Trying to earn a scholarship during a pandemic

Saugus graduate Tucker Panarisi takes batting practice in the back yard. Dan Watson/The Signal

While the professionals might have a chance, or are presently taking their chance, to return to the sport they love, the same is not being said for the young athletes who idolize them. 

Almost all youth leagues within Los Angeles County, from the Pop Warner/city leagues to the high school level have canceled their seasons for the upcoming fall.

This is especially problematic for those varsity athletes, who after years of devotion to their craft, wish to take their talents to the next level and play at a four-year university. Since the beginning of collegiate sports, the top talent in the nation have had coaches either come out and see their live-games or, and this is a recent development, watch the game highlight tapes compiled by the individual athletes.

In all of high school sports, there are 7.3 million student-athletes, and yet in the United States, the most recent statistics from the NCAA show there are only 492,000 student-athletes playing at their collegiate level. Approximately only 6% make it from high school to the NCAA. (And only 2% of NCAA athletes make it to a major professional club.)

With these types of slim odds, high school athletes need to do everything within their power to get their name out there in order to advance to the next level.

But with games and practices canceled or removed from any type of contact, how then can these students make sure their skills make it onto the radar over tens of thousands of others? 

Junior and senior year clips of big plays or clutch moments are critical to send out, but local coaches think there are other tips and tricks to getting a player the coveted scholarship they seek. 

“It’s certainly unusual, like everything else this year,” said West Ranch head football coach Chris Varner. “It’s different.” 

Right now, Varner said, he is not allowed to be in direct contact with his athletes because of the rules governing the league. However, he has seen on social media that they continue to showcase their talents. 

For a lot of prospects, the task has been to take to Twitter, said Varner. For a quarterback, it’s important to display their throwing and maneuverability, whether it be in a park on their own time or in a field with a private coach.

These clips can be edited and placed on individual athletes’ social media. 

“This is what all these (college) programs … they have their own twitter account, they follow Twitter, it’s a big thing,” said Varner. “I’m not a big social media guy, I’m a little old school. I’m not old, I just don’t like technology a lot.

“But I’m having to catch up in order to help my athletes, and I’m stepping outside of my comfort zone,” Varner said. 

Varner said a number of companies, such as, make editing clips easy and transferable. 

What to do on your tapes 

“The ‘usually’ has changed,” said Varner. 

At Golden Valley, coach Dan Kelley, said a lot of coaches in the area have come up with a criteria that they would like to see when it comes to evaluating players for this class.

With a camera in hand, football kids should be attempting to make it as close to a combine as possible, Kelley said.

“Things like the 40-yard-dash, the pro agility run, the shuttle run, all that kind of stuff,” said Kelley. They’re obviously having an issue coming out and seeing the kid play, and also just meeting with the coach and that kind of stuff,” said Kelley. 

Everything from game film will only be from the junior year, or possibly any earlier years, so kids should be looking to supplement their loss of their senior season with as much footage as possible. 

“If you don’t have game film, it’s got to be the workout,” said Varner. “Now, if you look good, if you pass the eyeball test, you might have them be interested in pursuing that a little bit further.” 

Kelley said that one of the biggest things missing is the face-to-face interaction with the coach. However, kids can still make up for this loss by making a name for themselves, by reaching out to these coaches through social media. 

“It’s about getting your name out,” said Varner. “That’s the main thing. You want these college coaches to know who you are and you know you put out some workouts, put out some highlight tape, maybe even from your freshman year.”

“Whatever you have, and if they like it, they’ll pursue it a little bit further,” he added. 

College coaches

Shanan Rosenberg, head basketball coach for Linfield College in Oregon, echoed many of the same sentiments made by the high school football coaches during a recent interview with The Signal. 

“I would say they need to be more aggressive, in terms of their outreach to coaches and various platforms than ever before,” said Rosenberg, whose school recruits athletes from across California and the county to play for the Wildcats. “Also, players need to identify that handful of places or more that parallel the type of student they, the resources their family may have, and then almost impose yourself on the coaches and programs.” 

Rosenberg emphasized that students should create their own virtual bio sheet that includes links to highlights, stat sheets, references, testimonials and more.

“I think it’s going to be less of a ‘wait-to-be-selected,’ and more to be aggressive,” said Rosenberg. 

He added that he, along with coaches across the country, have their contact info listed on their respective program’s website and prospective student-athletes should use that to their advantage. 

“Although you may not get a coach directly or indirectly,” he said, “I think you have to be polite, be honest, connect and see if you can get people to call you back.”

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