What’s next for high school & college athletes and what are the potential solutions?
Latin Biz Today’s Dave Torromeo moderates a notable sports leadership Lou Marinelli, Head Football Coach New Canaan HS, Vin Iovino; retired Coach, Athletics Director and Harold Crocker, Athletic Director, Ramapo College (former college and HS Head Football Coach) and Rod Mergardt, Consultant and former Coach and Athletics Director.
The coronavirus pandemic upended sports seasons for high school student athletes across the country. Games, tournaments, and training camps were all canceled. Many students have lost a year of competition, perhaps a year of eligibility and in some cases a potential college scholarship, or just a chance to play in college, “for the love of the game.” It seems that many athletic programs have just written off this group and maybe the upcoming group of students, who were/are unable to compete in their sport.
COVID-19 was the main culprit, no doubt. But right behind that is a lack of leadership at the highest levels. The latter has failed students immeasurably. We all understand the purpose of canceling sports for many was to keep kids safe. Hard to argue with that. But a lack of leadership was a close second in the reasoning for why some students missed year of competition or eligibility.
COVID-19 caused a great deal of havoc in the sports world. However, the real tragedy, and perhaps travesty is that many of the amateur athletes—high school and some college students who missed a year of competition—were left out and hung out to dry by people who are supposed to come up with solutions. But sometimes people do not want to find solutions, they want to find the easy way out.
It is important that high schools, colleges and leagues and associations tasked with oversight collectively come up with a plan to aid in potential programming to help the students. After all, that is the purpose of their existence, right? If not, perhaps a more progressive and caring league, district or state should implement a plan to assist.
This malaise not only affects the graduating seniors from last year and the students who are in their senior year looking to graduate and perhaps play at a higher level. The NCAA has offered a blanket year of extra eligibility, which is terrific and makes sense, but there will be a “rubber band” effect that will put stress on eligibility and competition for years to come.
How will college recruiters be able to see what students have to offer?
High school students looking to play a sport in college may have missed a great opportunity because their sport was affected by COVID-19. But really the COVID-19 pandemic showed us that there is just a true lack of leadership in the sports amateur landscape. From the High School Federation to the NCAA, it seemed that people were more concerned about keeping their jobs, doing less work, or they just had no desire to solve the problem.
In addition, many athletics departments have lost money and suffered budget cuts and loss of personnel. So, until (and if) this ship is righted the answer for this “unfortunate group” may lie at the high school level or in between.
Do athletic directors, coaches and school superintendents and the NCAA really care about the players who have missed a complete year of playing a sport?
In a recent panel of current coaches and athletics personnel a concept was floated to have a gap year available for high school students for an extra year of eligibility in a sport. Without the option of in-person evaluations at camps and tournaments, most recruiting is happening remotely. Athletes are using social media to promote themselves by uploading videos of their practices or fitness regimens for coaches to watch.
While student athletes vie for the attention of college coaches with videos demonstrating their skills, it remains unclear when—or whether—many of them will be able to showcase their talents in actual games.
Our panelists were hard-pressed to come up with how to resolve the situation. It is not for a lack of caring or trying. For me, it always comes back to the leadership at the top and how they react or fail to react. There are obvious options if showcases, or sponsored showcases or camps are available. But that will come down to a question of eligibility and management and, once again, leadership.
Vin Iovino, a longtime coach, and athletics director has come up with a terrific concept that essentially will add a year of eligibility for high schoolers where they can play while doing a gap year or taking classes at a community college. We are not talking about huge numbers of students, but a handful who will take advantage of this. His concept is detailed here below.
This would be a multiple win-win.
If the point is to educate them that is a win.
Colleges need time to scout and recruit athletes and that is a win.
If a student athlete needs a year to gain back competition to move forward or grow, that is a win.
Junior and community colleges get enrollment and ability to service their communities at large…win.
The Sports Business Institute is running a “Life Skills” class, and this would be a perfect opportunity for institutions to partner and adopt that kind of instruction.
What is the downfall? Some people who are in position of leadership might have to think out of the box, or God forbid, do extra work. Below is Iovino’s proposal in its entirety.
FROM COACH VIN IOVINO
The situation regarding our attack by Covid-19 is this:
Educators across the country have done a remarkable job educating students during the Covid19 attack. Because of their herculean efforts, students will be able to complete their year of academic education.
However, the forgotten group is the Student Athlete at the High School level. It must be kept in mind that Athletics is an integral part of education and a tool that can be used to assist students in the future. Athletics allow students to use their special skills for academic advancement which means that they could perhaps have an opportunity to be accepted into a school of their choice which, without Athletics, might not be possible. It should further be kept in mind that, in some cases, this could be a financial loss to families of need.
As educators we ensure students’ completion of four years of education at the High School level. We also allow students the opportunity of four years of participation in a sport of their choice. However, because of the COVID-19 attack, some students have lost a season. We are compelled to do whatever is in the best interest of our students.
Therefore, what to do we do? Just say “Sorry, you’re out of luck” or do we find a creative solution to help our Student Athletes?
The plan is this:
Any student in Grades 9 through 12 that has missed a season of participation can apply for a “Gap” year if needed. This allows students that are feeling stressed and anxious about their lost season to rest easy knowing that they have a chance to regain what was taken away from them. “What a relief!”
The way this could work is that students must apply for their gap year by the beginning of their Senior year. If accepted, they would be allowed to participate after graduation. All student athletes must be accepted in a college-accredited course in a local Junior College or Community College. This allows students to gain college credits that could be transferable to the college of their choice.
I am fully aware that there are many details that must be put into place and questions answered, such as:
- Insurance coverage for students after graduation.
- Rules of Discipline.
- Age requirements by State organizations.
- Recordkeeping and tracking of the “Gap Year” students.
- Coordination with Community Colleges and Junior Colleges.
I believe that the positive far outweighs the negative. I fully realize that this requires more work by Administrators, but it is, after all, all about the students.
Vin Iovino was a standout football three year starter at the University of Connecticut. Vin received two degrees from UConn: a BS degree in physical education and an M.A. degree. After his graduation from UConn, Vin began a long and distinguished career in coaching and education. Vin has coached or taught at UConn, Western Connecticut State University, Columbia University, Norwalk Community College, Plainfield High School, Wethersfield High School, Fox Lane High School, and New Canaan High School. In his long and distinguished career Vin has received many honors and awards. Among these are Westchester Coach of the Year, Connecticut High School Coaches Association Athletic Director of the Year, National High School Coaches Association Region I Athletic Director of the Year, the C.H.S.C.A. Thomas R. Monahan Award, and the IAABO #9 Recognition Award. He is in the Fox Lane High School, New Canaan High School, CHSCA and FCIAC Halls of Fame.