Who’s really to blame for high turnover in the high school and college sports worlds? Probably not the athletes.
I hate hearing all that “society is broken” stuff when kids and young adults do something older generations disagree with. When you work in sports for a living, or even just follow them as a fan, you hear it all the time. Maybe you even say things like that.
Kid recommits from one college program to another pretty late in the game? “Back in my day, you honored your commitment.”
Kid goes to a school for one coach, gets another when the staff is turned over and speaks up when the new coaches favor their players? “Society’s gotten too soft, suck it up.”
Kid gets in trouble for something small? “These kids have no respect.”
Kid can’t escape a rough life growing up and it ends up coming back to haunt them? “Just another thug.”
It’s all stupid, and what many folks who have let Facebook rot their brains don’t seem to see is exactly where their gripes with modern society stem from. Here’s a hint: it’s not the teenagers who have little, if any, control over their lives.
If people really did follow “do as I say, not as I do” instructions well, these problems probably wouldn’t exist. Everyone wants to talk a big game. The problem is that many people who style themselves as influencers in young people’s lives won’t follow through and live the truth they speak. More often than not, kids learn social cues and behaviors by example. They behave the way they do because someone either enabled it or taught them — knowingly or otherwise — that it’s OK to act that way. No one wants to admit when they’re being hypocritical, so they’ll just blame whatever straw man they can.
Am I trying to say society is perfect and totally not problematic? Heck no. There’s work to be done and maybe there is a nugget or two of truth in some of the fist-shaking from the older folks, if only when it comes to society getting “softer.” The thing is, though, the kids aren’t the ones who need to get to work.
They’re reacting to an evolving society just like the rest of us. Everyone’s collective experiences come together to make up the world we know and everyone handles that differently. Society’s never going to stop evolving as long as we have access to as much information as we do and killing transparency and information flows is downright un-American.
The problem is with the people who refuse to adapt, who refuse to try and understand what the kids nowadays are going through because they’re only capable of seeing life at that stage as they remember it. Nostalgia is often viewed with rose-colored glasses, so they say, and too many people nowadays won’t take them off because they fear what they don’t understand.
So when I hear coaches like P.J. Fleck at Minnesota call a mass of college football decommitments a “problem with society” rather than that of his program or any others, I don’t think he’s shooting straight. It is a problem with society, but that’s because you have coaches and programs setting the example with constant turnovers and pulled offers and a general sense of superiority for reasons that don’t hold water.
Who’s going to take a lesson on commitment seriously from people who bounce around jobs every three or four years?
Fleck himself was once hired as an offensive coordinator and held the job for around 24 hours before he decided that it wasn’t the right fit for him. He’s well within his right to make that choice for himself, but no one who does things like that should tell kids that it’s wrong and they shouldn’t do the same. Nobody’s going to take something like that seriously, especially in 2019.
At the high school level down here, you could argue the kids were extremely enabled by the “Choice in Sports” bill. I’ve been against that bill from the start and still am because it’s horribly broken. Here’s the difference between that bill and choosing college sports programs: the athletes have essentially unchecked freedom to go to as many schools as they want, whenever they want, wherever they want. That hurts parity. However, it does allow kids to leave a program the very minute they realize it’s not going to work out for them. At the college level, you’re stuck for a year once you sign that NLI. It seems so backwards to me. Why do high schoolers have at least as much freedom as adults after college, until they become adults at 18 and get stuck with college sports’ byzantine regulations? If you want to teach kids commitment, you can’t do it that way.
Society’s not going to “fix” itself the way people want until those who can’t stop being mad about it actually make an effort to understand it first. Maybe talk to those kids you’d otherwise write off as “lazy” or “thugs” or whatever you’d call them and learn about their lives. Try to gain insight into another perspective on life you’ve never considered because you’ve never had to. See what it’s like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, especially if they’re not as nice as yours. And if you’re going to preach the gospel of commitment to athletes, make sure no one can look at you as an opportunist whose resume has something like five programs in seven years.
Or, hear me out, maybe stop railing against kids exercising their right to choose where they want to begin their adult lives just like how you’d choose to advance in your own. I promise it’s even easier done than said.