Sports scouting during COVID-19

Written By Tiara Strong, For The Globe

After only being able to play six games before the basketball season came to a halt abruptly due to the novel coronavirus, Amaryeh Lucky, a 17-year-old senior at East Allegheny High School, was left feeling unlucky. For Lucky, this year was crucial for his next step towards his sport’s career. Also, with no visitors being allowed in the building, he felt he was not able to produce.

“No coaches or scouts were allowed to visit, which hurt me a lot,” Lucky said.

With the unforeseen circumstances that were in response to COVID-19 preventative measures, senior student athletes are hurting. The scouting process is different this year due to the physical presence being taken away with everything happening virtually. Parents and students are frustrated that with limited to no exposure, their children could miss their shot.

Lucky’s father, Jarrett Logan, shares his son’s frustration with the way the scouting process has been handled and with the lack of exposure. Although Lucky has attended virtual scouting events and has put together a highlight film, Logan feels what he thought would be a promising year for his son has become the complete opposite.

“It made me more hands-on with the recruiting process. I feel the school is not handling the process well at all. He should be receiving offers from track and football,” said Logan.

Senior year for student athletes in high school is an important time of their lives. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, showing off their talent on the field and court has changed. Colleges’ scouting process looked different in 2020 than in years prior. 

Director of Athletics and Recreational Services, Harry Stinson III, at Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University, has seen how COVID-19 has impacted what used to be a normal sports season. Basketball was the only fall/winter sport that was allowed in the 2020 season. Students are following health guidelines and taking safety precautions such as being tested every three days and having no visitors to campus. 

“The Basketball season was normal except games had to be played with a limited crowd,” Stinson said. 

The scouting process this year at Lincoln University has had quite a few changes. Prospective students are able to showcase their talent virtually instead of in-person. 

Stinson said that he does go to the bigger events and tournaments to look for prospective talent but is unable to go to high schools. 

“The process has remained the same, how we execute has changed,” Stinson said.

National Scouting Report (NSR), a scouting service, helps connect families with colleges. Due to COVID-19, the entire process is now virtual which has not changed much. Relying heavily on student athletes’ highlight videos, student athletes need to keep this vital film handy.

Larry Perrin, an executive director for NSR, has been working diligently through the COVID-19 pandemic to help student athletes showcase their talent to prospective colleges. NSR has always relied on season highlights to evaluate the performance of student athletes.

We are still scouting and evaluating film on athletes and college coaches are still recruiting. Our scouts spend hours looking at film and communicating with the family and the athlete,” Perrin said. “We have seen an uptick in college coaches reaching out to see if we can help them fill their needs for their recruiting classes. This is a very unique year and we have all got to adapt and change as needed.” 

Upper St. Clair High School was fortunate to be able to get a football season in. With senior year being a crucial year for senior student athletes looking to showcase their talents, students are relying heavily on highlight tapes. Athletic director, Kevin Dietrick, has tried to make sure that the only avenues still available to students were utilized.

“We’ve had a lot of colleges come and pull students from classes,”  Dietrick said.

The basketball season at Upper St. Clair High School was able to complete a season. However, the students played with little to no crowd. In order to ensure students still had an opportunity to be seen, Dietrick made it clear that college coaches are just as important as parents as far as who is permitted into limited crowd games.

“College coaches is up there on the priority list to me,”  Dietrick said. 

With Woodland Hills High School student athletes only being able to play 7 out of 10 football games this season, it left senior student athletes feeling robbed of opportunities. With no crowds being allowed at games, that included scouts. Football head coach, Timothy Bostard, has seen up close how COVID-19 impacted some of the seniors’ dreams.

“A lot of kids feel like they got the short end of the stick,”  Bostard said.

Bostard has been working with the students over the summer and into this school year. With the unpredictable shutdowns, students were not able to get in consistent workouts and attend things like sport camps which are vital summer activities for senior student athletes. Seniors have voiced concerns of feeling like they are just not being recruited. Money and athletic scholarships are also being given sparingly.

“For example, if Slippery Rock University would normally have 15-20 athletic scholarships, this year they may be only giving out 5-6,”  Bostard said.

Woodland Hills High School head basketball coach, Matt Furjanic, has been on the front line with his senior student athletes. Furjanic has faced many challenges this year due to COVID-19 and has many concerns for the senior student athletes who are not going to be seen this season.

“For ones who grew two inches over the summer, it is going to hurt,”  Furjanic said.

Furjanic feels for the late bloomers or for those who were finally going to be starters this year. He knows student athletes who are top in the country will still be looked at since they have been on the radars of many colleges, but for those who bloomed late, that may not be the case. He stresses the importance of putting together a good highlight film.

“A good highlight film is going to break down the film into scoring plays, defense plays, passing plays and hustle plays. Give me a tape that I can see you do all these things,” Furjanic said.