The Peacock Press

Stories produced by St. Peter's Journalism Students

Get Out of the Sandbox

Jaden Newman plays on a high school basketball team at Downey Christian School, averaging 30.5 points and 8.9 assists per game. She was heavily recruited by the University of Miami for a full ride scholarship last year. Although University of Connecticut is her first choice, she’s going to keep Miami as a consideration when she decides on a school in 8 years. She’s 10 years old and in the 6th grade, standing at 4”7.

Dylan Moses was offered a full scholarship to play Division 1 football at Louisiana State University. He was invited to the camp and outperformed almost every high school kid there, and he was just about to enter the 8th grade. He was also being recruited by Alabama, Florida State, UCLA, Ole Miss, Texas, and Nebraska after news broke about his performance in Louisiana.
These are kids being recruited to play at some of the highest levels of competition before even entering high school. Most kids like these two have been raised with a ball in their hand. Waking up before sunrise to get extra work in, going to school, going to practice, coming home, and repeating every single day. This is a schedule for a professional or collegiate athlete, and to me, is too much for kids younger than 16.

These are my problems with it. Kids like Dylan and Jaden, yes, put in countless amount of hours in  their sport. Except, they have a gift. They are extraordinary talents that have a natural ability for the sport they play, making them very passionate about it. Not all kids have this God given ability and have to work much harder. They have to develop at a normal pace and learn more about the game each year they play. There are over 7 million high school athletes, and only 2% of them will get recruited Division 1, and 1% will get full ride scholarships, according to ncaasports.org.

Parents can be overbearing. Obsessing over their child and success in a sport, putting way too much pressure on their kid, and even make them not want to play anymore. Parents see the success of these phenoms and the college attention they’ve received, and directly apply that to their child, thinking they can be just like Jaden or Dylan if they worked harder, and the pressure is unfair to put on kids.

These sports are games. Something that I wish I could have understood way earlier in my career. It was always so serious for me. I needed my stats to be higher, I needed to be the best, I needed to lead my team to wins, and only wins. I put an immense pressure on myself, and coming from a basketball family, they pushed me very hard as well. After my sophomore year in high school, it wasn’t about having fun anymore. I cried after games if I didn’t feel I played well. I was lectured on the car ride home about all of the things I needed to improve on and was worrying about all the recruiters watching me play in the stands at all of my games.

Fun wasn’t my focus. After I got recruited, it only got more intense. With a 5 class schedule, 3 hour practices, lift, conditioning, and shooting in the morning and at night. It’s hard on your mental well being. On top of coaches jumping down your throat, you get calls from home telling you what to do when they don’t understand what you’re going through, and that doesn’t help. Feeling constantly scrutinized, not good enough starts to become a lasting feeling. And then you get on yourself on your own performance, over thinking, making stupid mistakes, getting anxiety.  It’s not so simple anymore. From my own experience, I wish I would have treated basketball more like just a game. I wish I would have enjoyed it, whether things were going my way or not, and not worried about everything else except the fact that I was doing what I love to do. Going into my senior year and last season of my career, I’m excited to find my new passion in the next chapter of my life. However, as much as I’ve been through with basketball, it will always be my first love
The way sports are evolving, kids can’t be kids. They’re athletes and prospects before they can innocently enjoy a game they love to play. The pressure colleges and parents bring to the player puts too much pressure, and can cause more harm to the athlete, their performance, and their enjoyment of the game.

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About bridgetwhitfield

Newhouse graduate student at Syracuse University. Facebook: Bridget Whitfield Twitter: @dailydoseof_b

One comment on “Get Out of the Sandbox

  1. Will Stone
    October 30, 2015

    Great post! I would recommend that it read Bounce by Matthew Syed – he believes that natural talent has far less to do with talent than focused practice. Maybe if these kids practise often enough and well enough to be good enough then they are ready.

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This entry was posted on October 30, 2015 by in Opinions.
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