The Coast News Group
Sage Creek baseball
Sage Creek’s varsity baseball team, shown during a game vs. Carlsbad High School on March 9, had the bulk of its season still to play when the CIF canceled the spring season last month. Courtesy photo

Prep athletes lose valuable college recruiting opportunities to COVID-19

REGION — As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person college recruiting has been suspended through May 31 for Division I and II sports, according to a statement released by the NCAA.

Similar to a “dead period,” the loss of valuable recruiting time has left colleges questioning how to evaluate players, while high school athletes struggle to secure a future in collegiate sports.

For prep basketball players, the recruitment process doesn’t end after the regular season. Tournaments, typically held from April to July, are often prime opportunities for players to gain a competitive edge as college programs begin offering scholarships.

“Should we take this recruit that we watched during high school but didn’t really get a chance to measure up against elite competition?” said Aaron Burgin, founder of Full-Time Hoops, a basketball scouting service. “It takes the opportunity away for them to recruit against other potential D1-level recruits. And that hurts. Having that extra amount of time to really evaluate a basketball player is important. Not having it makes those judgment calls that much more difficult.”

When the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) canceled the high school spring season, the Sage Creek High School varsity baseball team had a 3-3 record, with 22 games remaining on its schedule.

However, without player statistics from these games, colleges are left with a limited amount of data for evaluating athletes.

“I had just started the [recruitment] process, and I was going to start some showcases and camps this summer, but due to the virus some of them are being canceled,” said Collin Johnson, a sophomore pitcher and first baseman for the Bobcats. “I don’t have very many highlights from the season since it was cut short.”

A concern for college coaches is seeing a regression in skill after this break, says Bobby Labs, the head coach at Breakers Labs, a competitive softball organization in North County.

Breakers Labs consistently provides recruitment workshops and college prospect camps, but they’ve been put on hold.

“There’s no ability to play right now,” Labs said. “A lot of my girls are getting a little nervous about that. These girls need those reps, they need that work, in order to prepare for showcasing in front of the coaches, and they don’t have that ability to do so right now. …I just want to get my kids back on the field again. Get them back to work. So that’s what I’m anxious about.”

The NCAA noted that their suspension of in-person recruiting still allows for digital communication.

Burgin said that while highlights are common, full-game recordings are becoming an important resource for scouts when evaluating players online.

Keeping coaches up-to-date, coupled with staying fit, is the best option for players until they can get back into competition.

“Some advice I have for players losing time on the field is to keep practicing, sending emails and posting videos on your profiles,” said Carlsbad High softball player Megan Wilson, a senior who has committed to Occidental College in Los Angeles. “Coaches are always looking for players who stay active, even during these difficult times.

“They’re in the same situation, so take advantage of this opportunity to show them your dedication and commitment to the game.”