By Ken Reed
College coaches are seeking commitments from high school athletes — and sometimes middle school athletes — at earlier and earlier ages, in some cases as early as seventh and eighth grade.
It’s yet another aspect of the win-at-all-costs (WAAC) mentality that increasingly drives college sports. Coaches, particularly in women’s sports such as soccer, lacrosse and softball, are increasingly trying to lock-up promising youth athletes before the kids even find out who their teachers are for their sophomore and junior years in high school.
It’s a “keeping up with the Jones’s” type of high stakes race. It’s bad for the young athletes, who are too young to know what college situation might be best for them, and ultimately, it’s bad for college coaches, who don’t know how these children will develop physically, mentally and emotionally.
In a recent New York Times article, Nathaniel Popper wrote that “a quarter of all women’s soccer players and a third of men’s lacrosse players in Division I received and accepted scholarship offers before official recruiting was supposed to begin.”
“This is getting out of control,” said Natalie Poole, softball coach at the University of Memphis. “Without legislation to back it up, there’s a free-for-all — no one is going to ethically do the right thing.”
A lot of coaches, like Poole, are upset with the situation but feel they must resort to the same early recruiting tactics as their peers in order to keep up on the playing fields.
For whatever the reason, the NCAA has been loathe to step in and establish regulations that would slow down the practice.
In a letter, Harvard athletic director Bob Scalise said the “N.C.A.A. needs to acknowledge the elephant in the room and engage in meaningful dialogue with its member institutions in order to find a workable solution to this alarming trend.”
The young athletes involved also want a solution to the problem. At first, they are often excited by the attention of college coaches. But as time goes on they often see the negatives in the early recruiting practices.
“This is incredibly important for the mental health of high school athletes as well as for our sport in general,” one current player said in the survey, which was shared with the N.C.A.A.
“Please, make the madness stop,” another player said.
Given the NCAA’s abysmal track record in doing the right thing for young athletes, it’s safe to say this early recruiting madness won’t be seriously addressed anytime soon.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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