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By: Ted Daniel, Boston 25 News
Updated: August 3, 2020 – 9:57 PM

BOSTON — The pandemic has already disrupted high school and college sports. Now it threatens to disrupt the dreams of many student-athletes.

If sports seasons are canceled, athletes who were looking to get recruited will lose that opportunity and potentially lose a shot at a scholarship.

25 Investigates spoke to a group of student-athletes about the impact COVID-19 is having on their athletic pursuits.
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“They like the way I’m playing from the videos, but they want to see me right now,” said Aaron Cooley, a rising senior and elite basketball player at Beaver Country Day in Chestnut Hill told 25 Investigates’ Ted Daniel.

Several colleges have shown interest in the six-foot-five forward, but with high school sports in jeopardy, there’s no guarantee that will happen. No games mean coaches may not get a chance to see him play in person and fewer opportunities to get film from the season that will help with recruitment.

“All young athletes are at risk right now, juniors and seniors, especially the ones that don’t have offers right now, because now it’s just coming down to if you have film or not,” said Cooley.

Last month, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA), the body that governs the state’s high school athletics voted to begin fall sports on September 14. But that date is a place holder. The Baker administration and schools will have the final say.

Basketball, football, and ice hockey are among the sports considered high risk for COVID-19 transmission under current state guidelines. Those would like to be the last sports to return to traditional competition.

“The very elite athletes already know where they’re going to school,” said Brock Jolly of the College Funding Coach, a financial advising company that’s helping high school families navigate the college selection process.

Jolly says canceled sports seasons will be especially tough on student-athletes right below the elite level.

“It’s that player who maybe isn’t the all-state selection, but they’re the best player on their team,” he said. “The good news is, I guess, for better or worse, you’re sort of on the same playing field as most of your peers who likely also aren’t going to have a senior year of competition.”

Our group also included current college athletes.

Gina Lombard from Newton says her basketball season at Oberlin College in Ohio has already been canceled.

“We offered to test once a week but no other school in our conference was willing to test as much as we were, so my coach didn’t feel safe putting us and the community at risk,” she told 25 Investigates.

Some colleges have stopped short of suspending the season. Amani Boston from Dorchester said her basketball season at Southern Connecticut State University has been pushed back to January.

“We’re going to be on campus by ourselves for a while. There’s really going to be nothing to do if you’re an athlete, you’re just going to be in your room, taking classes and then go into practice,” said Boston.

National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) guidelines for college athletics include daily self-health checks, face coverings, regular coronavirus testing, and distancing.

Students will not lose a year of eligibility if their teams are unable to compete.

“My coach kind of talked to my mom for me, and he kind of just was like, ‘If you if you don’t feel safe sending him you don’t have to,’” said Anthony Morales, a basketball player at Boston University.

With so much at stake, student-athletes will need to stay on top of all the changes and they may have to find new ways to stay on top of their game.

“It’s just the waiting. I’m just eager to get back really what it is, said Jakigh Dottin, a basketball player at Towson University.

The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is expected to release updated guidance about sports sometime early this month. Meanwhile, the MIAA says decisions made by other states in the northeast will be factored into the decision here in Massachusetts.

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