Opinion: D-I Offers for Young Kids a Bad Idea

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The Augusta Chronicle (Georgia)


Havon Finney, Jr., Titan Lacaden and Bunchie Young.

Are you familiar with those names? If not, buckle up.

Finney, Lacaden and Young are talented youth football players out west. How talented? These kids are dominant enough to attract the attention of college football coaches.

Some coaches, some trainers and some parents are saying these kids are "the best." You can look them up on YouTube and see for yourself. As for their competition, you'll have to be the judge of that.

Nonetheless, according to USA Today, Finney, 9, was recently offered a scholarship to play football at Nevada. You read the previous sentence correct. An elementary school student has received a Division I offer to play college football.

But wait, there's more. Young, Finney's 10-year-old teammate, has been offered by Illinois. Lacaden, an 11-year-old who lives in Hawaii, has been offered by the University of Hawaii.

Soon, college coaches are going to start offering scholarships to boys still in the womb.

In the 1990s, there was a woman (Susan Powter) who shot to fame with her weight-loss infomercials, yelling "Stop the insanity!" Where is this woman when we need her? College scholarships for prepubescent children? Stop the insanity!

I'm sure Finney, Lacaden and Young are wonderful kids. This column is not about them. Instead, this is about the shysters who keep hyping up children like they're circus acts. Come see the bearded 11-year-old running back who can run the 40 in less than five seconds! Come see the quarterback who can swallow a sword and throw a football 50 yards at the same time! Come watch the wide receiver who can bounce off a bed of nails and a catch a football in a lion's den! Come one, come all! See the best elementary school football players in the universe! (Just, whatever you do, don't look behind the curtain.)

If you're a faithful reader of this column, you know I have three 11-year-olds (two girls, one boy). These are bright, funny, athletic children. Not one of them has been offered a college scholarship - even though I have a daughter reading on a level so high I'm making her check out literary classics like Animal Farm and Old Man and the Sea to go along with all those Rick Riordan novels she breezes through. C'mon, Ivy League schools. What are you waiting for?

My other daughter has yet to receive a gymnastics scholarship, though she can do a pretty stellar one-handed cartwheel. And my son, a pretty good athlete, has to yet to receive any college interest, even though he plays baseball, basketball and soccer.

My children are just that - children. They are enjoying the summer, doing things kids do: swimming at their grandparents' house, eating watermelon and looking forward to celebrating Independence Day. Kids need a break from school, a break from sports.

I wonder about these kids getting scholarships so early in life. Are they enjoying their summers? Are they still allowed to be children? Or are they busy working out every day?

We, as a society, try to make children grow up way too fast. Let them be a kid. Let them enjoy things like animated movies, fidget spinners and stuffed animals.

I've always bristled when I've had my son with me and someone has asked, "Is that your little man?" Nope. He's my little boy. He'll have plenty of time to be a man. Stop calling boys your "little man." Let boys be boys.

By giving children scholarship offers, adults are chipping away at the innocence of childhood. Boys don't receive scholarships. Teenagers who are almost young men do.

I have so many many questions with this entire situation. What happens if these kids with scholarship offers stop growing? What if they get lazy? What if they eat too much cheese dip and get fat? What if they fail to make good grades?

How does this not give a kid a sense of entitlement? What if a high school coach asks a kid to run two laps around the field and the kid shrugs him off? He already has his scholarship. He doesn't need high school football.

That's another major problem festering under the surface. In recent years, there's been a devaluing of high school sports. Instead, children play travel this and travel that. They've got personal trainers and others guiding them. And yes, there are some great travel ball coaches and some great trainers out there. But here's an issue: A while back, a coach told me a softball player missed some high school practice time because she had travel ball practice. This player considered her high school team low priority. That's a problem - something the Georgia High School Association needs to look into sooner than later.

When football players received college offers in elementary school, that's a problem, too - something the NCAA needs to look into sooner than later.

Scholarships for kids? Maybe if it's Doogie Howser. Scholarships for football players who have never stepped foot inside a high school? Not so much.

It's time for all of us to be like Susan Powter. Stop the insanity!

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June 28, 2017


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