Where will he play? Which team will he pick? Newspapers debated the issue for days. ESPN culminating the speculation with their midday televised special when the superstar revealed his choice, from a high school gymnasium.
No, this wasn’t the decision of a famous pro athlete that fueled the media frenzy, but a high school senior named Jabari Parker who announced to the world via televised news conference that he’d be playing basketball for Duke University, destroying the hopes of Michigan State, Florida, and BYU fans. Minutes later the news reached Parker’s 34,000 twitter followers.
If you think we’ve gone overboard giving high school athletes their own specials on ESPN, take the case of Tahj Gay, an eleven-year-old Altanta native who is being recruited by several high schools and has already been compared to the likes of Adrian Peterson and Emmitt Smith.
College sports programs used to covet high school juniors and seniors as potential players for their programs. Increasingly, middle school athletes are becoming targets. Eighth grader Tate Martell made news when he verbally committed to the University of Washington after receiving a scholarship offer, while thirteen-year-old David Sills committed to play football for USC.
Welcome to the new world of pro and college athletic recruitment where talent is being accessed and recruited at the ripe young age of ten or eleven. Combine this with the explosion of social media and websites like You Tube that allow an athlete’s on court exploits to be viewed nationwide, and you have a situation where teens are becoming “stars” in middle school and attracting their own followings and ESPN specials in high school.
In the process we fuel the false dreams of hundreds of thousands of kids who’d rather become an Adrian Peterson than a Ben Carson. For many, practice on the court or gridiron is the road to fame, glory, and financial success, despite facts telling a different story.
Take, for instance, the statistic that over 1 million kids participate in high school football, but there are only 1696 NFL roster spots available in any given year.
Even when a young athlete beats the impossible odds and makes it to the big show, success is far from guaranteed. Only 37% of NFL players make more than a million dollars per year, with twenty percent living from paycheck to paycheck.
In perhaps the bleakest statistic of all, according to Sports Illustrated, 78 percent of NFL players are bankrupt or facing serious financial stress within two years of ending their playing careers. Sixty percent of NBA players are broke within five years of retiring from the game.
Perhaps we should spend more time developing and recruiting talent for high paying engineering, IT, and medical jobs, and less time contributing to the pro-sports hype machine that too often leaves young men broke and disillusioned.
BMWK, What’s your opinion? Are we paying too much attention to athletic achievement at an early age? Should colleges be allowed to recruit middle school athletes?
like what you're reading?