Patrick Hite’s piece, Let kids be kids, not superstars, at newsleader.com hits home on so many levels I am not sure where to begin. Highlighting the recruitment by UCLA of Stephen Zimmerman (a 6’10” 8th grade basketball star) and his turning down their offer, Hite details several very important points.
First, how the heck does a recently graduated eighth grade student, approximately 13 years old, have any real idea where they want to attend college? Isn’t part of that decision going to be based on what they want to study, along with their athletic interests? Geez, this age student is just learning how best to earn a little cash on their own let alone expand this thought process into making a decision on what career path they want to take?
Oh sure there are exceptions, but even with those, do we really want kids in this age bracket being pressured to think about such details and plans with so much more maturing and growth yet to occur? Don’t they have more important and age appropriate things they should be thinking about, like what would be the coolest outfit to wear on their first day of high school? A little sarcasm, yes, but you understand my point, right?
And, as Hite points out, high school age students tend to change their minds at the drop of a hat. What they are all into one week they hate the next. It is just the nature of teens as they grow, develop, and gain and lose interest in things as they move along their maturing path.
In addition, Patrick discusses the practice of some college coaches creating a list of prospective recruits, and rating these athletes, all the way down to say 5th grade. Really…5th grade!!!
Back in March of 2010, I highlighted a similar argument against this early type of recruitment in my piece College Recruits Getting Younger and Younger: Kindergarten the next great recruiting venue!!! It was based on the same points that Hite brings forth here in his piece, that these age kids should be left alone to be kids for a while longer and not be burdened with the pressures they will inevitably face about three years later when they are more mature and prepared to handle them.
My suggestion, no communications of any kind, whether from coach, athletic program, or University to athlete or vice versa, should be allowed to take place before junior year in high school. I suppose you can’t do anything about the ridiculous practice some coaches have of ranking kids based on athletic talent while they are in the 5th grade; however, you should be able to eliminate any communications, in any form, between the athlete and/or parents and the coach and his or her athletic program.
That’s my take on it. Anyone else have suggestions?