Watching and Hunting the Next Generation
Today’s ever-growing sea of gathering-and-disseminating information presents an obstacle to the future of sports. Younger and younger athletes are now often fashioned into viral stars, which is as much of a hindrance as it is a boon. In hopes of becoming dignified modern men of the frontier age, adolescent studs have to navigate of humility in the face of challenges.
It is harder than ever before for young, amateur athletes to maintain their humility and dignity. In a world that is constantly connected through social media, along with apps providing instant sporting news, budding athletes can be recognized instantly.
After the initial recognition of a young athlete’s superb talent, phone calls from agents offering to represent and manage these prodigies come pouring in. Many are offered gifts and other such products enticing them to sign with a certain school or with an agent. Along with all of these materialistic vices, there is the ever-present boost in popularity and adoration that athletes receive, which can lead to egotistical athletes with less discipline on the court.
Take for example, the case of Damon Harge. Earlier this month, Yahoo! Sports reported that North Carolina Central offered a scholarship to the sixth-grade basketball stud. The kid, albeit extremely talented, hasn’t even hit puberty yet. Already he has surpassed 2 million views on YouTube. Drooling agents have tried reaching out to the 12-year-old, but luckily his parents have turned them away.
In addition, 2011 NBA Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving worked out with Harge and Washington Wizards guard John Wall also has shown interest in him. How will this publicity and interest affect Harge in the future? Can a boy handle the pressure and expectations that he will most certainly face in the coming years leading up to his college decision? Most importantly, will he develop a sense of entitlement and focus all of his efforts on basketball and the pursuit of the National Basketball Association instead of also reciprocating his on the court efforts with the same amount of effort in the classroom?
The National Collegiate Athletic Association continues to deplore and prohibit the distribution of cash, money or other desired materials to amateur athletes. Although this is designed to help curb egos, it brings into play the question of fairness. Most athletes at big name universities are generating large amounts of revenue for their respective schools. Should they be compensated for their efforts? Some athletes from impoverished families are pursuing athletic dreams to help their family financially. Are scholarships enough return for their talent?
While the search to find the next big star isn’t new, where do we draw the age line for recruiting, agents, and paying these young athletes? Should there be a limit to the amount of social media that showcase them? The search to find the next big star — the next Michael Jordan — isn’t a new concept at all. Before there was an age limit, the NBA Draft accepted basketball players fresh from high school.
In spite of the constant connectedness that our world has, there are cases of young athletes that have maintained their humility and will likely continue to do so. One such athlete is 17-year-old Olympic phenom Missy Franklin. A soon-to-be senior at Regis Jesuit High School near Aurora, Colorado, Franklin turned down the opportunity to become a professional swimmer and subsequently, turned down potentially a seven-figure salary and endorsement deals. Further showing her dignified nature, Franklin revealed that when she was given the opportunity to move to a state such as Florida or California where swimming is a more popular sport, she opted instead to stay in Colorado, a place where she could live a regular high school life with her friends.