Have Youth Athletes Lost LOVE for the Game?
While watching ESPN College Gameday yesterday, Kirk Herbstreit said, “I think this era of player just doesn’t love football,” to which Desmond Howard agreed. To put it in context, he was speaking to the playoff system and how making a bowl game outside of the playoffs is not what it used to be, not the goal for today’s college football player. Instead, he shared and I’m paraphrasing, playing in a bowl game for the sheer enjoyment of playing football and competing isn’t enough for today’s athletes. It’s a ‘win it all or bust’ mentality and I believe it’s fair to say College Football is not the only sport that has shown this characteristic.
Our youth athletes today as a whole, in my opinion, have lost the ‘let’s play a sport to compete and have fun’ attitude, but instead feel as though if they aren’t doing something that is highly visible for scouting or to improve their ranking, they may just opt to train and not play in an event. This is evident at the high school, college and even the pro levels where athletes forego All-Star Games and Pro Bowl events. Granted, at the pro level the factors are different given the demanding schedule and multi-million dollar contracts, however, this did not occur twenty, thirty, forty-plus years ago when being selected to play in a mid-season classic or end of year Pro Bowl. There has definitely been a change and the culprit is…. money.
Have we created this environment through the travel sports scenario in which a kid may play multiple games in a day where they win a few or lose a few, but they know if they do lose, they have a chance to do it again in 30 minutes, therefore, the loss isn’t such a big deal? Or, have parents and coaches put such an emphasis on the Holy Grail of a college scholarship, a kid and/or parent feels like playing a sport for sheer enjoyment is not worth their time? I honestly don’t know if we as a society will ever go back to playing a game for sheer enjoyment like we did not so long ago, especially when money is in the picture. And to add complexity, now there are NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) deals that make the waters even murkier. Maybe I’ve turned into a ‘get off my lawn’ kind of guy, I just wish our kids could play for the love of the game vs playing to increase their worth.