Should my child take a gap year?…COVID’s Extra-Eligibility Challenge

by | May 21, 2021 | Advice for Parents, Articles about Coach Bryant, College Athletics Recruiting

Dear Coach Bryant:

While Division 1’s in-person recruiting dead period ends May 31, we’re still unsure our son will receive a visit from a coach from his targeted college’s track team. He hasn’t received the attention we expected in past months – only a few emails, and no texts or calls about the videos we sent. Covid’s additional eligibility year for current students seems to have changed our son’s prospects for a scholarship — or even a spot on the roster. 

What do you think about students like him taking a gap year? Should he wait for more openings next season? 

Disappointed Dad

Dear Disappointed:

This is a great question – one that many parents are asking right now. We definitely know a gap year can be a developmental tool to help some students make better decisions in college. They’re actually quite common in other countries. However, I’m cautioning my clients against considering a 2021-22 gap year a simple solution to Covid-related recruiting challenges. Here’s why:

  • Nothing may change in 2022. Recruiting won’t return to normal until after the class of 2023 finishes their extra eligibility. Next year might be better, but I wouldn’t count on it. Some students who had verbal commitments from coaches are finding those coaches now don’t have the money to offer scholarships. That reality is unlikely to change in a year — or even two.
  • It may be harder to get attention. Before committing to a gap year, athletes should determine how they will compete in their sport and gain recruiting exposure. Our youth sports system is not really set up for post-high school coaching contacts. Some sports that offer minor league-type play might provide good gap options. However, all students should avoid any paid-to-play situation that would end their NCAA eligibility.  
  • Finances can drive decisions. This is a good time to take a realistic look at college costs, current scholarships, and what funds will finance a gap year. Since I emphasize whole-person development, I strongly suggest gap students earn money – perhaps in the field they hope to pursue professionally. This should be a development year, not an extended vacation!
  • Coaches are still recruiting. If a student athlete is not getting attention from their targeted school, it’s time to broaden the target. While a Division 1 school’s roster may be full, there are often options to play elsewhere.

The Reality

I always encourage students to evaluate the “unknowns” when making any college decision. A gap year introduces new unknowns. Right now, most student athletes know who is looking at them. While there has been a D-1 dead period, some D-2 and D-3 coaches have continued in-person visits, and coaches in all divisions have continued “virtual” visits through emails, calls, and texts. Coaches are reviewing students’ videos and talking with potential recruits by phone or Zoom about what they’ve seen. If the “right” coaches aren’t talking with an athlete this year, that athlete doesn’t know that next year will be any different. To minimize the unknowns, I typically recommend athletes broaden their college search, seeking the best place to pursue both sport and study.


I am Coach Amy Bryant, a 19 – time NCAA National Championship player & coach who helps high school student-athletes navigate the college search and athletics recruiting process. I believe every student-athlete is unique and requires an individualized plan to find the best college match.


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