After Further Review … The ambition of many young athletes is to play in the “big show” as it is sometimes called. The “big show” means at the professional level, of whatever that sport may be. Now comes along Jacob Hickman, an offensive lineman for the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers. Nebraska is famous for developing offensive linemen and sending them onto the NFL.
“Playing in the NFL was never a dream for me,” Hickman said. “I kind of thought if that happened, it’s something I would do. Now, I’ve kind of gone in a different direction.” Hickman thought about quitting during his 4-year tenure at Nebraska, but decided to stick it out. Now, however, he says, “the passion is gone.”
What an insight for a player who, at 6’4” and 290 lbs, could have been a high NFL draft pick, commanding a six-figure salary plus bonus. But instead, assessing his future as a husband and a future father, said, “I would like to be able to play ball with my kids” and “not be walking with a limp when I’m 40.”
Yet, that dream of millions of kids on America’s sandlots prevails with little thought given to risk vs. reward. The word “sandlot” brings this thought to mind: are we organizing our kids too young and demanding of their time and commitment too early in life? For me as a kid – on the sandlot – my commitment was to my friends who would show up and play. No coaches, no uniforms, no mothers in the stands cheering us on, no after-the-game snacks and no trophies at the end of the season. Season? The only “season” we knew was when the ball changed size and shape; e.g. from foot to basket to base-ball.
Do today’s parents and coaches expect (demand?) too much from their kids? As an example, I see coaches at the high school level insist that their athletes play only one sport – theirs. I can cite examples – more than I care to – of coaches conducting organized and unorganized practices every month of the year. Kids under that kind of dictum have no chance of participating in other sports. Excessive pressure put on young athletes is not necessary. Encouragement and the teaching of skills to play any sport to the best of each player’s ability are always welcome. Too much demand of a young player’s time and involvement may lead to the burn-out Jacob Hickman is talking about.
Will you give young athletes a chance to grow and learn at their own pace?