Coronavirus leaves class of 2024 recruits in the dark

male runners run through mud
Ethan Widlansky PO ’22 races alongside a group of runners during the NCAA Division III Cross Country Men’s Championship. The men’s P-P cross country team won its first national title Nov. 23. (Courtesy: Kirk Reynolds)

For many competitive athletes, their high school careers lead up to the possibility of playing collegiately. But sports recruits in the class of 2024 may have to wait a bit longer to wear their first college jerseys, as colleges consider possibly shifting online for the fall semester.

Recruits who applied during the regular decision round didn’t find out whether they were accepted until March, when the colleges evacuated, and some had yet to visit campus before deciding where to attend college.

Now, college recruits are training at home for teams they‘re not sure they’ll be able to play for in the fall, after having their spring seasons cut short or canceled entirely.

“Coronavirus almost completely took away my senior season and all the special experiences that come with it,” Peter Savas PZ ’24, recruit for men’s baseball, told TSL via email last month. 

Savas, who has been playing baseball since he was five years old, said he is looking forward to “everything” about playing for the P-P team.

“I love the weather, the vibe on and around campus and my getting an opportunity to play college baseball,” Savas said, having visited campus a month before the colleges were evacuated.

But with expected social distancing guidelines and closed campuses, recruits aren’t sure when they’ll return. Despite hurdles — like limited access to gyms and ways to practice — Savas and other incoming athletes are doing their best to stay in training shape. 

“There are at-home workouts I’ve been doing at home that don’t require dumbbells, barbells or benches,” Savas said. “Sometimes I’ll have to use objects from around the house as weights, but I manage.”

Sofia Buckle CM ’24, a current CMS soccer recruit who applied during the Early Decision I round, has dreamed of playing collegiate soccer in California for years. 

She explained that CMS women’s soccer coach, Jennifer Clark, is countering athletes’ lack of gym equipment by adapting the team’s annual “fitness packets” — traditionally made up of runs and lifts to prepare athletes for preseason training — to suit remote workouts.

The recruits added that COVID-19 will not stop them from trying to prepare for the fall season. Buckle will continue her training by going on many runs and walks, and “trying to get out as much as possible,while Amber Hughes HM ’24, a CMS cross-country and track recruit, will continue running and exercising “as a way to relieve stress” as they await further information. 

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COVID-19 has also put an end to in-person campus visits, which have long allowed recruits to “see the team culture … and ask the players for more candid feedback,” Alex Futterman CM ’22, who plays for the CMS lacrosse team, told TSL via email. 

Athletes like Hughes are getting to know their teams through different methods, such as Zoom calls. 

I did a campus visit last year, as a junior,” Hughes said via email. “However, I did not have the chance to meet the team or coach.” Hughes has since relied on Zoom to connect with her teammates from Harvey Mudd College.

Teams have been bridging the distance between players through social media, an increasingly important tool granting athletes a look inside their future teams. Initiatives like “Day in a Life of a PPSD Athlete” and remote training challenge videos on P-P Instagram accounts try their hand at giving recruits a look into what teams look like both before and after leaving campus.

“We’re … proud of our Instagram account as we think it gives incoming athletes a good sense of what our team is all about,” P-P swim and dive head coach Jean-Paul Gowdy said via email last month.

But some players say social media might not be enough.

“There are certain campuses that give you a feeling,” Futterman said. “[That’s] a lot harder to gauge … over the phone and online.”

CMS athletic director Erica Jasper emphasized that the safety of and communication with all current and incoming students is a top priority, and said that the athletic office has been welcoming the class of 2024 through individual emails, calls and congratulatory messages, with coaches serving as the first point of communication between recruits and their respective teams.

Jasper also noted that coaches are frequently updating athletes about their seasons, and will keep players in the loop as the situation develops.

P-P athletics has also been keeping in touch with their athletes, as coaches are sending updates when they arise, according to P-P assistant athletic director and men’s baseball head coach Frank Pericolosi.

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