So, what has this rise in travel teams led to? Fortunately AND fortunately, it has led to more exposure for the kids, even to a point of being over the top…
To read Part 1 of this series, click here…
Yes, exposure does lead to opportunity…. Obviously, with the kids playing against better competition, and developing their skills by playing year round, people will take notice. That is almost unargueable. Kids now have more opportunities to showcase their talents than ever before, but is it really in the kid’s best interest?
When fun turns to business… The transition to youth sports to high school sports has gradually turned over the years to become a full fledged business. How you say? The examples are right in front of your face.
- Nationally televised high school games
- The rise of the internet and you tube videos
- The recruitment of players by high schools, even before colleges
- Recruiting rankings services
- The transfering of players to more “sports friendly” schools
- The development of specialized summer camps, such as the “Elite 11” quarterback camp
The media fuels the fire… The media finds a story they can run with and….surprise, surprise…runs with it. Some of the more blatant examples of “overexposure” of our young athletes are:
- A basketball recruiting company that ranks the best players in the country down to the 4th grade (4th grade? No pressure there…how about he or she learns how to multiply and divide first)
- A Cleveland Plain Dealer article run two years ago on three 8th graders and their recruitment and the difficulty in choosing a high school (I always thought recruiting was illegal in high school)
- A national cable channel (no names please, but it starts with an E and ends with an N) televising on one of their major channels the 14 and under National World Series
So, by the time your young athlete gets to high school… Forget about the usual adjustments that kids go through. Forget about a new school, being a freshman with a school filled with seniors, going through puberty, maybe even your first girlfriend or boyfriend, having your grades actually count in your GPA, and most importantly, just being a teenager. The REAL things to worry about for Tommy and Katie are…Did you start on my recruitment video yet? Are my off season workouts scheduled? Is it the coaches fault that I’m not hearing from colleges? Can I transfer to another school if I am not playing at this one? What can I do to get Division 1 schools to call me? Am I on enough social media sites to show my highlight tape?
For what? The chance to get the “Holy Grail” of an elusive college scholarship?
The “specialization” of high school sports… Back 20-25 years ago, it was almost too common that athletes went from one sport to another. Football is over, but basketball is starting, basketball is over, but baseball is starting. Now, you never hear the term “three-sport athlete. Now, once “your” season is over, it is already time to prepare for the next season that is nine months away. Why? Because….if i can just increase my bench press, or throw a softball a bit harder, or develop a better curve ball, i can have bigger schools look at me…
Kids have enough pressure on them already…. There is no need to start ratchening up the expectations of performance in sports on these kids at such a young age. TEACH them the game first. Let them ENJOY playing. Let then have FUN playing. If they show talent in the sport they choose, then GRADUALLY let them know what services are out there for them to expose their talent…,
Until they are at the high school level……Let them be a kid