COVID-19 impacts high school recruits

Deandre McCray, senior wide receiver at North Florida Christian High School stares out at football field. Photo courtesy Marissa Stubbs

As the year progresses, COVID-19 continues to affect the sports world.

During this time of uncertainty, athletes all over the world are being forced to adjust to a new normal. For high school student-athletes hopeful of being recruited, adjusting to the pandemic has been challenging physically as well as mentally.

In the beginning of August, high schools all over Florida were skeptical about bringing high school sports back. Prior to the start of the 2020-2021 academic year, the Florida High School Athletic Association issued safety protocols followed by the CDC to provide safety for all athletes.

The FHSAA issued strict rules such as, no sharing of equipment, no shaking hands and a required COVID-19 course for all coaches and staff.

Brayden Phillips, a senior quarterback at North Florida Christian High School, said that when he first heard of the pandemic he didnt know what would happen.

When COVID-19 first broke news, my teammates and I were planning a cruise for spring break. Once COVID became more serious, FHSAA was talking about taking our season to the spring. I thought the virus would last two or three months, then everything would be back to normal,” Phillips said.

Phillips and his football team were forced to quarantine for two weeks after their season opener against Jefferson County. A player from Jefferson County had previously tested positive for COVID-19 during the game. Philips says his team didn’t receive the news until later that next week.

Phillips’ teammate, Deandre McCray, a senior wide receiver at NFC, thinks the transition from in-person classes to virtual learning has been chaotic.

It was tough trying to adjust because you go from in-class learning to now learning everything online. One of my teachers came in contact with the virus and had to teach us from home. Its a tough way to learn but you just have to take it and get it done,” McCray said.

The impact of COVID-19 has created many barriers for high school athletes. Juniors and seniors are trying to figure out ways to boost their profile and attract colleges. Due to travel restrictions, recruits have not been allowed to travel or tour Division 1 athletic programs.

Sanaa Simmons, a junior volleyball player at Florida High, said she is unable to tour colleges this year, but she is still exploring her options.

COVID-19 canceled all of my summer volleyball camps, so i’ve been sending my footage to recruiters. I haven’t been able to get much footage, considering COVID canceled most of our games. It’s going to be hard because the only thing colleges will be able to look at is my highlights. They won’t be able to come to my games, so it’s going to be tough,” Simmons said.

Prep student-athletes are trying to make the best of their last years in high school. The pandemic has stripped them of many opportunities, however, and they are learning to persevere through adversity.

My coach always tells us to give everything we got, 100 percent, every game,” Simmons said.