The Race To Nowhere In Youth Sports

I’m borrowing the title from a provocative education documentary that talked about the pressure we place on young students with obsessive homework and kids not wanting to go to school because of the stress.

How does this apply to youth sports?  Recently I was made aware of a rising 9th grader being aggressively recruited by the top college programs in the country in his particular sport.   The player has a YouTube video that is a marketing video with highlights from his “showcase” matches.  He also posted a picture on Instagram visiting one of these top universities.   Mind you that this boy has YET to start his high school career!   Why is this acceptable?

Why do parents allow their children to play this game and allow their kids to be tampered with in this way?   The NCAA should forbid any recruiting activities until a player has finished his or her sophomore year.   A rising freshman should be focusing on the transition to high school, getting good grades, and figuring out what their passion is academically.  How does a player at this age know what he or she wants in a university?    I also feel bad for the  sibling of this player, who is a rising junior and starting her college journey, only to have it take a backseat to her “younger” brother who really has no business talking to college coaches yet.

Look, it’s terrific that there are young players who have this kind of standout potential.  But these kids will still be “available” in a few years, but the pressure is being passed on from the universities to the high schools to the parents, and now, the students.   An unintended result of this behavior?   We’re now seeing young players specialize in one sport before they even start high school, losing the opportunity to enjoy their high school sports career.   And finally, we are seeing club teams take priority with college coaches at the expense of school teams.   It seems that playing for your high school just doesn’t matter much anymore, and that is also truly sad.

If this trend continues, it is possible that we may see the end of high school sports (which I’m sure many administrators would just love since it’s more taxpayer money for other activities) and kids will only play for club teams (which cost a fortune by the way).

There is absolutely no legitimate explanation defending such behavior, where it is permissible for rising 9th and 10th graders to aggressively recruited by college programs.   It is ok to strive for excellence in sports, but at the same time, kids should develop their mind and spirit as well.   And there is a time and a place for college recruiting, but not when a player hasn’t even stepped into a high school classroom yet!

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