL: Recruiting disappointments during COVID-19 era should serve as cautionary tale

York Dispatch editorial board
  • The recruitment of prep athletes during the COVID era has presented several challenges.
  • Many seniors saw their final high school seasons canceled or shortened.
  • Prep athletes and college coaches also encountered serious difficulty meeting in person.
  • Also, a new NCAA rule caused college roster spots to shrink for incoming prep athletes.
Abdul Janneh Jr., left, and Brayden Long are shown during signing day at New Oxford High School in February of 2020. The seniors chose to play football for Duquesne and Slippery Rock universities, respectively. Athletes in the Class of 2021, during the COVID-19 era, found many more challenges attracting offers from college coaches. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Life during the COVID-19 era has been hard on all of us.

The uncertainty, the isolation and the fear torment everyone.

Even our young people, who are the most resistant to the actual illness, are not spared the pain that the pandemic inflicts on our mental well-being. In fact, our teenagers, who have often been stripped of the social connections that in-person learning can provide, may be most at risk for mental-health issues.

More:Area standouts weather perfect storm of stress, disappointment during COVID-era recruiting

For high-profile senior prep athletes looking to earn college scholarships, the pandemic has created a whole new series of formidable challenges.

The hurdles those athletes have faced over the past 10½ months have been detailed this week in a York Dispatch report.

Perfect storm of circumstances: The anguish felt by some of those athletes practically leaps off the page (or the screen).

For some, their senior seasons were completely taken away. For many others, their seasons were severely delayed and curtailed. COVID-19 postponements or cancellations were a constant threat.

Fewer, or no games, naturally translated into less attention from college coaches.

The pandemic also often prevented high school players and college coaches from meeting in person. Campus visits were largely curtailed. Coaches, quite naturally, hesitate to offer scholarships to players they’ve never met in person.

Finally, a new NCAA rule granting college players an extra year of eligibility, because of the pandemic, helped to shrink the available number of college roster spots for current high school seniors.

As a result, the college offers that many seniors in the Class of 2021 were counting on never materialized. Many athletes got no offers at all. Others had to accept smaller scholarships to lower-level programs.

It was a perfect storm of circumstances that left many high school athletes lamenting their lack of opportunity.

It’s impossible not to feel for those teens.

Recruiting often leads to disappointment: Still, disappointment in the college recruiting game is not something that is limited to the COVID-19 era.

In fact, it’s an annual occurrence.

Closer Look: For many athletes, college recruiting takes joy out of sports

The pandemic made it much worse. There’s no doubt about that. But every year, standout high school athletes are left disappointed when the recruiting game of musical chairs leaves them without a seat.

Many high school stars are fed an exaggerated sense of their own abilities by overconfident parents, overeager coaches or overzealous fans.  

Closer Look: Athletes, parents need a plan for college recruiting

The college coaches, however, have a much different agenda. They have one major criteria — which players can help me win games. The coaches’ opinions often differ markedly from those of the high school players, and their parents, coaches and fans.

The result for the athletes is abject disappointment.

Cautionary tale: That why the challenges presented by the pandemic should serve as a cautionary tale for all high school athletes hoping to move on to the next level.

It’s perfectly fine, even admirable, to aspire to competing on the college level, but it’s not something that you should count on. It will often lead to a letdown.

Those college athletic scholarships are precious things. They aren’t given out easily, and there are thousands of prep athletes who believe they are deserving.

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Unfortunately, not all of them are deserving. That’s the harsh reality — a reality that’s been made even more grim over the last 10½ months.

Next year, hopefully, will be better, and more athletic scholarship offers will be forthcoming.

Still, it would be wise not to count on that happening.

It can easily lead to frustration and disillusionment.