The closing and reopening of Philly schools has sent everyone into a frenzy and left us asking many questions. Is it safe to go back? What about vaccines? Or preexisting building conditions? Elementary and special education students could be back to school as soon as next month. But how soon until high schoolers are able to come back? What does this mean for students who were looking forward to their junior and senior year of high school? All valid questions but many still don't have answers.
Not being able to be in school has serious implications for student athletes. Their junior and senior year is crucial for scholarships and college recruitment. Since the closing of schools back in March 2020, some students haven’t had the opportunities to practice.
For students like Jarren Alexander, a Junior at SLA Beeber, football is everything. This pandemic is standing in between a lifelong dream not only for him but also his family. Alexander has been playing football his whole life and describes it as his “way out”. “Football means a lot not only to me but to my peers who I hang around with, and my family. I feel as though football is a way out.” Alexander said his plans after high school are heavily dependent on athletic scholarships. However, without being able to play like normal he has to work a lot harder to be noticed.
Coaches reported earlier that the football season will continue this March but Alexander hasn’t heard anything since. Due to COVID restrictions, all practices are optional. In order to be noticed by coaches, he’s been using social media to brand himself and his skills on the field. Alexander, like most athletes, worries his performance will decline. As a result, in addition to the practices his coaches offer, he frequently works out on his own.
After a very successful season, Isaiah Tinsley Cobbs, a Senior at SLA Beeber, also worries that his performance will decline. Following high school, Cobbs plans to play professional baseball or work in computer science. According to Cobbs, “it's really hard to keep up momentum during COVID”. Cobbs credits his continued success during COVID to baseball leagues outside of the School District, “If it wasn’t for new leagues I would have lost motivation.” Cobbs advises all athletes who aren’t playing to join leagues outside of the Philadelphia School District. "Their best bet is to join other leagues if you can afford it or just practice alone and record it,” suggest Cobbs.
These trying times are forcing student-athletes to advocate for their future like never before, from practicing alone to venturing out to other teams. These students are working harder than ever to make their life long dreams a reality.