COVID-19’s Impact on Athletic Scholarships

There is currently lots of uncertainty surrounding the high school sports schedules throughout America, with some school systems even canceling all sports for the year. In Howard County, several dates have been established as the start of the sports season, but have been postponed time and time again. As of right now, the anticipated start of the athletic season is January 4th, which is subject to change if Covid-19 numbers continue to rise in Maryland.

The uncertainty around the sports seasons may come as a disappointment to many high school seniors who may miss out on a final chance to win a trophy or be acknowledged on a Senior Night. However, some seniors are being affected deeper than just the emotional aspect of sports. For many athletes, earning athletic scholarships is the only way they will be able to afford college, and not having a season is taking that chance away.

I was able to sit down with Coach Jimmy Speake, who is the assistant head coach of the Oakland Mills Varsity Football team. Coach Speake attended college for football after graduating from Oakland Mills, and he shared his thoughts on the situation that high school athletes are in right now. 

When asked about the importance of the senior season, Coach Speake shared that “I was never like a super stud athlete or anything, but my senior year I just got into really good shape. I just really set some goals for myself to be the best I could and had a really good year and then started thinking about college football, which I had not been thinking about seriously until my senior football season.” 

Many colleges have also felt the financial burden put on by Covid-19, as millions of dollars have been lost within the NCAA. As schools lose money, their ability to offer scholarships also takes a hit. Coach Speake brought up the point that “It’s very tough to justify offering scholarships when there isn’t a lot of film or experience which these kids lost the opportunity to do.”

Coach Speake also shared some tips for athletes to increase their chances of getting into certain schools. “I think the whole idea of selling yourself is the number one thing you need to do. As a coach, I want someone who’s motivated and wants to be a part of football and loves football. If I’m a senior in 2020 who’s trying to get in somewhere, I’m making my highlight tape and I’m putting it out to every possible coach I could find on social media, and I’m going to every open house or tryout.” 

Hopefully, the January 4th start date is the final decision, and all high school athletes will be able to take part in their respective sports. Not only for scholarships but just being able to attend college can change a student’s life. Coach Speake highlighted the impact football had on his life, “If I didn’t have a senior season, I don’t have film to send to coaches. I’m probably at HCC or just going to Salisbury and just being a regular student and then I’m probably not coaching football. My whole career path would have probably changed or been altered.”

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