On Tuesday, the Colorado High School Activities Association released the updated schedule for how this year’s high school sports will be played during the COVID-19 pandemic that is wreaking havoc on athletics at all levels globally.
The past few days since the announcement has seen many people posing questions and concerns about how the altered seasonal structure might impact everything from recruiting to club sports to multi-sport athletes’ options to the athletes’ physical health and well being. With every sport but boys golf, softball, boys tennis and cross country being moved to play condensed seasons starting after the new year, the 2020-21 school year will certainly look unlike anything that has been seen in Colorado before.
When it comes to the issue of Colorado’s football prospects being recruited, Erie football coach Chad Cooper said he’s not buying the idea that they won’t be. The recruiting process, Cooper believes, will just have to look different.
“My seniors who have aspirations to play college football, they’re probably going to be affected the most,” Cooper said. “We’re trying to take care of those guys as much as we can. There are some combines being set up so we can try to get some times on our guys and help get them recruited as best we can.”
A number of families have already left Colorado in search of opportunities to play in other states and some players with offers on the table will likely commit to school and early enroll, skipping their senior seasons in the spring. With most summer camps being canceled and now without a fall season, football players also won’t have any game film until March or April. So the responsibility will likely fall on high school coaches like Cooper, as well as private trainers and recruiters, to work harder and develop creative ways to help high school athletes accomplish their goals.
Particularly for sports like volleyball, swimming and baseball playing in the later seasons that extend into late June, many athletes will be faced with some difficult choices because the high school and club seasons will overlap significantly. Will athletes try to play both or choose one over the other?
Krista Solomon is currently taking a year off from coaching high school volleyball at Holy Family but still coaches club at The Diff in Brighton. She believes club, which is generally more recruiting-oriented, will likely be the preferred choice of prep athletes who are looking to play in college. With some clubs costing as much as $3,000 to $7,000 and many teams having already set rosters, that choice might be one that makes itself based on the investment families have already made.
“I think our fear is that kids are going to have to choose,” Solomon said. “Because of how tryouts work, they’ve already happened for club and kids have already signed contracts, so they’re financially liable and have paid deposits. We’ve already been fitted for jerseys at The Diff. That high school time period also coincides right with national qualifiers in March. That’s really going to affect some kids. We’re trying to find some ways to get creative and be flexible.”
Many coaches and parents have also expressed concerns that athletes who play both high school and club, or athletes who elect to play multiple sports, might expose themselves to increased risk of injury. Even the shortened time frame in which the four seasons – A, B, C and D – must be completed, as well as questions about what level of preseason activity will be permitted, have generated some concerns about how effectively high school athletes will be able to get themselves physically ready to play.
“The biggest thing is we should be thankful that we have an option to play as safely as possible,” Longmont girls basketball coach Wade Kingsbury said. “I think the winter sports arguably got the best deal out of anyone because it’s the most normal for us. We weren’t ever going to have normal but at least it’s as close as it can get. Depending on what the playoff structure looks like, we’re going to have two or three games a week. So it’s going to be tight to get ready for the season with a limited number of practices leading up to our official games.”
It’s not going to look much at all like it has in the past, but most people can agree that some form of high school sports in 2020-21 is better than nothing. There are still many questions about how the new coronavirus-inspired model will work and perhaps only time can answer those. As everyone adjusts to the new structure and safety guidelines in today’s every-changing environment, creativity will be key.