How COVID-19 Affects College Athlete Scouting (Alternatives If You Can’t Get a Scholarship This Season)

Written by: Kristyn Pilgrim
Updated: 9/03/20

Winter sports across the country have been abruptly interrupted, and spring sports have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many young athletes are now wondering what will become of the sports skills they had hoped would be their ticket to college in the fall. 

Most recruiting agencies, all the way from Division I down to junior colleges, have been forced to forgo face-to-face interaction with recruits and cannot make campus and home visits as usual. This change has caused a great deal of turmoil for all involved. 

This article will explain the impact of COVID-19 on college athlete scouting and present some funding alternatives for students who may now need a different kind of financial support.

What Is Happening?

The sustained impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has seen state tournaments across the nation canceled due to school closings. This leaves sports recruiters no real opportunity to build relationships with the young athletes who would normally represent their future collegiate athletic programs.

Recruiting classes are planned as much as three years down the road, so this shift represents long-term impacts on colleges’ sports programs and to the young players who hoped to pay for college through sport. Among the hardest-hit groups are high school juniors who play spring sports. Their season never even took place this year. 

By the time those high school juniors can show their skills next spring as seniors, many of them will likely have already chosen a college. This means they will have done so without the source of funding they may have originally planned on.

Everything — from the roster and scholarship limits to operating budgets — has had to be re-thought and restructured at every college and university as a result of the pandemic. How exactly this uncharted territory may affect the availability of opportunity for incoming students varies widely by school and is currently in the air for most.

What Can Athletes Do to Stay in the Scouting Game?

Reopenings change the scheduling, signing, and visitation possibilities almost daily, so this situation is ever-evolving. You have to remain adaptable, try not to focus too much on being home, and use the time to your advantage. 

Make sure your updated highlights reel is posted on every social media page you own. A great deal of recruiting, even in the best of times, is largely digital. Keep in contact with recruiters through email, text messaging, and routine telephone conversations.

Do not use this time as a physical break. Do not forget your body. Hone your skills where you feel your game was weak. Train in new and innovative ways. 

Remember that everyone is in the same boat, so no one is getting the jump on you even though you may understandably feel like you are missing out. Everyone is missing out in the same way, so it is still an even playing field when it comes to getting that scholarship you want. 

Keep in close contact with your high school and travel ball coaches so that they can reach out to the schools of your choice. Coaches are also navigating this new territory and looking for fresh approaches to help players.

Relief for Athletes Affected by COVID-19

It is vital to note that scholarships are still being offered, and students can still pledge to programs. Official letters of intent have come to stand in for traditional signings in many cases. What remains an unknown is when and how college sports will pick back up again. Many variables still dominate those decisions.

Some athletes are being granted an extra year of eligibility to compensate for the loss of time caused by COVID-19. These decisions are made at both the local and national levels, so check with your school to see how they are addressing eligibility. 

The trouble with this tactic for some schools is that it cuts into limited funding allotted for next year’s roster spots, travel, and available scholarships. For some athletes, postponing graduation or entering the job market later than planned is not feasible.

Alternative Scholarship Options 

Many schools are implementing independent responses to the COVID-19 crisis, and you may be able to get funding from the institution you plan to attend. Check with the school to see what its response has been to COVID-19 and whether you might be eligible to partake in relief programs.

If your school does not have a coronavirus-specific funding allotment, do not despair. There are still scholarship options available to you if you know where to look. You might be surprised by the strange things you can get college money for. 

Here are some cool ideas for alternative scholarship options just in case your athletics funding does not come through in 2020:

  • Scholarships for First-Generation Students: If you are the first person in your nuclear family to attend college, there is funding for you. Recognizing the importance of education to gain access to the best jobs, many public, private, and corporate entities have made extensive financial support available to those seeking higher education.
  • Scholarships for Left-Handed People: Yes, being left-handed is a gift, not a curse, and these scholarships aim to support lefties exclusively. Career fields as diverse as transportation and culinary arts offer scholarship specials just for left-handed folks.
  • Essay-Based Scholarships: Perhaps you are as good with your pen as you are with your cleats and would like to showcase your writing skills. Every school subject is affected by literacy, so these essay-based scholarships strive to spotlight students with a high degree of verbal fluency.
  • Easy-to-Get Scholarships: Maybe the stresses of 2020 have gotten you feeling tired, and you want to know how to get scholarship money easily. Rest assured, there are plenty of scholarships out there with no essay requirement and no minimum GPA. 

Organizations such as UStrive College Mentoring and Student Success Agency work to actively pair students with mentors and insights into the scholarship search. Consider contacting them to assist you in locating more scholarship money that can address your unique abilities.

Balancing Safety and Sports

While the return to campus will look different at each college this year, one unifying aspect will be the emphasis on coronavirus testing as it relates to athletes. Because of the proximity demanded by sports, especially the more popular contact sports like football, mandatory testing will likely be part of your collegiate life. 

With that, every student will need to decide how comfortable he or she is with potential coronavirus exposure. All colleges and universities are doing what they can to keep student-athletes safe, but ultimately, deciding when and how to return to safe play can only be made by the individual. 

Students who may have decided not to return to campus in the fall of 2020 will face additional financial and physical challenges concerning their sports careers. The time without coached training either represents a loss or forces the need to seek professional training (at a cost).

It remains unclear how sports scholarship contracts will address the issue of an awardee who has tested positive for coronavirus and cannot complete mandatory training camps, practices, and/or games. 

Keeping Score on Scholarships for Athletes remains sensitive and vigilant to the unique needs of athletic students negatively impacted by COVID-19. We are here to help students navigate the financial aspects of this unusual time by connecting them to fundamental resources and information. 

Whether you are looking to replace lost athletics scholarships or need to know some details on how to fill out the FAFSA, can help.