High school athletics has been drastically changing over time. It used to be a fun environment where kids developed life skills while playing the sport they enjoy. Athletes used to play with pride for their school and community, but over the years this has changed considerably due to sports recruiting.
When I was in high school, social media wasn’t nearly as prominent. I was stuck at home making sports recruiting videos and mailing them out to coaches all over the country, not knowing if anyone was watching or gave a shit. Nowadays, you can quickly add a video of yourself to Twitter and DM the coaches of your choosing. The process has sped up to the point where 7th and 8th graders are already committing to schools. College coaches are forced to look at middle schoolers, trying to predict their future at the next level before most of them hit their growth spirts.
If you are a top-notch high school athlete, you’re probably committing before your sophomore year in high school. This adds a whirlwind of complications for high schools and universities. Some kids are solely playing for scholarships and not playing because they love the game. This also adds the dynamic of every kid thinking they “deserve” a scholarship. Nobody should feel like they deserve anything if they suck at their sport.
A lot has gone into this gradual change and one of the main factors is money. Let me explain…
Travel programs for all sports have turned into a business. Yeah sure, give me $10,000 and I will assure your kid gets in front of coaches and gets a scholarship. Travel programs want to pump out as many kids as they can. When the player goes on to play in college, their travel program gains credibility, ultimately telling the incoming group of kids (and parents), if you spend your money with us, you’ll be rewarded with a scholarship. Sure, this business model makes sense and probably garners tons of money, but at the same time it can get very slimy. Some programs might not give a shit about your kid. They buy the top brands of training equipment so that you buy into the program. It’s an investment, yes, but before you give these people your kid’s college fund, you better make sure they are for real.
All of this boils down to the parents. If parents aren’t smart enough to realize their kid’s potential, they’ll be the suckers losing all their money. Unfortunately, this happens more often than not.
Like I said, it’s all about the money. Let’s talk about the sports recruiting speeches that kids get. Colleges are constantly trying to upgrade their facilities, so they have the best in the country. Obviously, a nice facility is a big financial investment for the college, but if you have one, along with a good coaching staff and a proven culture that wins, solid kids will come to the program, win games, and be on TV to provide publicity to their school. This will hopefully drive more tuition. Again, everyone must make money and universities are no different. I’m not saying it’s wrong, but that this dynamic has changed extremely fast due to the role that social media plays, and the constant theme within athletic departments of, “how do we gain more publicity?”
High school athletes don’t even know what’s right anymore. That middle tier athlete who is productive at the college level isn’t the five-star recruit we see on ESPN these days, and is passed up and sometimes missed altogether.
The number of sports recruiting services is at an all-time high. You end up paying these random people who promise you everything but an athletic scholarship. The problem is, most coaches want to see you in person and if you don’t have the money to travel across the country to these tournaments where coaches are at, you get put on the back burner. Yes, I went to them and played for a top-notch travel baseball program, but I was fortunate enough to have parents with the money to do that for me. I feel bad for the kids who don’t have that luxury.