Kati Waggoner’s summer never went as planned.
The Hockinson High School senior should have played soccer with her Salmon Creek FC team, a local club organization, and traveled to out-of-state college showcases to, well, showcase her talents.
“That’s where most of your recruiting comes from,” Waggoner said.
COVID-19 wiped all that out, leaving Waggoner, a key member of Hockinson’s Class 2A state runner-up team in 2019, wishing that the pandemic subsides soon and sports can return.
Her future in soccer depends on it.
College coaches primarily recruit off club seasons in a handful of sports, including soccer, basketball, baseball, softball and volleyball. But the pandemic left the high school and club sports world in a standstill since March, and changed the recruiting landscape for coaches and prospects.
Like Waggoner, Squeeky Johnson of Skyview now resorts to being more proactive by sending high school film to colleges. Skyview’s senior point guard knows how valuable playing on the AAU circuit with Oregon Basketball Club this summer could have been.
“It changes up the whole idea of recruiting,” Johnson said. “Now, it’s really focused on instead of waiting for colleges to come talk to you, you have to put film together just to get out there yourself.
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“You just have to work out and talk to them yourself and hope they give you a chance.”
Fort Vancouver junior Khalil Singleton is one of the few boys basketball players locally to land on an AAU team. He plays with Oregon Prospects.
Singleton has a scholarship offer from Eastern Washington and several more schools have expressed interest. However, the NCAA’s recruiting dead period means no in-person recruiting through Jan. 1, 2021, so college coaches are prohibited from attending AAU-circuit events. Many events are live-streamed, but that’s different from an eye-ball test, as Singleton’s high school coach, James Ensley, put it.
“The problem is that statement period isn’t being able to be made right now,” Ensley said. “They want to see him in person.”
As for athletes in what are traditionally spring sports, the impact on recruiting continues to loom large. Baseball and softball had their 2020 high school seasons canceled and the usually hectic summer tournament schedule was condensed. Mountain View baseball coach Aaron Coiteux estimated some kids lost up to 50 potential games in the past six months. Coiteux, who also coaches an American Legion Baseball team, saw immediate impact with one of his athletes who opted to enroll at a college for education only rather than pursue a potential NAIA baseball scholarship.
“Because he didn’t have a spring season, he didn’t get the option to live out his dream,” Coiteux said.
In July, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association revised its athletic calendar to create four seasons with all sports lasting seven weeks. That means traditional high school fall sports — girls soccer and volleyball — now run simultaneously with their club seasons.
But club organizations are adjusting, too. La Center volleyball coach Cymany O’Brien, also on the board of directors for Excel NW Volleyball Club, said the area’s governing body for club volleyball — Columbia Empire Volleyball Association — will have a midseason break to allow club athletes to play for their high school teams without conflict. The club season will resume in time for teams to still qualify for nationals — where college coaches tend to turn out in big numbers, the coach said.
“That took a lot of pressure off of us,” O’Brien said, “to figure out what we’re going to do. Kids probably would’ve ended up making a choice” especially athletes who want to be recruited.
Waggoner, the Hockinson soccer player, is hoping she’s not forced to choose this spring. Local soccer clubs insist they’ll work around the girls high school season, but Waggoner knows the choice is clear if club and high school events overlap.
“Even though I love high school soccer,” she said, “I will do whatever will help me get to where I want to go. If I had to miss a high school game and choose a college showcase over it, that’s what I would do.”