What is Next for High School & College Athletes? & A Potential Solution?

Soon to be published on Latin Business Today…but posted here first!

We all know that COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the sports industry. However, most professional teams and leagues managed to get a semblance of their seasons in and we now read that MLB players– days away from spring training, want their full salary–even if they do not play a full schedule, threatening a work action.

Isn’t that special?

What fine role models! Demanding their (multi) million-dollar paychecks, while all around them mayhem ensues for many people, financially, physically, and mentally, many of whom need a release of being able to follow their favorite team.

I can think of many words to describe how I feel about this, but one that might work best is; DISGUSTING.

There is a group, however who are dying to play their sport…and they do it for the love of the game. The coronavirus pandemic upended sports seasons for high school student athletes across the country. Games, tournaments, and training camps were all canceled. That has left many student athletes worried about their sports scholarships or just the continuance of participation.

Many students have lost a year of competition, perhaps a year of eligibility and in some cases a potential college scholarship, or just a chance to play in college, “for the love of the game.” It seems that many have just written off this group and maybe another upcoming group of students, who were/are unable to compete in their sport.

The bottom line? Covid-19 was the main culprit, no doubt. But right behind that is a lack of leadership at the highest levels. The latter has failed students immeasurably. We all understand the purpose of canceling sports for many was to keep kids safe. Hard to argue. But there is another nasty word out there that was a close second in the reasoning for why some students missed year of competition or eligibility— “leadership” and in this case–a lack of it.

COVID-19 caused a great deal of havoc in the sports world. However, the real tragedy, and perhaps travesty is for many of the amateur athlete’s–high school and some college students who missed a year of competition while being left out and hung out to dry by people who are supposed to come up with solutions. But sometimes people do not want to find solutions, they want to find the easy way out–for themselves.

It is important that high schools, colleges and overriding leagues and associations collectively come up with a plan to aid in potential programming to help the students. After all, that is the purpose of their existence, right? If not, perhaps a more progressive and caring league, district or state should implement a plan to assist.

This malaise not only affects the graduating seniors from last year and the students who are in their senior year looking to graduate and perhaps play at a higher level. The NCAA has offered a blanket year of extra eligibility, which is terrific and makes sense, but there will be a “rubber band” effect that will put a stress on eligibility and competition for years to come.

How will college recruiters be able to see what they have to offer?

High school students looking to play a sport in college may have missed a great opportunity because their sport was affected by COVID-19. But really the COVID-19 pandemic showed us that there is just a true lack of leadership in the sports amateur landscape. From the High School Federation to the NCAA, it seemed people were more concerned about keeping their jobs, doing less work, or just not really caring about the student athletes, they had no desire to solve the problem.

From CNBC, “47% of student athletes said they now believe the cancellation of sports during the pandemic could put their college scholarship at risk.

“That was my moment to have colleges watch me and it’s canceled,” said Devin Schoenberger, a soccer player at Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach, Calif. “We don’t know what other opportunities we’re going to have and a lot of us aren’t committed yet.”

More than 180,000 students rely on sports scholarships to help finance their education every year, but the NCAA has implemented a recruiting dead period until April 2021; this means college coaches cannot have face-to-face contact with college-bound student-athletes or their parents and may not watch student-athletes compete or visit their high schools.

Plus, the NCAA also extended a year of eligibility for current college athletes to play their sport. Dan Doyle, Recruiting Coach Manager for Next College Student Athlete, explained that college coaches have a hard decision to make moving forward. College coaches grant scholarships based on the expectation they lose their seniors. If college seniors come back, the competition for a spot intensifies.

“We’ve already got a full roster of men’s basketball with 13 scholarships at the Division 1 level. We could essentially retain all 13 of those kids and not bring in any incoming freshman this year,” said Doyle.

In addition, many athletics departments have lost money and suffered budget cuts and loss of personnel.  So, until (and if) this ship is righted the answer for this “unfortunate group” may lie at the high school level or in between.

The NCAA offers the following advice on its web site:

“It’s now more important than ever for student-athletes to maximize their online presence and to be proactive in starting recruiting conversations with coaches. Keep reading to find out the latest information, as well as the steps you can take right now to keep your recruiting journey on track, even without in-person recruiting, college visits, camps and tournaments.”

Here is a link for high school students to what the organization is doing: https://www.ncsasports.org/coronavirus-sports/high-school-sports-coronavirus

And one for college which includes sports that have been dropped due to budget cuts: https://www.ncsasports.org/coronavirus-sports/college-closures-coronavirus

Do athletic directors, coaches and school superintendents and the NCAA really care about these players who have missed a complete year of playing a sport?

In a recent panel of current coaches and athletics personnel a concept was floated to have a gap year available for high school students for an extra year of eligibility in a sport. Without the option of in-person evaluations at camps and tournaments, most recruiting is happening remotely. Athletes are using social media to promote themselves by uploading videos of their practices or fitness regimens for coaches to watch.

“The biggest thing I was doing through the pandemic was I would record myself working out and post it on Twitter and trying to get noticed through there, because I know that is a big platform for a lot of college coaches, and that’s where they look for a lot of recruits. I would occasionally make different highlight tapes from my film to the prior years and just post them, just trying to keep my name out there on the Twitter platform,” said Taylor Shearer, a senior football player from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, according to NBC News.

While student athletes vie for the attention of college coaches with videos demonstrating their skills, it remains unclear when — or whether — many of them will be able to showcase their talents during actual games.

Our panelists were hard-pressed to come up with how to resolve the situation. It is not for a lack of caring or trying; for me, it always comes back to the leadership at the top and how they react or fail to react. There are obvious options if showcases, or sponsored showcases or camps are available. But that will come down to a question of eligibility and management and once again leadership.

Vin Iovino, a longtime coach, and athletics director has come up with a terrific concept that essentially will add a year of eligibility for high schoolers where they can play while doing a gap year or taking classes at a community college, We are not talking about a ton of students but a handful who will take advantage of this. His concept is detailed here below.

This would be a multiple win-win.

If the point is to educate them that is a win.

Colleges need time to scout and recruit athletes and that is a win.

If a student athlete needs a year to gain back competition to move forward or grow, that is a win.

Junior and community colleges get enrollment and ability to service their communities at large…win.

The Sports Business Institute is running a “Life Skills” class, and this would be a perfect opportunity for institutions to partner and adopt that kind of instruction.

What is the downfall?  Some people who are in position of leadership might have to think out of the box, or God forbid, do extra work.  

PROPOSAL FROM VIN IOVINO

The situation regarding our attack by Covid19 is this:

Educators across the country have done a remarkable job educating students during the Covid19 attack.  Because of their herculean efforts, students will be able to complete their year of academic education.

However, the forgotten group is the Student Athlete at the High School level.  It must be kept in mind that Athletics is an integral part of Education and a tool that can be used to assist students in the future.  Athletics allow students to use their special skills for academic advancement which means that they could perhaps have an opportunity to be accepted into a school of their choice which, without Athletics, might not be possible.  It should further be kept in mind that, in some cases, this could be a financial loss to families of need.

As Educators we ensure students’ completion of four years of education at the High School level.  We also allow students the opportunity of four years of participation in a sport of their choice.  However, because of the Covid19 attack, some students have lost a season.  We are compelled to do whatever is in the best interest of our students.

Therefore, what to do we do?  Just say “Sorry, you’re out of luck” or do we find a creative solution to help our Student Athletes?

The plan is this:

Any student in Grades 9 through 12 that has missed a season of participation can apply for a “Gap” year if needed.  This allows students that are feeling stressed and anxious about their lost season to rest easy knowing that they have a chance to regain what was taken away from them.  “What a relief!”

The way could work is that students must apply for their Gap year by the beginning of their Senior year.  If accepted, they would be allowed to participate after Graduation.  All Student athletes must be accepted in a college accredited course in a local Junior College or Community College.  This allows students to gain college credits that could be transferable to the college of their choice.

I am fully aware that there are many details that must be put into place and questions answered, such as:

  • Insurance coverage for students after Graduation.Rules of Discipline.
    • Age requirements by State organizations.
    • Recordkeeping and tracking of the “Gap Year” students.
    • Coordination with Community Colleges and Junior Colleges.

            And more.

I believe that the positive far outweighs the negative.  I fully realize that this requires more work by Administrators, but it is, after all, all about the students.

Vin Iovino was a standout football three year starter at the University of Connecticut. Vin received two degrees from UConn: a BS degree in physical education and an M.A. degree. After his graduation from UConn, Vin began a long and distinguished career in coaching and education. Vin has coached or taught at UConn, Western Connecticut State University, Columbia University, Norwalk Community College, Plainfield High School, Wethersfield High School, Fox Lane High School, and New Canaan High School. In his long and distinguished career Vin has received many honors and awards. Among these are Westchester Coach of the Year, Connecticut High School Coaches Association Athletic Director of the Year, National High School Coaches Association Region I Athletic Director of the Year, the C.H.S.C.A. Thomas R. Monahan Award, and the IAABO #9 Recognition Award. He is in the Fox Lane High School, New Canaan High School, CHSCA and FCIAC Halls of Fame.

Article Contacts:

Dave Torromeo
davidt12@optonline.net

Vin Iovino
viniovino@gmail.com

Sports Business Institute
sportsbusinessadvocates@gmail.com

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