Years ago when coaches mentioned two way play it was generally associated with top tier athletes. Nowadays it is just a function of reality to compete in the modern world of sports. Many suburbs experienced growth and new schools were built for anticipated growth that eventually slowed. So today coaches are now faced with declining participation and schools far below anticipated enrollments. In addition to private schools in targeted areas the numbers just do not add up to success. School programs have to be more active in the community and more competitive to hold onto their attendance area children. At minimum attend some of the middle school or club sport team games to identify with prospective students. The next five years will be crucial to many coaches whom do not change and develop like the current coaches fielding two way players. Many 6-man, 8-man, 1A and 2A coaches are accustomed to teaching two way play. They have established numbers are thin and in order to compete the players need to be athletes. So summer conditioning is about stamina and the ability to play both sides of the ball. Yes quarterbacks you might have to play defense or at minimum be a punter or kicker. Ironman football is back. In 5A we have seen Valor play sophomores two ways and Pomona play many players two ways and both were state finalist the past two seasons and may likely repeat. As a matter of fact many high seeded teams in all classifications had two way players. In 4A Windsor actually pays tribute to the original 14 players who fielded a team during their inaugural season. So the choice remains to do it the way we have done it for years or adapt to the new changing world of athletics. Small schools have the ability to have three sport athletes and monitor them. Meanwhile the bigger schools battle other sports coaches for time in the gym, weight room or speed and agility training during the calendar year. Therefore, until change happens and coaches collaborate we might see many players become two way players in football because numbers are low and competition high. If the eye is on the prize of a state title the path of easy must be terminated. The initial hard way is more time developing athletes. So break out the ladders, hit the weight room and run the track to get players in shape. Reality is coaches will be developing athletes not just two way players. For now it’s ready, set, Go!
The first time I heard the saying, “If you‘re not cheating, you‘re not trying hard enough” was nearly 2 decades ago when I became involved in coaching Club Hockey. I chuckled at first but soon realized it was NOT about teaching the fundamentals of the game but trying to secure what was perceived as the best talents. Hockey is an expensive sport that includes lots of travel to play top tier teams in the region and nationally if you are good. However, at some point playing little league sport has to be FUN not work. After a few seasons it became apparent the sport was about whose parents could bank roll the team.
As time went on it was the parents that ruined the FUN as they wanted their way and would make sure management knew it was all about their kid(s). Today we call it entitlement by helicopter parents. I call it sour grapes because the truths are exposed about the level of play, especially if its all about winning and not about having FUN. As time passed I picked up the whistle to coach Baseball and Football and soon learned it was not about a competitive balance but who could recruit better or sell traveling to beat the best. The problem is it was NOT the best, just the families that could pay to play in different cities and make playing one sport about as boring as serving pizza, chicken fingers or juice boxes to youngsters. Oh and don’t forget participation medals for all to attend some lame tournament usually played on a holiday weekend.
Many of you may be wondering why this is relevant and the answer is simple, it continues in high school. The fact athletic directors, principals and coaches allow sports to dictate their culture is alarming. Yes many districts are not well funded but at what point do you do the right thing? We are still awaiting that answer as for decades coaches have bought into the statement“If you‘re not cheating, you‘re not trying hard enough”. Basketball has been the subject of debate for years as inner city athletes were brought to the suburbs and eventually became more relevant in football. Now schools are legitimately turning their heads to closed attendance areas to allow talented little leaguers to attend their school. Perhaps it is about winning but maybe it is more about who will donate much needed monies to hang a banner in centerfield or in the rafters of the arena or the end zone of the field. Yes these are the monies needed to pay for transportation, team meals, equipment and trainers. What is lost is the FUN of the sport. The fact is neighborhood kids want to play with one another and not be recruited and have to travel great lengths to play a sport. Also many loose interest in by the time they are 16 especially if they do not get playing time. The focus should be on obtaining an education and the opportunity to advance to college. However, society has placed too much of an emphasis on sports and we are alarmed when kids quit.
Yes they Quit sports, Quit life or Quit giving a darn because they have been told “If you‘re not cheating, you‘re not trying hard enough”. So this attitude probably leads to them living in your basement because the etiquette and fundamentals were not taught by coaches to do their best and academia was not a focal point to have them advance as student athletes. Look at the colleges that have others take athletes tests or homework or even involve others in drug testing. Those same practices trickle down to high school. So being a model citizen might not be taught at a young age as many learn from examples. Anyone remember Barry Bonds?(*)by the HR title for PEDs. Now those designer drugs are readily available in high school. Perhaps he lived by the statement “If you‘re not cheating, you‘re not trying hard enough”.
So the next time a parent or player tells you, hey lets go play at XYZ school, you shoud ask yourself, Am I cheating my family? Will my athlete advance past high school and is it worth lying and cheating for an address all because we want to wear a winning jersey. There are no guarantees in life, but if you are living by the statement “If you‘re not cheating, you‘re not trying hard enough” you are the culture that has placed too much of an emphasis on sports, not academia or what is the best interests of the child.
Choose #Academia1st as it will get you further in life. It is the 60 years of post secondary education that will matter most long term.
Rocky Mountains – Denver, Colorado
Every year many athletes hit the roads to fulfill their dreams of playing next level football. The common error some families make is only attending Division I camps or schools. The Rocky Mountain region has been favorable to Colorado athletes. However, the fact is there are 50 states that get recruited plus Canada and a handful outside of North America. So the competition is rigid and the recruiting goes beyond the X’s and O’s during a year long evaluation period in many instances for many college coaches.
Traditionally July has been a dead month as many Division I coaches take vacation time as August starts the year long grind. However, recent activity within the NCAA has an early signing period to coincide with the 3 day JUCO signing of December 20-22, 2017 aimed at the graduating class of 2018. So this means the traditional teams that sandbag until the 3rd week of January may have to really recruit in November and December. A spike in Division II camps has arisen in June that normally happen in late July and compete with IVY league camps. Traditionally IVY, D2, D3 coaches focus on academic driven individuals that play the sport of football. Meanwhile the NAIA has 3 showcase events and like the Division III schools they just try to identify athletes and direct target them to attend their campus. In essence many families need to spread the wealth when attending camps and visiting colleges and universities. The best advice is to target 5-8 D1, D2, D3, JUCO or NAIA schools. Usually your high school has a system in place, naviance, to identify these schools. Both athletes and parents are provided with valuable information and what it takes to qualify to the school you are interested in attending. The savvy families will try to identify 3-6 schools and attend their campus post sophomore year and again post junior year. Therefore when September of the senior year the high school will be able to assist families seeking guidance and councilor support. Remember the journey includes your high school councilor, head coach, teachers, parents and of course the student athlete. In addition to these individuals it is helpful to update your sports video profile, availability of school transcripts and college board exams namely SAT and ACT scoring. So the goal is to obtain an education. However, often the athlete is NOT a Division I athlete and dreams are shattered when August rolls around and schools have moved on to the next recruiting class. So if you have a mantra of “Division I or Bust” you might want to rethink and retool you travel plans for July and August.
In Colorado nearly 300 football players attend colleges to play next level. Usually 5-6% will obtain and maintain a Division I scholarship. So if you are not one of the Top 15 or 20 athletes post junior season it is time to shine in your final season of play. There are a few schools that only play athletes their senior year so film is limited. However, waiting until your senior season to be recruited probably means you are behind in the process unless you hit a tremendous growth spurt or are dominating the playing field each and every week. So athletes make the time to get your cleats on their turf as its NOT “D1 or Bust!” if you follow the process for success.