Parents and students concerned that COVID-19 will affect high school athletes

Mount Saint Michael quarterback ZJ Suarez discusses how COVID-19 has affected him.
Courtesy of ZJ Suarez

While New York recently announced that fall sports will begin next March, some parents are concerned about the implications of a lost season.

Roman Suarez, whose son ZJ is the quarterback for Mount Saint Michael Academy at 4300 Murdock Ave., fears that athletes like his son who are looking to play collegiately will be hurt by COVID-19.

He stressed that many in the Bronx struggled before the pandemic and now things are worse. These are families who often rely on scholarships for their kids and without sports, some of them face further financial challenges from frustrating loans.

“With no season in sight, athletes are left with arduous options: abandon their home state, relocate to another school and hopefully be able to play in a state where the season started on time,” Suarez said. “This is something most families can’t or won’t consider due to economic hardships faced during the current COVID climate, when we now have a list of quarantined states, what is the athlete left to do?”

According to Suarez, kids can to travel to other states and compete in camps and other recruitment events. However, parents aren’t risking infection of COVID-19 on top of worrying about the cost of travel, camps, lodging and food.

But Suarez has been driving ZJ from state to state to help him remain on the college recruitment radar.

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, 16 states, plus the District of Columbia have rescheduled football for the spring or winter.

“I’m not complaining, but I’m making every attempt to keep my son on the path towards self excellence and it happens to be, football is his greatest passion, so much so which resulted in him boosting his grades to now be on the Honor Roll Society of his school,” Suarez said. “He is not alone in his successful strides to remain on a team roster and he is not alone in being dedicated to wanting the attention of college programs and scholarships to renowned universities.”

ZJ, 15, is doing his best to keep his head on a swivel while being stuck at home. He is not a fan of having a canceled season, but is taking advantage of the down time.

The teen, who is ambidextrous, has been playing seven on seven every Saturday, training with his quarterback coach Madison Perez in Harlem, watching films and even doing speed and strength drills in his backyard.

Surprisingly, Suarez only began playing football a year ago.

“I’m staying strong and focused on my goal,” he explained. “It’s stressful because I don’t get to have that game experience.”

While his teammates and opponents have been playing for much longer than him, he realizes he can’t change the past. With his eyes on the prize of making it at the collegiate level, Suarez will not let anything stand in his way; not even COVID-19.

“I think football is an important part of my life because I really feel a rush from it,” he said.

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