When a 14-year-old quarterback phenom made a verbal commitment this week to play for the University of Washington, it raised new questions about how best to raise young athletes.
"Sadly, in some degree, this is where we're at. I'm not surprised," former UW and Seahawk quarterback Brock Huard tells 97.3 KIRO FM.
Huard was among the nation's top recruits as a high school star in Puyallup back in the 90's. While he received plenty of calls and letter from coaches, he says it's nothing compared to the intense pressures facing aspiring top-tier athletes today.
"And it's not just coaches. It's all these recruiting services and all the money wrapped up into it. There are no rules for those guys texting you and Facebooking you and emailing you and tweeting you and trying to get to you through your friends and your pastors and your families," Huard says.
And the pressure mounts on kids at even younger ages to develop their skills. Tate Martell, the 14-year-old San Diego QB who received a UW scholarship offer, is just the latest in a long line groomed at a young age.
In many cases, parents pay thousands for private coaches, exclusive camps and even marketing of their kids to prospective coaches and agents before they even reach puberty.
Huard admits he feels the pressure himself as the parent of three kids with athletic aspirations.
"Even right now I've got a 9-year-old daughter and it's like 'should we do this select team and that team and that coach,' and it's insane to some degree. I mean where's a kid go out and ride a bike, jump rope."
With so much money at stake in college and pro sports, the pressure keeps mounting on coaches to lock up talent at any cost and parents to do whatever they can. But Huard says it's important to remember there are no guarantees with Martell or any other prospect.
"This kid hasn't even chosen a high school yet. He's going into 8th grade next year. First he's got to choose a high school. Secondly, if you know anything about college football, is Steve Sarkisian even going to be there in five years?"
Huard preaches balance for his own kids, encouraging them to be involved in as many different activities as possible. But at the end of the day, he says it's the price you pay to make it in this era. And as long as the youngster and not just the parent wants it, there's nothing wrong with going all in on a dream.
"I hope he knows with publicity also comes, in this day and age especially, the back end of more expectation and more pressure. It's one of those situations you better talk through and this better be a driving passion of yours," Huard says.
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