Pandemic tampering with young athletes’ dreams to become pros
Imagine experiencing the most vivid and fulfilling dream ever. Now imagine being suddenly awakened to a harsh reality that’s bleak, full of despair, and not so fulfilling. In actuality, it leaves you feeling empty and hopeless like a lost child in a supermarket. Well, as an American youth, you can easily be fascinated by all the glamorization and fame that comes with professional sports. This obsession can easily become the dream of a young athlete. But wait, this aspiration of becoming a professional sports player can be ripped from you by injury. But wait, you can be as healthy as a bull and still have your plans snuffed out by a pandemic.
For some of our advanced children athletes, success and fame translate progressively to a sweeter reality. Talented high school players in their Junior or Senior year may have many college scouts watching them as a top prospect. This is one of the most exciting opportunities. Success means standing out at this very moment and is rewarded by acceptance to a reputable College. Giving hopes of even larger exposure for a Minor league option or professional league team. This is exactly the case today with hundreds of top college prospects playing sports going into their senior year in high school, who are having their hopes dismantled by the Covid-19 Pandemic.
High school and college sports, unlike academics and life itself, seem to have been completely put on hold. Meanwhile, your senior year passes by, extinguishing your opportunity of a lifetime to show the world that you are the best in your class. Realistically, your first step of many, on the road to success becomes a painful pitfall and you become forgotten about forever (or at least that’s how it feels).
As a Baseball Director of my local Sports Organization, I have had to witness this painful experience of my talented teens looking to move to “the next level”. We always prepare our players to believe sports are a gateway to get you into the school of your choice, ultimately to get an education. Many of the youth come from less affluent communities and, for many, athletic scholarships are the only option to help pay for their college expenses. During the year of Covid, athletics was put on hold in the schools and so were the Athletic Scholarships. If you are fortunate to have other merits, you may find a school that is willing to accept you and where you may get lucky to continue as a walk-on.
However, the story doesn’t end here. The misery continues with this dream turned nightmare. You get into a school that allows you to play your sport and shine like you know you can. But does it?
Colleges opted to operate as a redshirt year in 2020 because of the Covid outbreak. This means players can play on the team, but the athletic year will not count against their four years of eligibility. Because of this, Seniors were allowed to stay in school for another year and play their sport with hopes of being selected for the Minors. So you, as a freshman (17/18), have to compete with not only Super Seniors (already 4 years in school, so aging about 22/23yrs) but the Juniors who are now Seniors. A small fish in a big pond has become a tadpole in the ocean. Or at least that’s how it seems.
So to all my Covid seniors: We are determined not to have a gap in talent due to the pandemic. Use this time to keep pushing yourself on your own time and not rely on an establishment to showcase your talents. Excel within yourself, stay healthy mentally and physically, and reach down much more than you would have to if the pandemic hadn’t occurred. Drudge through this nightmare and still push through your dream and you will realize nothing is how it seems, it’s what you make it.