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High school athletes face new realities when being recruited
Turlock High football player Ashton Patterson looks to play at the next level and pursue a career in the medical field (Photo contributed).

High school athletes looking to play at the next level are facing many unprecedented changes due to the pandemic, however, being recruited by colleges is high on that list.

In past years, recruiters would come to the high school and talk face-to-face with athletes and coaches. But once travel was restricted due to COVID, a lot of interaction transitioned to indirect forms of connection. Since the pandemic related restrictions, Turlock High has seen a change in recruiting.

“In the past recruiters could come down to the high school and talk to players and coaches, and there is a direct connection. All those things happen indirectly now through email and video exchanges,” said Turlock High varsity football coach James Peterson, “Turlock as a program had a division one recruit for the last four season prior to COVID. Since COVID, we have not had a division one recruit.”

Turlock senior offensive lineman and nose tackle Ashton Patterson hopes to continue playing at college to grow athletically and academically. Junior season is when recruiters really start to take notice of a player and not having them there in-person made a difference.

“Junior season is mainly where you start getting looked at and talking to coaches and not having recruiters there is a big disadvantage in the whole recruiting process,” he said.

His coach agrees with him and thinks meeting recruiters face to face is the best way for them to properly evaluate players.

“I’m looking forward to reconnecting with college coaches. I always felt it was necessary for getting Central Valley kids recruited. They need to see the players and get to know them. Our kids are tough and play well at the next level,” said Peterson.

Not all recruiting has been virtual though, some division one schools from the PAC-12 were able to send some recruiters in-person to talk to the players, according to Patterson. However, a majority of the recent interactions have been virtual and he said they aren’t able to get the full picture on a player.

“When they come in-person, they can really see you. Anyone can write that they’re 6-foot-4 and 290 pounds, but once you see them it’s a lot different. Seeing the profile and stature makes a big difference. That’s the biggest thing video chat can’t offer, just being able to see the person,” he said.

Regardless of in-person or not, Patterson knows recruiters are looking for aggressiveness, football IQ and speed, so it’s important for him to work on those aspects of his game. But ultimately the first thing he cares about is “playing hard every single snap and wants his team to win first.”

With COVID protocols potentially forcing players to miss games or games being cancelled, the team has had conversations about ways to limit contact. These fears became a reality this season as quarterback Cole Gilbert missed a game, and a game had to be rescheduled twice and played on Monday because of too many players being deemed close-contact to a COVID positive person.

“If you’re in contact, we told the team to try to ask your teacher to move you or try not to be close to anybody. Just take those precautions so you don’t have to quarantine or anything like that, so just take precautions is what we told the team,” said Patterson.