The Athletic Arms Race –Now the High Schools?

This was sent to me by Patrick McHugh, Athletic Director at North Shore Country Day School in Chicago. It is a very spot on commentary by Frank Deford on the absurdity of the athletic arms race that is taking place today.

No athlete left behind
We've lost perspective in coverage of youth sports.

Posted: Wednesday September 27, 2006 1:10PM; Updated: Wednesday September 27, 2006 1:10PM

I've decided to rewrite my will. Now, I'm certainly not forgetting my family. I'll leave my wife some pin money to buy those little extras she'll want to splurge for at the assisted-living facility. And my two children will surely be happy with that time-share week in February I'm leaving them at the condo on the
Jersey shore. But the bulk of my estate is going where it's really needed -- to the athletic department at my old elementary school. There the money will help renovate the weight room and build a 20,000-seat football stadium with a retractable roof for the disadvantaged fourth- and fifth-grade student-athletes at my alma mater.

We need our youngsters to enjoy athletic opulence early, so they will not be overwhelmed by luxury when they reach the college level.

You see, rather than correcting all the abuses of college athletics that we've moaned about for a century, we Americans are, instead, simply taking all that's wrong with college sports down to high school. And, given good old American know-how, I figure that by the time I'm pushing up daisies, the same sins will have reached the elementary-school level.

Just as colleges recruit high school players, now high schools scout middle-schoolers. Parents are handsomely induced to move so they can enroll their young blue-chipper in a different school district. There are now newsletters that identify the best sixth-grade prospects in the nation. High school basketball players regularly jump across state lines to different schools. Some prep schools, so called, are essentially just basketball or football teams attached to, oh, maybe one classroom.

More and more high schools are building larger and grander stadiums and gymnasiums. Often these are paid for with funds from high school booster clubs or organized town solicitations -- this while, of course, schools the country over have to plead with taxpayers for academic funding. Even physical education for merely normal students is being cut back, eliminated.

Meanwhile, many school teams now schedule games all over the country. These varsities are like road-show companies of Peter Pan -- although, of course, those Lost Boys at least get paid for their show-biz work. Shoe companies outfit visible, star teams. Boys who play football are fattened up like geese for pate. Many high school lines average well over 300 pounds per man. Eat now and die young for dear old City High!

Meanwhile, the national media is delighted to make hay off the kiddie beat. USA Today has long published national rankings of high school teams, and now Sports Illustrated has followed suit.

Gee, am I so quaint: Isn't it good enough for a kid to win his county championship? Do we really need to know whether the best girls' volleyball team in
Georgia may be better than the best in Illinois? Both ESPN and FOX Sports Network regularly televise high school games nationally. Really, do we need this attention for teenagers?

The fact is, sports is growing in importance in schools even as book learning is diminishing. But in the
United States, no athlete shall be left behind!


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