April 30, 2019

I write this blog on the eve of sweeping changes in college sports recruiting rules, which take effect May 1, 2019.

One rule will scoot the official college visit start date for prospective athletes up one year, from the outset of senior year in high school to the beginning of one’s junior year. You might think the NCAA is raiding our youngsters at an earlier age with this provision, but the other, more far-reaching rule, slaps a real zinger on recruiting agents. College coaches and their surrogates can no longer communicate directly with students prior to their junior year in high school.

These new rules will effectively shut down the astonishing frenzy of collegiate recruitment personnel at our nation’s youth sports camps, clinics, tournaments, and elite age-group sporting events. Parents of elite soccer players who are in middle school know exactly what I’m talking about. At first, the overwhelming college presence at these tourneys is flattering to parents and confidence-swelling for the youngsters. Soon enough, this preponderance of college possibility, this flurry of interaction between college reps and one’s parents and coaches, for so many pre-adolescents who may not even have considered what high school they may be attending in a few years, turns confusing at best and harassing at worst.

College coaches are not the only ones who have been robbing kids of their youth. Parents who talk college incessantly around the house and around their very young children (yes, around their kindergarteners, first and second graders) are cementing a damaging family mindset with disastrous consequences. This is not a bash on parents who are college sports fans—it’s about parents who are, unthinkingly, inculcating an extrinsic, utilitarian mentality and perspective in their children, stultifying their growing sense of selfhood, poisoning their spirit of adventure and creativity, and converting their attitude toward schooling as a scheme to “game” and “manipulate” to one’s advantage.

Unlike parents, kids have a tough time connecting what they do today with a goal like college acceptance many years down the road, even when if they happen to be the star on the elite team. I totally sympathize with these young people who want to pursue their lives as kids, as friends, or even as silly and goofy and zany actors playing out their own humorous and imaginative scenarios. When parents fog the household atmosphere with the sternness, tension, anxiety, and exasperation associated with college fixation and achievement obsession, you have to consider that to be radiation bombarding the child.

Take “college-bound” out of the descriptors for your child before they are juniors. If you happen to be a parent whose heartbeat races at your child’s every missed shot or missed opportunity to shine, because you are despairing of long-term consequences, then you ought to think about applying your own NCAA rule of hands off when to comes to your child’s college prospects far down the road.

You may actually breathe new life into your family if you do.


By Tom Elieff, for Enlivenminds.org

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