COVID Against Athletic Success


Sierra Donis (she/her), Staff Writer

Ida B. Wells High School sports are back in full motion this fall of 2021 and athletes are being welcomed back to packed stands of  students, families, and a blaring band cheering them on. This was however, no overnight transition to get to this point, and has highly affected both players and coaches. 

Back when bleachers were empty and games were slim, motivation was on the cusp of completely evaporating for the many student athletes at Ida B. Wells High School. Most of this struggle however was, and still is, the lack of college recruiting and scholarship opportunities.

Tony Petraglia, current assistant coach of IBW’s cross country team, said about the current season, “It’s exciting. It was, for me, a little bit hard because of the kids that are sophomores. I don’t know any of them that ran last year. That’s hard, because usually I do know some of them. So, it’s been a lot of extra names that I have to learn.”

Coaches and players are stepping back onto the field after being away for so long, and it can be a shock to see all the changes and new faces. The sudden team changes that have been caused by players graduating and the lack of motivation due to COVID protocols’ have been surprising. 

“I think last season when we had the shortened season of six games, I did see a lot of people kind of not wanting to participate in that. A lot of people have come back,” said Charlotte Richman, IBW senior and varsity cross country and basketball player.

Even with these team changes, the Wells athletic program seems to be more bonded than ever due to the circumstances that they are all struggling in. “I really liked the group of girls this year. Everybody’s really happy to be on the team and playing again because last season was not the best; because of COVID and everything. It was just shortened and condensed,” said Elle Unflat, varsity soccer player and IBW junior.

Due to the pandemic sharply wounding the sports industry, many rules and aspects were changed when it came to recruiting, scouting, and scholarships for high school athletes looking to play in college.

“I know the NCAA [National Collegiate Athletic Association] made new rules so that college athletes that were already in college can stay an extra year of college for sports,” said Richman. “So that kind of messed up between my two classes [2021 and 2022] especially, in terms of how many scholarships they can offer.”

Unflat, like Richman, mentioned this change. “It’s also weird because my sister plays college soccer for Western Washington, a D1 [division one] school. And all of them get another year of eligibility. Which pushes the recruiting process back a lot because coaches aren’t going to need certain players now if they have all of these extra-year students playing. And it’s just a weird dynamic now.” 

The rule changes for eligibility may have helped the previous class of 2020, but are putting current ones into an uncertain situation by making scholarships rarer than they usually are, posing a major problem for juniors and seniors looking for college offers. 

“Yeah, it’s definitely harder with my class [2022]. I know that my friends are struggling to get offers and stuff because of that new rule,” said Richman. Not only that, but not being able to travel to meet college coaches and scouts gives rise to another challenge for student-athletes. The lack of face-to-face activity with college athletics officials can be a detrimental roadblock to students creating connections with the programs that they want to play for.

Big sports events bring out scouts and coaches, yet when those were canceled, the disconnection between players and recruiters was even more present. Richman spoke on this, “We didn’t do any traveling with club basketball. And so, because the coaches didn’t get to see us in person […] It was hard because they only saw us one summer instead of two.” 

Despite the challenges facing them, Wells’ talented athletes still manage to persist. Some even seem to be more fired up for this upcoming year, excited to get back to what they love. “The kids seem to be having a good time, [it’s] really positive,” Petraglia said. 

This upcoming season and year is vital to the success of student-athletes at IBW, as they’re going  back to facing the challenges of college recruiting. Their persistence and hard work deserves applause, so go and show your support. Go Guardians!