From the moment she played in a YMCA league in third grade, Avery Cole looked forward to the day she would wear a college volleyball uniform.
For the Cedar Park High outside hitter, that time has come. According to her schedule, her time to shine is now. Cole can’t wait to take this fall to the next level, but the opportunities for high school students are dissolving in the era of COVID-19.
From coast to coast, the pandemic has created seasons of uncertainty. While the NCAA has given its athletes an extra year of eligibility, the young men and women who aspire to take their place have gone largely unnoticed.
Cole represents high school students who anxiously wait for the phone to ring. Her future remains uncertain as she has no idea what she will do after graduating. The clock is turning.
Getting recognition has become difficult for athletes like Cole because college coaches haven’t been allowed to watch high school competitions since last spring. These athletes were not allowed to visit college campuses. Unless an athlete has been called a four- or five-star talent, there’s a good chance they’ll never play in college.
âLife is not easy,â Cole said. âThere is a lot of truth in this old saying. As athletes we have had to learn to control and adjust. In such uncertain times, maybe a scholarship might not come in 2021 but could come in 2022. “
The question affects all sports. From football and volleyball to baseball and track and field, there are plenty of high school athletes waiting.
In the meantime, high school students will have to remain patient. Football coach Hendrickson Chip Killian and Hutto coach Brad LaPlante said the problem for the class of 2021 started in the spring of 2020.
In a typical year, an average of 50 to 75 college football coaches and scouts would visit Hendrickson during spring football practice, Killian said. In 2020, coaches and scouts were not allowed to see spring practice or attend fall games. No one has looked closely at the marginal talents of colleges.
At Hutto, surveys of the Hippo football team are down about 75%, LaPlante said.
Georgetown coach Chuck Griffin said he spends a lot of time each year chatting about his players with college football teams. This year has been different.
âIt’s definitely a weird recruiting year,â Griffin said. âI spoke with an assistant coach from the (Southeastern Conference) last week, and he said he didn’t even know what to do with himself. He went hunting for the first time in 15 years because he has so much free time.
Several central Texas coaches said college teams were paying more attention to the NCAA transfer portal to find established players rather than finding a high school diamond in the rough.
Former Baylor and Lake Travis High quarterback Charlie Brewer serves as an example of how the current climate is helping college football players, but denies a potential college rookie an opportunity.
Although Brewer has played four seasons at Baylor without a red shirt year, he can play in 2021 using the NCAA eligibility relief, which allowed players to compete last season without counting towards their eligibility in due to circumstances arising from the pandemic. He entered the transfer portal and recently accepted an offer from Utah.
“It will only get worse because the coaches have shorter leashes to win, and they will be looking for quick fixes in the portal,” said Austin High coach Mike Rosenthal, an attacking tackle for Notre Dame All. -America who spent eight seasons in the NFL. “A lot of these kids get involved in places they’ve never visited and coaches they’ve never shaken hands with.”
For many college track programs, the problem is money, Rosenthal said. Power Five conference football teams can still offer scholarships to a full class of incoming freshmen. Smaller athletic departments might not be able to âfund or absorbâ the extra year of eligibility and keep their own players rather than signing a high school rookie.
“It’s been a tough year for a high school student,” Burnet football coach Jerod Rye said.
Cedar Park’s Cole keeps his goal of playing college volleyball alive by continuing to train. She thinks her day will come.
âI haven’t given up hope of playing in college,â Cole said. âI know we’re all in the same boat and we’re all going through this together. If I keep working hard, sending resumes, and continuing to communicate with college recruiters, I know that over time my dream will come true.