GET MENTAL : Erika Carlson
A growing trend in youth sports, especially female youth sports, is early commitment to college. In 2014, the New York Times ran a story about Haley Berg a 14-year-old 8th grader who, just a few weeks before her first day of high school, accepted an offer from the University of Texas to play soccer — in four years.
While it might seem like an unusual scenario, in today’s hyper-competitive sports world, it’s not as unusual as you might guess. So what’s wrong with making a decision early if you can? Why not accept the offer and play without the pressure of being recruited?
At a first glance that’s exactly how it looks — the work of recruiting is complete. No more evaluations; no more official and unofficial visits; no more emailing and discussions about possible options. And of course there’s the status and “glory” that comes along with being an early recruit, “I’m going to Texas to play college soccer!” Sounds cool, right?
Not entirely. When one looks a little closer, there are many unintended consequences that come along with early commitment. Being “that kid” who committed to college at 14 leaves a lot to live up to. Even with tremendous talent, teens are going to have some tough games. Playing with those expectations every weekend will wear on someone and make him or her fearful of mistakes and not meeting expectations. Successful athletes will tell you that being at the top of one’s game is never easy. It comes with a lot of pressure, and that pressure can turn to fear very quickly.
Then there are other factors like injury. Will the commitment still be honored if the athlete is injured? And, what exactly does a verbal commitment really mean? Is it binding? What if the coach the athlete committed to leaves the school? What are the options? It can get complicated very quickly. Academic concerns and whether a school is the right fit for the athlete is a concern too. Most of us are different students as seniors than we were as freshmen.
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