Friday, February 5, 2010

A Rant

I heard on the radio this morning about a kid who has given a verbal commitment to be USC's quarterback. The reason this is making news: the kid is in seventh grade. He's thirteen! Not only that, but he has a personal coach who says this kid will be better than any of today's quarterbacks, including USC's current QB Matt Barkley, whom the coach also "mentored."

As a sports fan who also is a mom, I'd love for my kids to have the opportunity to play collegiate sports. But does it have to be a business? Because obviously, USC is trying to get their claws into him years before other D1 schools have a chance. College sports--in particular, football and basketball--have gotten to the point where there's about as much pressure as there would be if he was playing professional ball.

Growing up--going through puberty, making friends, doing well in your classes, enjoying this time in your life--these are all major issues for a teenager. But all that has been robbed from him because his parents and this football coach thought it was a good idea for him to be put in the limelight before it is reasonably time for it. Yeah, sure, the kid is probably enjoying it right now. He has been put in a class of people that kids strive to for. I cannot tell you how many journals I read as a high school teacher where the boys were dead-set on becoming a professional athlete. No other goals did they have other than making it in the NFL, NBA or MLB. One out of every 16,000 athletes gets to go pro, and I'd say that about 90% of the male students I had believe they had a real chance of making it. (Don't hold me to the numbers; I can't even tell time.) I'm not saying it's not good to have dreams, have goals, but there's more ways of being successful other than just by becoming a nationally-known athlete.

I'm not mad at the kid. He's not at fault. He has it made. He's going to get his college education paid for at a great school while playing a sport he obviously loves and be put in a situation where he can showcase his talents for the world to see. I guess I just can't see how a parent can put their child in that situation. The world of adults is not an easy one. The schedules, the expectations, the amount of people who depend on you when you are in a position like that, I can't imagine doing that to my son.

I envision the next five years of his life as being pretty rough. I can see rival teams being motivated to see what this kid is all about, what makes him so special. Are people really being his friend because they genuinely like him, or just want to be associated with someone who's on a privileged track? Is he constantly going to worry about whether or not he'll have an injury that will affect his ability to play? Does he focus on his school work, because does he really have to? I don't know this kid's story. Maybe he has the wherewithal at thirteen to know that an education is still important even though he's playing football.

But what I can't get over is a parent being ok with not letting a kid be a kid. I'm not sure why I'm surprised. You see it all the time with parents who want their kids to be actors, models, singers, etc. There are the stories in sports, too.

Now that my boys are on teams it's getting more real for me. You have the parents who get their kids into camps, strength-training programs and personal trainers--all at the ripe-old age of five. Kids play every sport under the sun, sometimes two and three different activities at the same time. Yes, sports are fun, and I personally believe that I learned things on a court/field that I couldn't have learned elsewhere. However, I also know that it was only one part of my growing up, and I would like the same for my kids.

We live in a sports-loving society, where top players are stalked by the paparazzi as much as movie stars are. People who would be just the same as you and me are not because they have a fantastic arm or they run as fast as a cheetah. I guess what I'm trying to say is that no matter where sports take my kids, I hope that they enjoy them as much as they can, and understand that being a good person is more important than being a good quarterback.

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