ETHS student athletes adapt to pandemic restrictions, delays in the recruitment process


Joshua Hoffman/Daily Senior Staffer

ETHS athletes finally return to in-person competition this fall.

Kelly Cloonan, Reporter

Last winter, Lily Consiglio practiced alone in her club team’s pool and competed in remote swim meets during her junior-year season — a time frame that is typically crucial for college swim recruiting, she said.

Now a senior at Evanston Township High School, Consiglio has finally returned to traveling statewide for swim meets.

“Our season has gone a lot better than last year, so I can’t really complain,” Consiglio said. “We’ve been able to compete in person every week, which we couldn’t do at all last year.”

But this return to a normal season came too late for some ETHS seniors, whose college recruitment processes were heavily impacted by last year’s restrictions.

Since March 2020, several athletic seasons have been canceled, shortened or otherwise adjusted in response to the pandemic. 

ETHS college advisor Joyce Anderson, who works specifically with student athletes, said the amount of physical contact involved in playing each sport dictated the extent of athletes’ restrictions. High-contact sports, like hockey and football, were more impacted than lower-contact sports like golf and cross country.

Anderson said last year’s lack of competitions made students feel discouraged because college coaches had few chances to see them perform. Even with more in-person play this year, Anderson said ETHS likely won’t have as many early signers because of pandemic-related delays in the recruitment process.

The pandemic also made it difficult for students to visit prospective schools, delaying their visits to be later than usual. Consiglio, for example, visited Emory University in July and committed just weeks later in August.

“I didn’t want to commit to a school until I saw it, but schools weren’t sanctioned to do official visits,” Consiglio said. “I would have visited schools a lot earlier had it not been for COVID.” 

Sarah Sollinger, an ETHS senior committed to play soccer at Denison University, had to pause in-person games at the end of her sophomore year.

The summer after sophomore year is typically a crucial time to play in front of college coaches, Sollinger said, but meeting coaches was difficult without in-person competition.

“I was narrowed down to the schools that had already seen me or that I had a connection with, like where my coach knew their coach,” Sollinger said. “Coaches were getting hundreds of emails a day with highlight films, and there was nothing really to set you apart.”

Some students also resorted to more creative means in order to connect with coaches from afar.

Anderson remembered working with one swimmer who, after getting no chances to compete last year, filmed a highlight video in his grandmother’s backyard to send to coaches. 

“That’s what kids had to do,” Anderson said. “If you were really resourceful and willing to put in that extra work, you could show who you were without fancy recording equipment or a competitive game.”

This year’s ETHS senior class also had to compete for fewer open spots on college teams. Last year, the NCAA granted college athletes who missed out on their season an added year of eligibility, meaning some current athletes stayed on their teams an extra year.

Still, some collegiate teams have continued recruiting the same amount of athletes. But Sollinger said larger rosters may also minimize how much playing time each student gets.

“There was one school that I was super interested in that had a roster of 45 girls, and usually they’d only have like 25,” Sollinger said. “It’s a testament to how good their program is and how much the players love it, but at the same time I don’t want to be one of 50 players.”

While Sollinger said she is excited about her commitment to Denison, she added that going through the process during a pandemic was difficult, to say the least.

“I would not wish the recruitment process on my worst enemy,” Sollinger said. “But it was nobody’s fault, and unfortunately that’s how the world works when you’re trying to talk to schools across the country in the middle of a pandemic.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @kelly_cloonan

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