For standout student athletes, sports can often lead to national recognition and ultimately college scholarships worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to the athletes and their families.
Now, with current state health orders restricting actual competition, there is a growing concern among coaches and parents that young athletes are unable to showcase their skills to college recruiters.
“Kids are missing out because they can’t get to the next level,” said Doug Peabody, President of San Diego Shores water polo club.
Peabody says current state restrictions are also having a devastating financial impact on his club, not to mention the severe emotional and mental toll the restrictions are having on young athletes.
San Diego Shores was established in 1992, and Peabody says up to 80% of the athletes move on to college.
Every year, the club hosts an event called the County Cup, which attracts hundreds of teams from across the country. Recruiters from about 45 member schools attend the event to scout players. The event typically generates up to $80,000, which is used to pay for coaches and pool rentals.
This year the event was cancelled.
The club also participates in an event called “Skills and Drills,” which typically draws about 180 athletes and college coaches.
The event was also cancelled.
“It’s a huge impact for kids that could have used water polo as an avenue to get into the school of their choice, and now they can’t or they’re struggling to do so,” said Peabody.
Under state restrictions, only 36 players are allowed in the pool at any one time. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, it was not unusual to see more than 100 players in the water at any given time.
Now, players are limited to performing socially-distanced drills only.
“It’s been really frustrating,” said Sophia Sanders, 17, a senior at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla.
Sanders is a standout water polo player bound for Stanford University. But, like all other youth sports athletes, Sanders hasn’t played competitively for months.
“I just think I might not be at the level I would have been at if I could have played all these months,” said Sanders.
Sanders is fortunate that collegiate coaches have already seen her body of work. But for many other student athletes, prime recruiting season is slipping away.
“None of these athletes can walk on campus, they can’t talk to college coaches except over Zoom or over a phone call, but there’s no in-person contact. They can’t watch you play, you can’t go watch their college teams play. College visits are completely shut down for every single sport on all campuses,” said Peabody.
Meanwhile, Peabody continues to lead practices five nights a week. The club has set up a fundraising page to help cover costs. The page can be found here.