Two weeks into Camp…..

Posted on August 16th, by Jake in Book Excerpts. No Comments

August 16, 2012

Two weeks of ‘camp’ week are about over, thank God. I’m not a coach who lives for baby sitting third and fourth graders and I’m not convinced that it’s in the best interest of eight, nine and ten year olds or seventh and eighth graders to be playing organized sports of any kind. Ok, I grew up when we played in the parks, the fields and the courts mostly without adult leadership until we entered high school. Let me tell you something here. There have been no more high school athletes win athletic scholarships to college now than there was back in the fifties. The truth is the percentage of athletes receiving significant college athletic scholarships still falls in the 1% range. I’m not talking about a $500 or even a $5,000 scholarship in a sport other than football and basketball (the only two sports that are allowed to give ‘full’ ride, including tuition, room & board and books) to a college that costs mom and dad $50,000 per year. That isn’t a ‘scholarship’, it’s a grant and nothing more.
Beginning a few years ago the big thing was playing on a summer ‘Travel Team’. What that really meant, in most cases, was the parents could afford the cost and had very little to do with the athletic superiority of the child. After ‘Travel Teams’ became a bit too common the ‘sponsor’ or ‘coach’ or whoever couldn’t get a real job and made their living duping parents into believing their kid was special, invented the “Elite Travel Team”. And I’m quite sure the ‘pitch’ to the parents goes something like, “Johnny will be seen by all the best college coaches and unless the high school coach messes him up, you can count on a scholarship.” Yeah right!
Not too long ago these ‘Travel Teams’ were mostly in the sports of basketball, soccer, volleyball and most recently Lacrosse. However, not to be outdone we now see “Elite Travel Teams” in football 7 on 7 competition. It will cost mom and dad an arm and a leg and the truth is 99% of the kids involved won’t play a down, shoot a 3 pointer, steal a base, kick a goal or run around with a stick in their hands after their high school sporting days end. Unless its intramurals.
I will say this, if your son or daughter is one of those young people who simply love playing and competing and just can’t get enough of it, ok. Let that kid play on as many ‘Travel or Elite’ teams as he or she wants to and you can afford. Just understand that the end result most likely won’t mean you can spend that college money you’ve been saving for fifteen years on something like a long European vacation.
Real football, with pads and helmets begins next week for hundreds of kids around our country. Frankly I am still excited for the beginning as I was forty seven years ago. It’s a great game and the life skills your son will learn will stay with him forever. I know we are in somewhat of a crisis because of the new concern about concussion. I am too and it’s why we almost never have full contact during practice, and why we spend so much time teaching young men how to block and tackle correctly.
One of my best friends, a former player of mine, and one of the area’s best sports doctors told me about a meeting he had just returned from. It was a gathering of his med school classmates and the hot topic was concussion. He told me after about an hour of debate one of the most successful of the group stood up and asked the assembled the following questions. “How many of you played high school or college football?” Every hand went up. “How many of you think you suffered a concussion along the way?” Every hand went up. “And how many of you have suffered professional damage because of that?” No hands went up. He finished with this statement. “We should all be concerned about concussions in sports. However, we need to keep the hysteria under control and understand that in every walk of life there is a possibility of injury. If a kid wants to play a game, let him. The benefits of team sports far out weighs the chance he or she will sustain a significant injury.” Words well spoken. Let’s try not to over react and let’s try to keep things in proper perspective.
I encourage you football fathers and mothers to take some time this weekend with your son. The next four months will be exciting, taxing, sometimes emotional and always beneficial. Take care and God speed. Coach Tom

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