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Sunday, April 11, 2021

High School Athletes Face A Tough Road To Get To The Next Level

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The college sports recruiting process is stranger than it’s ever been. Traditional recruiting has been pushed to the side as coaches and high school athletes have had to make severe adjustments over the past year.

On February 17, the NCAA announced it would be extending its recruiting dead period through May 31 for all sports. This means that no face-to-face contact between college coaches and high school athletes is permitted.

Athletes can not visit universities and coaches are not allowed to attend recruits’ schools and games. So for now, emails, texts, phone calls, and Zoom meetings are the only forms of communication between recruits and coaches.

This dead period has now lasted nearly a year due to COVID-19. The elongated dead period is one of the many effects that the pandemic has had on the sports world. Schools have had to completely transform their recruiting process. 

Ben Davis football head coach Jason Simmons is trying his best to improve his players’ recruiting opportunities. On February 19, Simmons and the Ben Davis program took to Twitter and posted the highlights, GPA, and height/weight of all the team’s class of 2022 players. 

“Social media is a huge platform right now,” Simmons said. “That was an avenue that our coaching staff chose.” 

Simmons acknowledges how challenging this pandemic has been for his current juniors.

“You have to do everything you can to promote your players,” Simmons said. “It’s even more critical that [college coaches] go find every bit of information they can on a prospect.”

High school juniors playing basketball are facing similar issues when it comes to getting to the college of their choice. Warren Central forward Chandler Jackson is an athlete who’s trying to navigate through the dead period. “It’s definitely been a lot harder,” said Jackson. 

Jackson, a junior, will play for D1 Indiana in the AAU circuit this summer. Chandler will be coached by LJ Owens, who has high praise for the sharpshooter.

“He’s very long, athletic, and offensively really skilled and crafty,” Owens said. “It’s almost eye-opening and shocking that he’s developed into this player.” 

Coach Owens recognizes the hardship that so many athletes like Chandler have endured, saying, “So many late bloomers don’t get the opportunity that you used to have in the past.” 

Chandler is very appreciative of the help that Coach Owens has provided him. “He’s been extremely helpful. I haven’t even played a game for him yet and he’s already talking to coaches about me.” Although Chandler doesn’t have any official offers, he has drawn interest from Georgia State, IU East, Marian, and Purdue Northwest.

“The goal for this summer is just getting in contact with enough coaches that can use Chandler as a basketball player,” Owens said. “In the summertime I don’t focus on wins and losses, I’m more so focused on the kids.” LJ Owens is determined to get his players into school with little to no financial burden.

Outside of basketball, Jackson has faced some educational obstacles during the pandemic. “It’s just been really difficult trying to communicate with teachers through Zoom calls.” Chandler understands how crucial his grades are to the recruiting process, stating, “There’s always the next kid before you and after you so you want to make sure that you’re standing out with your grades and on the court.”

Like many of their peers, Coach Simmons and Coach Owens want the absolute best for their players. “It’s not what we can gain from our players for our own personal success, it’s what we can do for them to set them up for life after high school,” Simmons said.

“I think that it’s my responsibility as a summer coach to really get on the grind for them and get them as many looks as I possibly can,” Owens said. 

The pandemic has been challenging for everyone across the globe. At a time where in-person recruiting is restricted, athletes must have a strong support system. Luckily for Chandler Jackson and the Ben Davis football team, they have the backing of their coaches.

Zion Brown is a staff reporter with NextGen Sports. Reach him at info@thenxgen.org.

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