How Has COVID-19 affected The Recruitment Process for the NCAA?

By: Hessed Martinez

Photos: Pixabay

“My personal experience, in which current and future college prospects can learn and apply the tools necessary to sign to their university to play amidst a pandemic.”

 As Covid unfortunately continues to prevail, I believe that it has greatly affected College sports and has changed the college recruiting process of finding young talent to represent their university. With so many high school athletes still in the unknown on their recruitment status, it has taken a large toll on their future careers, as restrictions of the Coronavirus, have limited and even completely canceled in-person events. In return, college coaches have to adjust their recruitment plan, and focus not just on their soccer abilities with limited exposure, but take greater concern on their off-field performances including grades, who they are as a person, and what they’ll contribute to the team culture. Like many young athletes adapting to the changes in recruitment, I also went through the process and experienced the first-hand effects of Covid at its beginning stages. By using my own recruitment process, I learned how to re-navigate my approach in order to get recruited. Therefore, this paper aims to provide my personal experience, in which current and future college prospects can learn and apply the tools necessary to sign to their university to play amidst a pandemic. 

As being a college recruit starting from 2019, I had exposure on the field during my senior year through tournaments, showcases, and my hometown league. By this point, I had still not fully committed to any schools and didn’t get to continue to show my skills in further games. It was definitely scary as a senior, who didn’t have any offers until late into the year and wasn’t sure that I would be able to compete at the next level. Before the start of the global pandemic, I was able to go on several college visits; however, as I was starting to narrow down my choices, Covid hit the U.S. and other universities I wanted to visit were shut down. Furthermore time was diminishing as applications acceptance and class registrations were approaching, and I wasn’t 100% confident on where I was fully committing too. I can say I was fortunate in being looked at by a variety of colleges and to be fully committed to one before Covid-19 was at its peak. Though I committed to Marymount, my options were limited as I would’ve loved to gain an on-campus experience, outside of just athletics, in which that would have greatly altered my decisions. Knowing that I couldn’t actually tour some of the top schools that peaked my interest, it significantly altered my decision making, as the environment surrounding the schools is very important to me. Yet, I am blessed that I finally got to commit and play at this level. With many seniors having their seasons cancelled and not having much exposure due to the pandemic, it’s a huge disappointment to an athletes’ dream of playing at a collegiate level. Not having the equal opportunities of getting seen by recruiters and going on college visits has become a main issue for athletes during their recruitment process. 

While the restrictions of COVID-19 are hard enough, there’s already a larger, consistent statistic of the odds of high school players receiving scholarships and actually playing at the college level. Nearly 98 million students participate in high school athletics in the United States. About 480,000 thousand players move on to play at the collegiate level in any NCAA school. Furthermore, only a handful from each sport are selected to progress to the professional level. With the Statistics from the article, “The National Federation of State High School Association” and,“2020 Probability of Competing Beyond High School Figures and Methodology,” it shows an analysis of the estimated probability of competing in College athletics. While being a NCAA Division III soccer player, I will provide the percentages for the soccer probabilities of competing at the collegiate level. During the 2020 probability chart, it clearly states that there are 459,077 thousand men competing in high school soccer. 25,499 thousand out of those men are recruited and committed to play at the NCAA level. This overall percentage of players going to the NCAA to play soccer is about 5.6%. The following percentages can be converted to compare all three divisions of the NCAA. For high school athletes going to a Division I school, it is a 1.3%. Next, players attending a Division II is slightly higher at 1.5%. Finally, Division III athletes, like me, the percentage is at 2.7%. In correspondence to women’s soccer there are 394,105 thousand soccer players. 28,310 thousand attend a NCAA school and the overall percentage for a female to compete at the collegiate level is 7.2%. From High school to Division I the percentage is higher than men’s at 2.4%. Following, Division II is allocated 1.9%, and Division III female soccer players at 2.9%. This analysis further goes to show that the percentage of going from high school sports to the college level is hard enough. Nevertheless, the restrictions of COVID-19 on the recruitment process makes it even harder for young athletes to get recruited. 

In continuation from the struggles of young athletes, I decided to interview Marymount Graduate Assistant Men’s Soccer Coach, Chris Cardenas. The most important question asked was, “ How are you guys recruiting during this time?” Chris responded by saying, “Well we’re trying to put ourselves out there as much as possible, as in going to as many games, tournaments, and showcases as possible since they are pretty limited during the pandemic.” He provided an example on how it’s been affecting the recruiting process by sharing, “The Bethesda showcase was supposed to be this weekend, but simply got cancelled.” Tournaments and games being cancelled amidst a pandemic is super common nowadays, and unfortunately is missed opportunities for athletes in order to get their name out there. In regards to direct communication, I asked, “ How are you guys contacting players during the Pandemic?” His response was, “Zoom has been very useful, we try to reach out to players that we have seen in the past or present players that we’ve seen, to schedule virtual meetings and school visits.” Finally the last question was, “What are you guys looking for in players during a difficult time of a pandemic?” He continued by saying, “ Not only are we looking for talent, but grades and what major they’re looking for play a huge role as well.” From the information I got from the interview, I can say that coaches are trying their best to continue to recruit players as much as possible; however, the overall restrictions is an unfair advantage for new players that haven’t been seen yet. Rather, coaches are going with familiar faces that they’ve been watching in the past.

With all this uncertainty about the COVID-19, it goes without saying that many high school prospects for the NCAA are struggling with further showcasing their soccer talents, when many in-person events are canceled due to shutdowns of social group events. Knowing already through reliable statistics that the chances of committing to a Division I, II, or III is below 3%, the lack of playing on the field almost continues to decrease the percentage of getting recruited. However, there’s other solutions to solving this problem, by utilizing online platforms to communicate with coaches and potential teammates. As Zoom has become a major source of face-to-face communication, there are further cites that allow players to upload clips of their performances for coaches to have at least some exposure. All in all, I was one of the lucky high school soccer players to finally commit, even though I didn’t get the chance to visit Other Colleges. Yet, meeting with my current Coaches , and putting myself out there online, at least gave me exposure to my current school.

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