Today is day two of my week of football posts, in anticipation of the beginning of football season. Today’s post is written by fellow Fighting Irish blogger, coach and motivational speaker Oscar McBride.
Robbing the Cradle
Does anyone remember when National Signing Day was an event? No, not the televised event that we’ve witnessed in recent years, but a day to really look forward to? Remember following your favorite high school player in the paper and desperately hoping that he would sign with your favorite college team? Yeah, me too. Unfortunately it seems those days are long gone in the college recruiting game.
Big time colleges and universities are now going after recruits as early as 7th and 8th grade in search of a verbal commitment to attend their institutions. If I remember correctly, when I was thirteen I couldn’t decide which pair of blue jeans I was going to wear much less which college I wanted to go to. Of course I was a “fan” and followed certain college teams, but making a commitment to a division-1A college football program? Really? How can a coach look at a twelve or thirteen year-old and know how the kid is going to progress? Isn’t there more than just the “eye ball test” that needs to be passed?
Of course the argument can be made that some kids are ready for the big time (i.e. David Sills). If you remember Sills, now 16, was the youngest quarterback to accept a division 1A scholarship offer extended by the University of Southern California at the tender age of 13 back in February of 2010 read more. Granted the Red Lions Christian Academy quarterback from Bear, Delaware has been working with legendary quarterback guru Steve Clarkson since the age of nine and has just as much hype surrounding him as Tim Tebow in New York – that just ain’t normal! Whatever happened to “Junior Day?” For those of you who aren’t aware, “Junior Day” is when the top junior class recruits in the nation are invited to colleges and universities for “unofficial” visits during the spring. Since NCAA regulations don’t allow the institutions to financially back the athlete’s visit, it truly becomes a question of whether or not the recruit actually wants to attend… but then again the recruit is a junior… NOT a 7th grader! Has the college recruiting game changed so much that now recruiting begins at age 12?
Where do we draw the line? In their early teens, kids are still growing cognitively and socially. What happened to enjoying the game? Has sport become all work and no play for our young people? Have we (parents and coaches) taken all the fun out of it by driving our kids to the point they believe that our dream is actually theirs? What are we thinking? There are families who transfer their kids from one high school to the next just to get “more exposure.” Can you imagine your kid attending three different high schools in three years? Guess what? It happens.
Here’s a quote for those parents who have no concept of how college recruiting works: “If your kid can play, they will find him.”
Funny, we give collegiate athletes such a hard time about being committed. Hmmmm … let’s see – he made the “decision” to attend your school when he was fourteen and now as a more mature nineteen-year-old he realizes that your school isn’t where he wants to be. So now what? He wants to leave. At this point can we honestly blame the kid? Especially if that same kid attended three different high schools in four years!
We need to take a serious look at what’s happening in sport. What are we teaching our kids? Obviously commitment isn’t communicated … instant gratification is what it’s all about and winning is the MOST important thing. C’mon! Coaches, parents please wake up. We’re looking squarely down the barrel of the assassination of sport. Early commitments and sport specialization at age 10 – for what? So a kid can get hyped up to make a poor decision early and then get beat up for making that same decision later?
Sport in its most pure form is about competing and giving it your best. There isn’t always a shortcut or loophole to secure. If you take the shortcut it always, trust me … always comes back to get you. Hard work does pay off and at the end of the day winning, although awesome, really isn’t everything. As the great Vince Lombardi once said: “The spirit, the will to win, and the will to excel are the things that endure. These qualities are so much more important than the events that occur.” For cryin’ out loud, just let the kids play.
If you enjoyed these words of wisdom from Oscar McBride, please check out his web site for more information on how you can follow Oscar! OscarMcBride.com
Tomorrow I will have the latest post in the “Where Are They Now?” series, featuring offensive linesman Ryan Leahy!