How young is too young to recruit kids for college athletic scholarships? Can college coaches really evaluate the future potential of young teenagers, some that haven’t even started high school? And even if coaches can scout that well, is it a good thing for a 13 year old to have a scholarship offered at such an early age?
Before you answer those questions, check out how being a 13 year old recruit for USC worked out for David Sills, once considered a can’t-miss prospect but now hanging on for his football career at a junior college. Sills originally made national headlines by being offered a football scholarship from Lane Kiffin when he coached football at USC, but now struggles to simply keep his college career alive. Was this a case of too much, too soon?
The trade offs…
Sure, for the rare few kids who receive athletic scholarship offers early in life it can be an exciting experience, but there are other concerns that should be noted. Will the hype go to the youngster’s head? As expectations increase, can the kid measure up– or are the expectations simply unreasonable? While it might make sense for the college to pull a publicity stunt to gain attention, is it good for the kid?
Projecting how a 12-13 year old will do in college athletics is a wild guess, at best. While it is true that you can predict some things based on size, speed, and success to that point in a kid’s career, what you can’t measure — much less predict — is what the kid’s interest level and motivation will be once he steps on campus 5-6 years later. Herein lies arguably the biggest issue with recruiting kids years before they are ready to maturely make the decision to fully invest their lives in college sports.
There are many examples of college coaches pursuing young kids, and parents caught off-guard and swept up in the rush of excitement before taking time to decide if it is a case of too much, too soon. If your child is being recruited at a young age, it is important to weigh the potential outcomes of immediate national attention versus the stress that may accompany the decision.
And remember, a verbal scholarship offer isn’t a guarantee, as coaches sometimes change schools, or even decide to pull the original scholarship offer for their own reasons. The good news is if the coach is interested in your child at 13, he will likely still be interested at 17 (an age when kids are more sure of their interests and willingness to continue to follow their athletic career at the college level).