Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Recruiting 7th and 8th graders for college sports

Lots of buzz lately about how the NCAA is now allowing 7th and 8th graders to be recruited. This is an attempt to gain some control over coach contact with middle schoolers since it was already happening in camps with no "rules" governing it. I have lots of thoughts about this but I'm curious about the viewpoints of other parents who have athletes who are now out of high school--what did you see as your kids were growing up. Here are my observations, I'm wondering if you saw the same things I did:

The kids who were standouts in early middle school were sometimes flameouts by late high school. There were a few reasons for this. Sometimes they grew very quickly and stopped just as quickly, so everyone caught up and passed them by. Sometimes their skills just didn't develop or they weren't motivated enough to work on them. Sometimes they burned out on the sport or just lost interest and moved to another sport. Sometimes they just didn't have the temperament to work well within a coaches system. And sometimes, the tougher academic workload and increased competition at the high school level just did them in and their effort slid to mediocre.

I've seen cases of the opposite too. Kids who were average athletes and average in size suddenly put the pieces together and grow and excel somewhere around junior year. In fact, this happens to lots of kids. Does this mean they would get passed on because spots were committed to years before?

A parent on the sidelines sees the ebb and flow of all the kids their child is coming up with and there's a lot of churning before it all settles out. It's very sad to see a sport pass a kid by who still wants to be playing. And it's very exciting to see a kid who has persisted through thick and thin to suddenly come into their own.

It's hard to believe that recruiting 12 and 13 year olds won't result in some very unfulfilled expectations. Let them become who they are meant to become. I'd love to hear from some other parents on this topic. What have you seen from the sidelines?

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