Friday, July 11, 2014

Thoughts on Recruitment

I read with interest an article written by one of the local editorial authors in my small-town newspaper.  The issue discussed was recruiting in high school athletics with an emphasis on awareness of this in our local schools as we prepare for football and volleyball seasons.

Recruitment is most definitely an issue, not just here in the 14th region, where many of our schools have nothing to offer student athletes and their families, but also in areas of our state where a good job provided by a booster can be a very enticing offer.  While we all recognize that these violations are wrong, we are aware of them and sit back quietly.  A look at the rosters of several schools in the 14th Region read like the roster of a Jr. College; however, with the emphasis on winning in our society and the ease of access through social media and the internet I fear this problem will only continue to get worse.  I fear that recent injunctions against the KHSAA will only limit their jurisdiction in an area where they should be the authority, rather than a court of law. In light of several recent news articles about the plight of Eastern Kentucky and one journalist's suggestion that the only way to improve Eastern Kentucky is to leave,  it almost makes this influx humorous.

However, the local editorial/article focused primarily on our local schools, and to say that this is upsetting to me is an understatement, largely because the student athletes at our local schools are near and dear to my heart.  I love high school athletes; I've written a whole other blog post about how they make me smile to watch them because they leave their heart on the court and play not for incentives but for love of the game.   (

I think for the most part, for our local athletes, this still remains true.  Many of them may not be stellar athletes, but their heart and dedication to the sport makes up for this. In my tenure as a high school coach's wife, I have cheered on maroon and white, purple and gold, blue and white, and have also cheered on students from other schools who have no idea who I am, because ultimately the game is about the kids. (Even when you have loud, boisterous coaches who like to demonstrate their passion for the game by yelling on the sidelines... for many of them, and especially the one I love, it is still about the kids.) It is especially satisfying for me to get to sit across the gym from one of these young ladies, who nine or ten years ago rolled their eyes as Wallace quarreled at them, and see them pacing the sidelines themselves as coaches. And as I've mentioned before, I may or may not have yelled the wrong team mascot before...

There are various reasons for recruiting and also for players to get into discussions about being recruited, but since I am just an amateur writer I do not feel it is my responsibility to get into those in detail, but will offer my own humble opinion.  I believe that the majority of coaches, and schools, recruit to win, not to hurt other schools (unless by hurting other schools it means to cause them to lose).  I also may be naïve, but I think it has far less to do with enrollment numbers than it does in hanging banners in gymnasiums. As for players, most likely they decide to seek other playing opportunities  because it will give them a better chance for a viable future, increased playing time, or padded stats, and perhaps increased recognition and support. Let's face it, there is a lot of jealousy on every level in our world, and sometimes kids just want to know that you care about them and support them.  When they don't get that, they may be tempted to move to greener pastures.  (To quote something I read the other day, which really has nothing to do with this topic: "The greener pastures are the ones you water.")

In a community as small as ours, I think it is important to remember that these are our kids regardless of what uniform they are wearing.  Life in Eastern Kentucky can be hard enough without division. So, to piggyback off of what that local editorial writer submitted, as football, soccer, and volleyball season come into play, I'd like to be the first to encourage you to support our local student athletes.  Whether they be cheering on the sideline, kicking the ball toward the goal, defending a kick, making a tackle, throwing the football, running 65 yards for a touchdown, spiking the ball, serving underhand or overhand... I guarantee they have put in lots of time to perfect whatever it is they are doing.  And even though this article has been geared toward recruitment, might I also suggest that we all remember to be encouraging to each other?  No 50 yard line bleacher quarterbacks.  No coaches in the bleachers.  (Even I need to work on this one.. maybe I especially need to work on this one!)  While we may not always understand or even agree with decisions made, ultimately it is the individual who will have to pay the repercussions, and really, isn't it only a game anyway?  While I am all for the Vince Lombardi attitude about winning, I also believe that in high school athletics, it is about teaching maturity and reacting positively to obstacles thrown in our way. 

Now, is it Friday night yet?  Or at least August and volleyball season? 

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