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NCAA

Words From A HS Coach: College Football Early Signing Day Hits Different During Pandemic

The most vital issue is the uncertainty surrounding upperclassmen who haven’t had an opportunity to play this season.

As a high school football player “ National Signing Day” is supposed to be a culmination of all that hard work from “Pop Warner” to “High School”. This is the time where you, your family and coaches are supposed to come together and help decide which opportunity and situation is best at the collegiate level.

READ MORE: National Signing Day Has Become A Spectacle

Every player has dreams of going D-1, but regardless of the level (D2, D3, NAIA or JUCO), an offer is an offer and as a parent or coach, you wanna stress to athletes a free education is something they can’t refuse.  

Typically, “National Signing Day” would happen in February and that’s still the case, but in 2017 the NCAA began a new version they call the “Early Signing Day” period. This is a three-day window in December where HS football players can sign their National Letter of Intent (NLI) with the college institution of their choice, where they’ve been offered.

The (NLI) itself isn’t affiliated directly with the NCAA, but was created by the Collegiate Commissioner’s Association to protect the college and student athlete from either party backing out.  Signing day is met with joy and unfiltered euphoria as dreams come true and HS seniors choose where they’ll likely spend at least the next four years of their life following graduation. 

Sometimes this day is met with great trepidation as well, as some student athletes have the opportunity to choose between multiple schools. When this occurs, the best advice you can give them is “Go Where They Love You” not “Where You Love” and they “Only Like You”.

This is a decision that many make and then you look up and they’re entering the transfer portal once they realize they really weren’t one of the players that particular school felt was a must-have. They get caught up in it being their so-called dream school, but remember your dream school should be where they prioritize you and act is if they can’t live without you, to put it bluntly. 

During these trying times in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic completely wrecking the system ( no official visits, campus tours, coaches coming to your HS to visit, and a ton of other things), the most vital issue is the uncertainty surrounding those seniors and juniors who haven’t had an opportunity to play this season. Many states haven’t had a season.

Those athletes who were banking on the 2020 season to finally show the recruits what they could do never got the chance. It probably changed the trajectory of many a life. Their only option was to send in whatever film they may have had from the previous season (if any). The recruiting process was relegated to ZOOM meetings which are so impersonal and just don’t get you in front of a collegiate coaching staff so you  — and those helping you make this life-altering decision — can see how much they really want you. 

The recruiting experience as a whole is part of what makes college football great and while the magnitude of the moment remains, the pomp and circumstance and human interaction is damaged.

If 2020 has taught us anything it’s that you have to have the perseverance and grit to stick with the plan even when things are looking grim as they have for much of the world since March 11, when the NBA shutdown and the sports world followed. 

And as a coach who loves to see players excel and get to the next level, especially the BLACK athlete who’s in need of “GETTING OUT,” there’s no greater joy than to see your player level up in life. 

My hope is for any athlete who hasn’t received offers is that they’ll get the opportunity to sign somewhere even in the midst of this very trying and strenuous time in the world. 

As a coach, it’s important to tell your student athletes that signing on “Early Signing Day” (December) or “National Signing Day” (February) is just that and doesn’t mean you still can’t pursue your dream of getting to the next level.

Those two periods aren’t the end-all-be-all timeframe a school or schools can show interest and offer you an opportunity to pursue your dream. So stay ready, focused and always believe in your abilities. 

The mental health of many have been tried and tested in the past six months. Maybe you’re not getting offers because you didn’t have a season where you live or it may have been cut short as the virus ravaged plans in many ways.

READ MORE: The Frenzy And Illusion Of College Football’s National Signing Day

Doesn’t mean it’s over in any way, shape or form. It’s your duty to hold firm with the support of your family, coaches and others and await as the opportunity will eventually unfold if it’s God’s will. 

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