Term Paper: High School Sports Recruitment the Dream

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¶ … High School Sports Recruitment

The dream of any competitive athlete, young or old, is to be recruited with the hopes of working professionally. Lure of fame and fortune is particularly poignant in adolescence, especially because of the celebrity status of professional athletes in all sports, from basketball to football to baseball to hockey. However, young athletes in high school are especially at risk for the disillusionment that comes with the territory of sports recruitment. Countless agencies currently offer their for-pay services for high school students promising fame, glory and big bucks for their participation. Such organizations sometimes cheat parents and students into buying pipe dreams. Often, such services are simply resume-building services that offer little in the way of true professional guidance. Reputable organizations like the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) begin their recruitment process as early as the ninth grade, when a student can become a "prospective student-athlete." While in many cases, young students gain much from reputable recruitment services, such as access to good sports facilities, good coaching, and funding for school, only a tiny portion of recruits make it in the cut-throat world of professional sports. According to the NCAA web site, "There are nearly 1 million high-school football players and about 550,000 basketball players. Of that number, about 250 make it to the NFL and about 50 make an NBA team," (Dempsey). High school recruitment can also cause students to develop a number of psychological and physical problems such as depression or severe, life-long injuries. Moreover, steroid use among young people is high and a high school student might very well want to bulk up fast when a recruitment officer comes to town. While the recruitment of high school students for sports remains one of the most promising means for young people to develop their innate skills, recruitment must be tempered with common sense programs that bolster the importance of ancillary skill development and reduce the risks for psychological and physical problems.

The official process by which the NCAA recruits young athletes begins when a "booster" or representative visits high schools in search of prospective recruits. Even before the ninth grade, colleges may choose to sponsor junior varsity athletes in the hopes that they will develop. The NCAA representatives work in collaboration with school coaches and with parents and the NCAA remains solidly committed to promoting the athlete's scholastic achievements and offering funding and scholarships. In all cases, the NCAA approaches the student, and not the other way around. The NCAA recruitment model is admirable, sound, and balanced. Their emphasis on remaining amateur, that is, not getting any financial reward, prevents many of the psychological problems that can develop when students are recruited too young. Greed and parental pressure are in fact one of the main causes for concern regarding the recruitment of high school students. Recently, the National Basketball Association (NBA) has been in the spotlight for recruiting high school students. With other sports such as hockey or football, students fresh out of high school are generally unable to meet the rigorous standards of their respective sports. The young stars of the NBA bring attention to the disadvantages of high school students being propelled into professional sports before they are psychologically prepared for the pressures such a lifestyle entails.

A high school student may be physically prepared to engage in competitive athletics with people several years if not a decade or two older than they are, but might not be psychologically and socially prepared. The psychological and social disadvantages of high school recruitment can be boiled down to two main things: money and education. Recruiting high school students who turn out to be shining stars can result in the student instantly earning million-dollar paychecks. Although this is the dream of most young athletes, if the student's is still a minor and the parents are unethical, they might mismanage the student's money. Even if the student has reached the age of majority, the young athlete might mismanage his or her money, or become seduced by an unhealthy lifestyle that emphasizes materialism over sportsmanship. Thus, a similar situation that faces young actors is faced by young athletes: being thrust into the spotlight, growing up faster than is natural, being instantly wealthy. Even when recruiting high school students leads not to instant paychecks but rather to instant scholarships or other benefits, the student could be significantly disadvantaged psychologically and socially. For instance, the young recruit might neglect his or her studies. Many colleges require that their young athletes maintain a certain grade point average and/or take certain required classes at school. However, many universities and colleges that are associated with the NCAA do not enforce their rules. Hoping that their students will represent the college someday, they allow their young athletes to lapse in their academics. Because the success rate for college athletes in the professional world of sports is so small, young athletes need to keep other options open. According to the NCAA, "Less than 3% of college seniors will play one year in professional basketball." Recruitment of high school students must be coupled with solid programs promoting academic advancement, career placement programs, and career counseling. To prevent or counteract the psychological problems associated with the recruit of high school students, colleges can also make sure to involve their recruits in general counseling.

Other psychological and social problems young recruits might contend with include depression, friendlessness, excessive competitiveness leading to aggression, or general stress. A recent recruit from high school who attends a college out of state might be unprepared for his or her new environment and when thrust immediately into a rigorous sports routine might have a hard time developing new friendships. Cut off from both friends and family, the young student could feel severely lonely. Kevin Brochu also points out that recently, "the pressure to succeed has caused many kids to specialize in one particular sport and play it year-round. Youth athletes are losing out on the benefits that accompany playing multiple sports...cross-training, broad skill development, fun." In other words, the prospect of being recruited might cause a student to become overly specialized, even obsessive.

Moreover, sports are inherently frustrating. All young athletes deal with defeat and frustration and care must be taken to avoid low self-esteem or self-defeating tendencies. Coaches or parents that place too much pressure on their students to succeed might inadvertently be contributing to the students' problems, too. High school students have barely been able to develop strong egos and strong support systems, and when they are thrust suddenly into a highly competitive environment, their spirits might break easily. On the other hand, competitive sports also build inner strength, helps students make friends with like-minded people on the team, and can be a boost to self-esteem in general. Therefore, recruitment of high school students is generally positive but care should be taken to support new recruits and offer as many social outlets and psychological support systems as possible.

High school students recruited for sports can develop significant physical problems too. For example, the student might push him- or herself too hard in order to compete and might develop injuries that remain latent for years. Poor coaching could exacerbate the problem, such as coaches who are unaware of proper technique or physiology. Pushing too hard on the field can lead to injuries. Many sports are necessarily aggressive, and some contact and pain is par for the course. Young recruits need to learn how to deal with injuries and pain. However, young athletes recruited right out of high school might be still growing and their bones still forming. Although in some cases young people heal fast, an injury at an early age could destroy any hopes for a career in professional sports. Because young athletes have not yet learned the intricacies of their sport, they might also be more susceptible to improper techniques leading to injuries on the field.

In addition to injuries, high school recruits might also be highly tempted to use performance-enhancing drugs. The highly competitive nature of sports can cloud a young person's judgment; performance-enhancing drugs may seem like an easy way to ensure success. Because young people with developing bodies and unsettled hormones are particularly at risk for negative effects from steroid use, drug use is a major disadvantage of high school recruiting. Care should be taken to provide drug testing to high school recruits to nip the problem in the bud. In addition to steroids, high school student might resort to compulsive eating or training habits. If a high school student wants to make a certain weight class, he or she might also resort to unhealthy eating habits, habits that can cause permanent problems. Female athletes might be prone to anorexia or bulimia, for example. Male or female athletes might use drugs to add bulk to their bodies quickly, and they might also over-exercise.

Recruiting high school students is generally a positive trend. With the obesity epidemic that besieges the United States, any impetus to develop… [END OF PREVIEW]

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