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When too young is too young...


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ASNN365 - Based on everything going on right now in sports, there will soon be a press conference consisting of a D1 school's president, AD, head coach, OB/Gyne doctor, media, and of course their parents... and it may go something like this...

As soon as the baby is born... the doctor raises him and says... "it's a boy!!!"  A jeering cheer is heard and the media begins tweeting and snapping pictures.

The doctor cleans the baby up and hands him to the new parents... they hug and kiss the baby, then the dad walks over to the podium, holding his son, and is joined there by the D1 school's president, AD, and head coach.

DAD: I'm proud to announce the my son, junior, born 15 minutes ago, with a stat line of 22", 7 pounds 5 ounces (more cheers).

Dad fights back the tears...

DAD: I'm proud to give a verbal commitment for my son to attend State University.

Everyone stands and cheers... media cuts to the schools jammed packed gym, where 21,000 students are watching live.

HEAD COACH: we are so proud of your decision to attend our program. We can't wait to see your son play for us. He's going to look great wearing our colors.

MEDIA: what sport will he play?

DAD: Well, not sure... but look at him... doesn't he look like he'll be good in just about any sport?

Now that story is a little over the top, but you get the point... In the United States their are some exceptions you can not do until you reach a certain age...

*you can't get your driver's license until you are at least 16
*you have to be 18 to vote, buy tobacco or join the military
*can't get married without parental consent
*you have to be 21 to legally buy and drink alcohol
*you have to be 25 in order to run for election to the U.S. House of Representatives.
*you have to be 30 to be eligible for election to the United States Senate
*and of course, you have to be 35 in order to run for President of the United States.

So as you can see, we (society) place a value on age and subsequently the maturity and experience that comes with it. Why not in sports? Everyone, from parents to student-athletes to ADs to coaches to boosters and everyone in between, is in such a rush to be apart of the next big thing?

Now, I do recognize that more than ever, prospective student-athletes are demonstrating the talent and potential to play at the college level at younger ages. While their game may show a maturity beyond their years, the reality is that an eighth grader is still 13 (or 14) years old and these freshman and sophomores have barely gotten their feet wet in waters of high school life and responsibilities. Asking someone that age to decide their athletic future, as well as academic desires, is unrealistic and borders on the absurd.

While a young person may have the physical and fundamental skills recruiters look for, there is no way coaches can know who that individual is going to evolve into over the course of her high school career. Emotional maturity, love of and commitment to the game and academic performance are all only an estimation at this point.

Now I get it... Coaches want to sign the best players they possibly can. But not all of that is specifically determined on the court or field of play. Character, work ethic, personal investment in the game, leadership and many other intangibles are the things that set a great player apart from just a talented one. So, how do you determine that at the age of 13?

Are coaches and their institutions doing this so they can say  "we were the first to offer..." If so , that is the most meaningless statement in recruiting. It doesn't change anything about what a university and program can provide to help the player find success academically, athletically and personally. In addition, while it may well be promising, there's no guarantee that all that athletic potential  will develop as projected. Schools that offer and receive early commitments can be put in the awkward position when a player fails to develop as projected. They face the decision of reneging on their offer or keeping their word and possibly having an athlete who will be unhappy and not have the success envisioned when they  committed. Thus, some schools choose to address the situation by painting a bleak picture for playing time and discourage an athlete from actually sticking with her decision. It may be honest, but it's a slap in the face of the player because the coaches did a poor job of evaluating.

Not all of the blame for the early commitment problems lies with the college recruiters. The athlete and their families have to bear responsibility as well. The attention, the excitement and the gratification that come from a school's interest in an athlete's future is undeniable.  However, it's no reason to abandon common sense. Parents and coaches have to be the ones to hold the reins on the recruiting process and keep things from accelerating and operating on the recruiter's timetable. This process is about the athlete, not the school's and programs who may be willing to take risks.

It just seems like early commitments keep athletes from exploring options that may have ultimately been a better fit for their level and style of play.

In the end, the reality is that early commitments are the result of early offers. If coaches begin placing a higher premium on getting to know an athlete beyond just their athletic ability, a lot of the wrong choices, miserable experiences and transfer situations we see today might be minimized.

Many early commitments may work out well and ultimately have been outstanding choices, but you can not say that they wouldn't  have been good choices at a later date, as well as without the risk and pressure placed on both parties.

In conclusion, not truly getting to know someone has led to some bad marriages both in romance and in recruiting. You've got your whole life to enjoy the right decision with the love of your life. You've only have a few years to enjoy the right decision with your education and athletic career. As in life, there's nothing wrong with playing the field  and dating before you settle down... from here you're much more likely to make a lasting commitment. 

Just because a school has offered something today, doesn't mean you have to make a decision before you choose your classes for your sophomore year in high school. If they like you now, they're going to like you even more later. And if they're not willing to wait on your decision, they're not the coaches (or institution) you want to play for anyway. Lastly, making an early commitment because you like a school and fear they might take a commitment from someone else is devaluing yourself. Take your time and get it right.

Be sure to read our previous article on a 13 year old who committed to USC by click here.

NOTE: We are proud to announce that for the entire month of February, S.C. Fitch Enterprises, and all of its affiliates including Amateur Sports News Network, ASNN365.com, and Amateur Sports Gallery will be honoring Black Athletes accomplishments on, as well as off the field of play for Black History Month. Click here for more!

Here is your opportunity to stop hating the media and actually become it!

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