COVID-19 Brings New Opportunities and Challenges to College Recruitment
COVID-19 has affected every single member of the Furman community, but student-athletes have been hit especially hard. In addition to the uncertainty of class schedules, virtual learning, and navigation of new campus regulations, student-athletes must deal with the additional stress of adapting their sport and their future to a world of athletics that looks drastically different every day.
Furman Volleyball Alumna Lydia Morris (‘20) knows the current struggle all too well. Her team’s training season was cut short when the pandemic struck in March. Now, this year’s team is working hard to make up for the time they lost during quarantine. Morris explained, “I think that the Furman volleyball team has handled the cancellation of fall sports really well, especially since they went to school for pre-season assuming they were going to have a full season... They’re really dedicated to the sport, so I think they probably handled it as well as they could’ve.”
Morris currently holds a position as the Assistant Varsity Volleyball Coach at her former Atlanta highschool, Woodward Academy. The Woodward team, like sports teams across the nation, has had to quickly adapt to constantly changing circumstances. Morris said, “We have had one positive case. Our head coach tested positive mid-September, so the entire team did a 14-day quarantine.” He recovered quickly, and besides that, the team has been lucky—not a single player has tested positive.
Although collegiate athletics have faced limitations due to COVID-19, a positive aspect of this year has been the additional time to select quality recruits. Furman Volleyball already has three committed players for next year, and Morris noted that college coaches with more time on their hands this fall season may be more involved in the recruitment process. She states, “If you email a coach, it could happen. They might come watch you play a high school game, or even tune in virtually!” While it is unfortunate that many fall seasons have been cancelled, the silver lining is that some programs and universities have risen to the challenge and are using recruiting more effectively to jumpstart their growth.
Recruiting, however, has its own complications. Some players are opting out of seasons, which could weaken the talent pool that college programs can choose from. In Woodward Academy’s case, the only two seniors on the Varsity Volleyball team this year were pulled from their senior season due to parental concerns about the virus. So not only is COVID-19 impacting college sports now, but it could lead to slim pickings for next year’s teams if high school seniors are unable to participate in their final seasons.
Despite this stress about current events and the uncertain future of college sports in general, Morris encourages student-athletes to keep their heads up and their eyes on the ball, which is exactly what Furman Volleyball continues to do. Morris leaves her fellow student-athletes with a word of advice: “I know it sucks… But you love the sport you play, so continue loving it, and don’t let COVID make you hate it.” Indeed, if there’s one thing that remains constant throughout all this change, it’s that the spirit of the game will never fade… no matter how long they have to wait to play.