Varsity athletes commit despite COVID-19


Working hard helped these six athletes reach their college aspirations.

Dani Steinberg and Maddie Sofnas

With college sports rosters filling up, many athletes in the Class of 2022 are working to get recruited by top schools, while others have already decided where they will be spending the next four years. Although not many high school athletes aspire to continue their sport into college, numerous Redwood sports players have already secured a spot on a college team. According to a study conducted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, only 6.3 percent of high school athletes go on to play a sport in college at the Division I, II or III level. This illustrates the difficulty of not only getting recognition from college coaches, but also getting an offer to play on their team.

Senior varsity baseball player, Tyler Blair, began his recruiting process the summer before his sophomore year and committed to the University of California (UC) Berkeley this past summer. Blair is looking forward to his chance to play and improve as a Division I pitcher next fall.

“I would say my mindset and my mentality set me apart from other recruits. I’m always working to get better, never settling and never satisfied. Obviously, there are people that are better than me and I just want to get to their level,” Blair said.

Tyler Blair pitching on the mound for the Redwood Giants. Photo courtesy of Tyler Blair.

During the recruiting process, there are several tools athletes utilize to get noticed by college coaches. Varsity soccer player, Mia Curtaz, believes using highlights and game footage were key factors in attracting coaches, especially during COVID-19. Curtaz recently committed to Linfield University in Oregon, joining the 2.9 percent of high school girl soccer players who go on to play at the Division III level. She believes the hours of communication with coaches has paid off immensely. 

“This year, it was super important to have highlight film because we were not playing as much and coaches couldn’t go places. Having the highlight film really helped to [be able to] send them to coaches because then [coaches got] a better idea of how you’re progressing in your play,” Curtaz said.

Lucas Ross, a varsity lacrosse player, recently transferred back to Redwood this fall from IMG Academy. He attended the academy from the second semester of his sophomore year through the 2020-2021 school year. IMG Academy is a preparatory boarding school that specializes in sports, including a year round boys lacrosse program. With the majority of lacrosse recruiters being concentrated in New England, Ross believed the virtual presentation of himself created an even playing field.


“I think [skill videos and footage] were a defining piece of me getting recruited. For kids from the West Coast, it’s hard to gain traction because [lacrosse] is such a Northeast, prep school sport. So for them to be able to see who I am and how I play without having to go to California or Florida, it was very important. Otherwise, you [aren’t] seen,” Ross said.


Fortunately, Ross’s skills and talent demonstrated significant capability, and Colorado College, a Division III school, extended an offer to him.

Similar to many other athletes, senior varsity lacrosse player Megan Minturn had complications in her recruiting process, as tournaments were widely inaccessible.

“Not being able to have my junior summer [where scouts come and watch] was very chaotic and stressful. It was so important to get seen and get exposure during that time, and because of COVID-19, I couldn’t go to any tournaments,” Minturn said. “We couldn’t fly and all these other [Northeast] teams were playing. They could drive to tournaments, but we couldn’t get out there.”

During the Alcatraz Lacrosse Tournament, Lucas Ross is putting in the effort to get noticed by college coaches. Photo courtesy of Lucas Ross.

Despite the challenges, Minturn took advantage of her time away from tournaments through training and practicing on the field. This prepared her for tournaments and showcases once they began. Her hard work and persistence paid off, as Minturn committed to the University of Michigan within a month of coaches seeing her play.

“I feel like COVID-19 honestly helped me. I had so much free time and I would play lacrosse for two hours every single day, do a workout and go on runs. I had nothing else to do, and I got a lot better,” Minturn said. 

Other Redwood athletes also used COVID-19 to their advantage, like senior swimmer Cat Watrous, who has been swimming for her club team, North Bay Aquatics, since seventh grade and is now committed to Division I school, Indiana University. 

“If COVID-19 didn’t happen, I don’t know if I’d be going to Indiana,” Watrous said. 

Watrous believes what may set her apart from other recruits is her ability to adapt to any situation and be more prepared. 

“I’m a sprinter, and there are a lot of sprinters, but if I get thrown into a distance group, which is longer and more swimming … I can make it work. Outside of swimming, I do a lot of dry land and conditioning on my own,” said Watrous. 

Similar to Watrous, Sadie Leonard, a varsity softball pitcher, used COVID-19 as a time to reflect and prepare for her upcoming season. 

“I had time to be away from the sport, and to realize that [softball] was something that I really wanted [to continue]. I wasn’t as happy when I wasn’t playing … [and COVID-19] made me realize that playing in college was something that I wanted,” Leonard said. 

After realizing the importance of softball in her life, Leonard led Redwood to 17 wins in the 2020 season, and later committed to Williams College in Massachusetts, a Division III school.  

Despite the benefits many athletes found with COVID-19 and the extra time on their hands to practice, Ross acknowledged the difficulty of being recruited during COVID-19 and the related NCAA eligibility rule. 

Megan Minturn sprinting up the lacrosse field looking to score. Photo courtesy of Megan Minturn.

“All the college kids who were affected by COVID-19 are still eligible, so they’re still on the team. This takes up roster spots, which means that they don’t have as much space [for incoming recruits],” Ross said.

Regardless of the limited spots, other class of 2022 athletes have continued to commit to top colleges. According to NCAA Sports, 43 percent of spring college coaches said they expect seniors to return for an extra year of eligibility. This creates an overwhelming amount of pressure for 2022 athletes to get recruited as colleges have less space available for them. But, by working hard and communicating with coaches, Ross believes that Redwood athletes can reach their goals and continue committing to colleges.  

“It’s always the kid that works the hardest on the team. That’s the kid who’s going to end up in college,” Ross said. “Work hard and make sure to put yourself and your video out there. Send out emails and make phone calls and you’ll get where you want to be.”