Athletes beware

College recruiters are not always true to their word

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By Elaine Gerou, Managing Editor

Children playing sports at a young age do so to make friends, exercise and learn valuable life lessons, as well as how to play the game. Part of the enjoyment is imagining playing at a higher level and making huge game-winning plays. These imaginations become dreams and dreams become goals. Sadly though, what once was a dream can turn into a nightmare.

Athletes commit to college teams to play, not sit on the bench. Coaches typically recruit players by promising a certain amount of game-playing opportunities at certain positions, a certain amount of scholarship money and by convincing the recruit how much they need them on the team.

Coaches’ intentions, however, are not always the same as the athletes. They are paid to coach, win games and have student achievement, and sometimes making themselves look good conflicts with promises they make to players.

Some coaches will say anything to get players to commit to their team, and once an athlete is committed, circumstances often change and promises are broken.

I was recruited as an athlete to the collegiate level and witnessed this happen. I advise athletes not to believe anything a coach tells them unless it is in writing, especially when it comes to athletic scholarships. Sometimes the scholarship is not worth the money that will end up being spent to cover tuition and boarding costs, and no money is worth dealing with a coach that exhibits poor behavior towards his or her players.

Young athletes with big dreams need to understand that signing a commitment to play for a college sport is a business negotiation. Unless promises made to an athlete are in writing, athletes are at the mercy of the recruiting coach’s integrity.

There are many reasons to recruit athletes other than to actually play them in a game. Some smaller schools may encourage coaches to do heavy recruiting to increase enrollment through enormous roster sizes. It also seems that many players are on teams solely for their academic performance, as many of the best students on a team get the least amount of playing time. High grades will bring the entire team’s average GPA up, and coaches want to make the team look impressive on and off the field, which makes the coach look good.

Some coaches want big rosters in order to look intimidating to opposing teams. This tactic is often demonstrated in high school playoff games. Coaches bring up junior varsity players with no intent of putting the players in the game (at least for important situations) to make the team look bigger. This strategy goes hand-in-hand with animals in nature wanting to appear larger in hopes that the predator will get scared and not mess with the prey.

The above theories are bogus, and increasing enrollment or inflating a team’s GPA by adding intelligent athletes whom the coach has no intention of putting in the lineup is simply wrong. Roster sizes should only be large enough to have back up if players are hurt, but definitely need to be small enough so every player can have a reasonable chance to earn a slice of the playing time pie. Although the slices will not be the same size and playing time must be earned, it is better for a player to have a small slice than a sliver or no slice.

One problem with some collegiate teams is that the roster has far too many players to give everyone a fair chance to earn playing time. While all players work hard and have the same crazy time commitment (often 1,000 or more hours a year) towards their team, most players on teams with large rosters have a slim chance of making it into the lineup. Due to the strenuous hours required for college sports, if a coach has no intentions of playing a recruit, that athlete should not be recruited.

A “bench” player may go in once an entire season out-of-the-blue, often having sat for an entire month or more, which is a recipe for failure, and if that player does not perform well, they may never see the field or court again for the rest of the season. This puts additional stress on an athlete and can cause frustration.