Early NCAA recruitment lessens value on childhood

My childhood dream of playing professionally in the NBA was not motivated by money but rather the need to go out and play the game with which I had fallen in love. That’s what most young athletes want to do when they are still in elementary and junior high school. But when you insert college recruiting into organized athletics, a career in sports becomes more about the job and less about the game.

The NCAA needs stricter rules for recruiting to deter coaches and scouts from enlisting children younger than the high school age level. Recruiting an athlete that early may affect the child’s ability to experience a normal youth.

The recruiting process is intended for teenagers in the later years of high school who look forward to the next steps of a possible athletic career, not for young children who should enjoy their time being a kid.

According to NCAA bylaws, prospective student athlete is one who has started classes in the ninth grade, but that does not prevent college coaches from recruiting kids as early as the seventh grade through third parties like Amateur Athletic Union coaches. 

LeBron James told reporters before a game against the Detroit Pistons Feb. 24 that his son LeBron James Jr. has received scholarships and letters from coaches.

The son of the most polarizing player in the game receiving scholarship offers from schools might seem normal if it were not for the fact that he is only in the fourth grade. Yes, he exhibits flashes of behavior like his father on the court, but he should not be targeted as if he is his father. James has expressed disdain towards colleges recruiting his son and just wants him to be a kid as long as he can be.

College recruiting is a highly-publicized process in basketball and football. ESPN and Rivals.com rank players numerically and have dedicated entire TV shows to the process. ESPN even devotes time during national signing days for student athletes to announce which colleges they plan to attend.

Why would you put a child at the age of 10 through the possibility of being ranked? A kid that young shouldn’t worry about whether or not he’s the best 10-year-old basketball player in the world. He should be concerned with having fun with his teammates and growing as a player.

Recruiting kids that early gives colleges no guarantee that they will still choose to attend the schools pursuing them. UConn’s Brian Boatright committed to the university before high school and Marquette’s Matt Carlino received an offer while he was in elementary school. Quarterback prodigy David Sills was offered a football scholarship by the University of Southern California in 2010, but never lived up to the hype that surrounded him and he ultimately attending another university.

Kids should be playing the sports solely because they love it, not to impress colleges that they may not even attend. They are too young to even to fathom the monumental decision of where to play a sport for four years. It is unacceptable and unethical that the NCAA allows this practice to happen without creating stricter guidelines. A kid deserves the right to just be a kid.