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College soccer is in their vision, but pandemic interrupts the recruitment process

The result is countless high school athletes unsure if college coaches will be able to see them play, or if there will even be slot available on college rosters.

Hannibal said it’s good to be able to communicate with coaches, but there’s no substitute for being seen in-game.

“I was really banking on this spring and this fall to get seen and get in front of these college coaches,” said Hannibal, a 5-foot-10-inch forward from Ipswich. “Unfortunately, that hasn’t really been the case. I’ve been home a lot of the time.”

The ban on college coach visits isn’t the only obstacle for collegiate hopefuls. High school coaches say the drastic rule changes meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among players have made it hard for players to showcase their talents on film.

“If college coaches did come see them play, it’s a different game. It’s not soccer,” said St. John’s Prep Dave Crowell, taking note of the MIAA modifications for the Fall I season. “More physical players would definitely not look as good.”

The new rules mandate that players avoid all contact — even laying a hand on an opponent’s back is cause for a free kick. Headers are also banned, and indirect kicks have replaced throw-ins and corner kicks.

“It’s hard to get into it and play real soccer when all these little things were getting called if you’re too close to someone,” said St. John’s Prep midfielder Owen Siewert, another Prep senior who is hoping to play in college. Siewert was slated to attend a number of recruiting camps over the summer, but they were all pushed to 2021.

High school players, not to be defeated, have adapted. Hannibal used a camera he got for his birthday in February to create quarantine highlight tapes to send to coaches — drills in the backyard of his home in Medford, shooting on goal, and lifting in his makeshift home gym.

Lexington coach Dastan Pakyari said now more than ever part of his job is to put his players in a position to showcase their strengths.

“Their online presence has to be a lot greater now,” Pakyari said. “During quarantine I was trying to help players find portions of games to send to coaches to give them that extra nudge.”

He added that while the shortened 10-game season offers less in-game action, it gives him more time in practice to develop skills and “round out” his athletes.

Both Hannibal and Siewert scored goals in Prep’s 3-0 win over Malden Catholic on Friday. Siewert scored on a penalty kick and Hannibal drilled a close-range shot off the crossbar and in. With a short season, every positive play and every goal means that much more.

Even if high school athletes do get identified by college coaches, if their web presence and shortened season go perfectly, that still may not be enough. With the coronavirus spurring the NCAA to offer added eligibility to current athletes, there are far fewer spaces for

How Parents Can Support Teenagers in the Pandemic College Process

Suggest your child enroll in a college class online, she said, or aid librarians by transcribing historical documents from home. Parents can talk with their children about what interests them, then encourage them to create a project, like a website or a course for their peers, around that topic, Ms. Daryanani said.

Other experts caution against pushing too hard on teens already struggling with vast changes in their lives. One way to gauge that is to think about how much you used to have to push your kid before the pandemic, said Regine Galanti, a Long Island psychologist and author of “Anxiety Relief for Teens.” “If you are someone who didn’t push, and now your teen needs pushing, there may be other dynamics going on here,” she said.

One silver lining: This moment may be an opportunity for an “equal playing field,” said Warren Quirett, an admissions counselor at a Virginia boarding school and co-leader of the African-American Special Interest Group for the National Association for College Admission Counseling. That’s because affluent families cannot give their children an advantage by paying for expensive camps and experiences, since “it’s all been canceled,” he said.

Urge your student instead to pick up a new skill, or increase their involvement in their community — anything that will pique their interest and enrich their lives, he said.

Mr. Selingo said college admissions officers are going to understand that this is not a normal year. They’ll be “really looking for a mind-set,” he said. “They want students who are creative. They are going to be asking, ‘How did students respond to this pandemic?’”

But be forewarned: with other markers of achievement in short supply, colleges will focus on what is available. “I’ve been telling my seniors,” Ms. Daryanani said, “to really pay attention to their grades this semester.”

Hoping to generate some excitement for next year, Michelle Johnson and her husband took Emma to visit Northern Michigan University in late September. To ensure social distancing, the admissions office was limiting in-person campus tours to only five students at a time, and the slots for that day were already filled. But they walked themselves around the campus, the town and the Lake Superior shoreline. They saw hardly any students; those they did see wore masks.

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