In the wake of the Larry Nassar trial and subsequent conviction, I've spent some time thinking on the power dynamic between coaches and players, often-times children. In fact, every time I've thought about the heinous abuses committed by Nassar and many others, my thoughts keep returning to the college recruitment process.
Every day on social media, if you browse long enough, you'll see a post similar to any of the three tweets to the left. In fact, any given day will feature a number of posts, tweets, and comments from coaches on how players must act if they want that elusive scholarship, or even a spot on that team's roster.
I'm tired of it. It's time for coaches to have the conversation that actually needs to happen. It's time for players, most often young boys or girls, to begin to realize that the power dynamic isn't skewed in the way coaches make it seem.
We are grooming children to be the perfect college recruit, and in that process we make sure that they become accustomed to jumping through each coach's specific hoops. When we hear that other child athletes are being groomed by predators and feel helpless in saying no, can we question whether or not the power dynamic that is being created within college athletic recruitment has a part to play in all of this?
If we want to truly work with and develop good people both on and off the field, then its time for us, as coaches, to live up to the same standards and expectations we hold for our current and potential players. Children follow the example they see, not the example they're told. If you want that team culture you keep selling on those recruiting trips, then you and your staff need to be THE examples of it.
Understand that they are interested in you. They want you. And because of that, they are lucky if YOU choose to join their program. That's the secret that some programs already accept and preach, but not enough. It's time to move past the disastrous environment in which we have young athletes thinking that if they jump though all the hoops, they may be lucky and get graced with an offer. The power dynamic is not one in which the coach is the officer with the last life boat on the titanic. If you run into a coach who treats you like that, be grateful that your decision was just made easier. And remember that. It's YOUR decision.
Always remember that the game doesn't happen without the players, and the players have the power to choose where they go.
Research the programs you are interested in. Research the coaching staff you are looking to potentially spend the next four years of your life, in a crucial foundational period, with. Are these adults, or is this institution, fulfilling the values that you have as a person? Are they representing the person you hope to become? When you visit the school and the team for a day, or a weekend, is that culture you keep hearing about actually present, or does it seem like you're being told a lot of things that you'll experience "once you sign?"
I'm tired of coaches instructing athletes on how to get recruited, but never instructing their colleagues on how to improve the process. It is time for us, as professionals, to accept that this power dynamic we continue to perpetuate is a factor in these stories we keep wishing we didn't hear on the news. It's time for us to WANT a parent that is scrutinizing, and a player that asks questions that cut right to the middle of things, rather than people who will sign a check for an ID camp they never had a shot at in the first place.
It's time for us to change the conversation and bring some humility, and class, to our side of this relationship.
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