Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Is Money Ruining High School Football?

I would say yes.  Look at the landscape of high school football compared to just ten years ago.  There were relatively few high school games that were televised back then.  Twenty years ago, I'm not sure they even televised state championship games, let alone regular season games between two good high schools.  Now we are seeing teams playing across the country, and they are not always playing teams in their state.  Hell, I even watched the Pop Warner National Championship games the other night!  The reason all this is happening, is quite simple, the American public cannot get enough football.  Advertisers know this, and pay large sums of money to advertise at events such as the ones mentioned above.  At the root of it all is money, the only thing football is not strong than.

Many people in the sport think that the exposure is great, I however have a differing opinion.  My first coaching experience was at the collegiate level, where I found, there's no money unless your "big time", and if your big time, then theirs a TON of pressure.  So I opted out, and looked at coaching youth sports.  The reason, the pressure is lesser, and I felt I could have a greater impact on young people than I could the collegiate.  What I've seen is the change we've all seen, football is becoming more and more about an avenue somewhere than the game it's actually intended to be.  With success stories such as the one told about Michael Ohre in the movie The Blindside and the ridiculous NFL contracts being signed these days have more and more youth dreaming about walking across that stage getting their name called and having the NFL commissioner hold up their new teams jersey.  The sad fact, is that the percentage of youth that make it to that level is ridiculously low, yet they ALL think that's what's going to happen to them.  Somewhere along the line, usually about the time a kid is a sophomore in high school, I was seeing kids leave football, or at the very least lose the drive they had as freshmen.  Why you ask?  Well, they saw the light at the end of the tunnel and most figured "Why am I doing this?", and either quit or at the very least quit working hard.  When the game is a means to an end, the player is going to do more, work harder in the weight room and will have a general "focus" about how they prepare for the game.  The player who is playing just to play, doesn't have the same commitment.  Again, this is all observations, so take them for what they are worth, but money, again is the driving factor behind these observations.

Coaches duties are greater now more than ever.  I even see high schools with a "video coordinator" position whose job it is to get cutups out to college coaches.  Look at the advent and explosion of Hudl in the past few years.  When I was a head coach, you made a couple of VHS tapes and sent them out and you were done.  Now you have coaches who coach on Friday night and by early Saturday morning the cutups are already on the net via Hudl or YouTube.  Why the change?  Money.  Players want that million dollar contract and high school coaches are the mice sitting below college football's table wanting to pick up any crumb of notoriety that falls.  Frankly, it's sickening, and the want for fame and money and notoriety has taken an ugly turn.

Look in the great state of Florida, at Seffner Armwood High School and their recent scandal involving players changing address so they could go to Armwood instead of other local schools.  The reason, a chance to be seen, or recruited, so they can have the fame, the glory and at the root of it all...the money.  What a sickening situation that may or may not involve the coach.  Is this what we've lowered ourself to?  There is another private school local to me, that I will not mention the name, but they play for championships year in and year out.  I have first hand knowledge that a local farm equipment dealership pays for "feature athletes" to go to school there.  How do they get these athletes you ask?  They recruit them from other student bodies.  Here's the kicker too, the coaches don't do it, although they encourage it.  The players do the recruiting.  With all the social media outlets out there, kids know what teams are winning and doing good, and they talk about it.  Well, all it takes is one "You should play over here", and there you go.  Trouble is, this kind of recruiting is hard to catch, and until states find a way to curtail it, this issue will continue.  Problem is, stopping this recruiting is bad for business, and since business is good, most state athletic associations aren't going to do anything but give a slap on the wrist.  Quite frankly, it's gotten to the point it's getting ugly, but yet those of us coaches who aren't cheaters stand by and simply let it happen.

So what to do about this issue of money and it's effect on the game is beyond me.  Remember this is just a piece on my opinion about the situation, not a solution.  Hell, I'd have a better chance of getting on American Idol than figuring this one out.  I don't think you can change the fact that ESPN is going to televise Pop Warner games as they think they are showing Americans the next Barry Sanders.  I think that trend is here to stay.  I also think you can't change the cheating, until the state associations want to do something about it.  However, the thing to remember, is to coach your ass off and make a difference in the kids YOU coach.  I don't think you should sit around worrying about what everyone else is doing.  Focus on what you do, and the kids you coach, and the rest is just "white noise".

This was THE guy...