Pushy College Sports Recruiters Are Now Coming After Our Middle-Schoolers

football helmetIn this economy, you can't fault a parent for hearing the word "scholarship" and jumping. Colleges aren't getting any cheaper! But what if the scholarship was being offered to your 14-year-old? And it wasn't "just" a scholarship ... it came with a recruitment letter to play a college sport. Would you still want it?

Welcome to the new world of athletic recruitment. They can't get an official letter of intent out of our kids until they're seniors, but they're gunning for our middle schoolers. Just last month two -- count 'em two -- 14-year-olds were approached by major universities to play football.


So are their parents crazy for entertaining the recruiters? For letting their babies give colleges a verbal commitment to play ball?

I don't think so. Hold up, hear me out.

The verbal commitment is just that: verbal. There are no strings attached. They can change their minds tomorrow or next week or in two years because nothing has been signed. The requirement that kids wait until senior year to sign on the dotted line is there for a reason, and it still holds.

But having even a verbal commitment can mean a lot for the kid. They know they're being watched, and they now have a sense of what colleges expect. I went to high school with a guy who had the talent to play Division 1 football. Unfortunately, he didn't have the grades. He tried to clean things up during our senior year, but he ended up having to go to a junior college for two years to bring his grades up to NCAA levels before eventually earning a spot on a top team. In the end everything worked out, but I wonder if he wouldn't have gotten help with his schoolwork sooner if he knew it could keep his football dreams at bay.

We live in a country where hundreds of thousands of kids dream about one day playing college ball or even making it into the pros. But they think their talent is all it will take, and we know how teenagers think: their parents can only say so much. Hearing the grade and behavior requirements from the voice of an actual college recruiter can make a kid clean up their act, big time.

So what about the parents who say this is too much pressure for kids at such a young age? Perhaps. But isn't that really on the parents? Isn't it our job to tell our kids: "Hey, this opportunity has presented itself, but we're not signing anything right now, you have plenty of time ...?" They're only going to feel pressured if we aren't there to support them.

Would you let your middle schooler be recruited to play a college sport? What about a professional sport (yes, that happens too!)? How young is too young? Would you rather redshirt your child?


Image via Schlusselbein2007/Flickr

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