by Hadley Winslow, Staff Writer, April 2020
For athletes everywhere, the coronavirus has brought about the cancelation of highly anticipated spring athletic seasons. Particularly for the Class of 2021, junior year holds significance in the recruiting process; many spring athletes rely on their performance and game results to appeal to college coaches. For those athletes who have already committed, the lack of a spring (and, in some cases, summer) season means facing a long period without the sport they love, warped training plans, and increased potential for injury.
At Nobles, spring athletes had just begun the tryout process when Head of School Cathy Hall announced that school would close for some time as of March 11th. At that point, each team still hoped that even if the preseason was canceled, it would still be possible to preserve some of the regular season. However, the spring season was definitively canceled.
Even when colleges and universities around the world sent their students home, the possibility of canceling an entire season at the high school level still seemed far-fetched for many students. “It’s all really unprecedented. I was talking to my college coach the night before she found out, and she was talking about how excited [the team was] for the entire season, so I think they only had an hour of notice before Harvard shut down,” Grace Taylor (Class II), who committed earlier this year to play lacrosse at Harvard College, said.
Student-athletes are now grappling with the question: How will the lack of a season impact the recruiting process? “[After] talking with coaches… a lot of them are basically saying that they’re focusing heavily on erg (a rowing machine) scores… I’ve also heard later when we have video calls [with college coaches], it’s going to be based on character, how you compose yourself and how you communicate,” Andrew Kasparyan (Class II), a member of the Boys Varsity Crew team who is hoping to row in college, said. For rowers, the recruiting process is largely driven by the time it takes an athlete to row 2,000 meters on the erg. But also, as rower Emma Parrott (Class II) said, “coaches are honing in on their guts more” and trusting their instincts.
Vikram Konanki (Class II), who is on the golf team, is also headed down the recruiting path. Konanki explained, “For me at least, the spring season is a practice run for the summer, which is the most important… A lot of us were counting on this season to help us prepare to play our best in the summer.” Golf coaches, who expect excellent summer performance as a result of the spring season, will have to adjust their expectations. Even though players like Konanki are continuing to train despite the temporary closure of golf courses, it has proven to be challenging. “I’ve been trying to hit outside in a net in my backyard. [But] college preparation has definitely changed,” he said.
Luca Danos (Class II) will play baseball at William and Mary, a D1 college in Virginia. For committed athletes, a big adjustment has been learning how to train alone and with minimal equipment. “My training has changed a lot. I used to workout 4-5 times a week in the Nobles weight room. Now I don’t have any weights at home, so I have to come up with different types of body and hand workouts. It’s a lot of push-up variants, band work, and ab work. For baseball, I hit off the tee into a net and play catch with my twin brother,” Danos said.
For athletes like Taylor, who already know they’ll miss their summer and fall tournaments, maintaining awareness around physical health is a top priority since access to athletic trainers is limited. “I’ve trained [virtually] with the other recruits this spring, and it’s really hard because we can’t push our bodies too much right now,” Taylor said.
In terms of training, Kasparyan noted that working out alone can be a mental challenge. “I’m training by myself, but I’m following a schedule that my whole crew team is following. We have some big workouts at the end of the week, and we try to have a competitive spirit and keep the morale going… You keep the team culture, even though you’re not really together,” Kasparyan said.
Whether you’re a junior in high school vying for a recruited spot on a team or a professional with a truncated season, athletes across the world have had their plans upended by Covid-19. Tokyo Olympics-bound athletes, Boston Marathon runners, and high school and college seniors alike have had to grapple with these changes. The question to consider for high school athletes is, can they navigate the added complexities brought on by the virus in an already-volatile recruiting world?