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The 2022 National Football League Draft begins this week on April 28 and continues through April 30 when Mr. Irrelevant will be selected.  The ambition of many young athletes is to play in what is euphemistically called the “big show” meaning at the professional level. This brings to mind Jacob Hickman, a 6’4 290 lbs. offensive lineman from the University of Nebraska some 10 years ago. Those Cornhuskers are famous for developing offensive linemen.

Hickman said, “Playing in the NFL was never a dream for me. I kind of thought if that happened, it’s something I would do. Now, I’ve kind of gone in  a different direction.” Hickman, considered by the NFL in the top 10 in his position, did not pursue an NFL career saying, “The passion is gone.” What an insight for a player who could have been a high draft pick, commanding a six-figure salary plus bonus. But instead, assessing his future as a husband and future father “playing with my kids at 40 without a limp”.

Yet, that dream of millions of young people on America’s sandlots prevails with little thought given to risk vs. reward. The word “sandlot” brings 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 from football to basketball to baseball.

Do today’s parents and coaches expect (demand?) too much from their kids? As an example, I know of coaches at the high school level who 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 choice of participating in other sports or activities. Excessive pressure put on young athletes is not necessary. Encouragement is always important.

Encouragement and the teaching of skills to play any sport to the best of each player’s ability are always welcomed. Too much demand on a young player’s time and involvement may lead to burnout.

Will you give young athletes a chance to grow and learn at their own pace?

Posted On Friday, 29 April 2022 00:00 Written by

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