Saturday, January 12, 2013

To Much To Soon...

Too Much too Soon?

David Sills is in the seventh grade and plays quarterback on the middle school football team at the Red Lion Christian Academy.

Apparently, David is pretty good at football because something unheard of happened last week. The University of Southern California, a college football power, offered him a sports scholarship. Trojan coach Lane Kiffin made the proposal and, with his parents' blessing, David accepted.

David and Denise Sills are the parents and they have taken some heat for allowing this to happen.

David Sills III, the quarterback's dad, hasn't seemed bothered by the criticism. Recently he told "For the people that don't like kids getting recruited early, if it was their kid what would they do?...The way I look at it if David was a phenomenal mathematician and I held him back, wouldn't that be wrong?"

Mr. Sills brings up a fair point.  Put yourself in his shoes, what decision would you make?

I don’t fault the parents in this case.  If you can get someone to pay your child’s tuition in this day and age you need to consider that. 

At 13 though this boy is likely to still grow.  At some point his body will start to rebel against him during his growth spurt.  Things that were easy yesterday will become very difficult a week from now as he learns to coordinate a body that is several inches longer.  This increase in growth will also likely be accompanied with tight muscles and sore joints.

If David successfully manages his teenage years who is to say he’ll be the same athlete?  Also consider when you were 13, did you every change your mind about what you wanted to become?

Experts in child development and youth sports say they worry how Sills will handle the spotlight. Even more troubling to some is what the story of a 13-year-old being recruited by a major college program says about the state of youth sports in general.

"We're robbing children of their childhood," warns Richard Ginsburg, a sport psychologist who treats youth athletes and their families at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital, in an interview with ParentDish.

"The sports industry has become tailored to giving children the hope that they have a chance to be scouted and picked. There are so many things that can go wrong: Overuse injuries, burnout, and stress. Putting young bodies and minds into that kind of situation, they're just not ready for it.,” says Ginsburg, co-author of Whose Game is It, Anyway? a book that helps parents navigate youth sports.

Much of the medical establishment agrees about those risks. This month, the American Academy of Pediatrics sent out its latest warning. AAP's Committee on Sports Medicine and Fitness reissued a caution first published in 2000: It reads: "Children involved in sports should be encouraged to participate in a variety of different activities and develop a wide range of skills. Young athletes who specialize in just one sport may be denied the benefits of varied activity while facing additional demands from intense training and competition."

At least one professional doesn’t view this situation as a disaster in the making.
Linda Petlichkoff, a sport psychology consultant and professor of Kinesiology at Boise State University, says her only reservation is whether David's dream truly belongs to him.

"Are these goals actually his goals or his dad's goals?" she says in an interview with ParentDish. "If they're his, I don't think anybody should say yay, nay or put up roadblocks. That's what life's about. Set your goals ands strive for them."

Ginsburg is more skeptical. "Five years from now, maybe it's a success story. Maybe all the stars align. But he's a superstar at 13. I'm afraid the only way to go is down."

Lane Kiffin the head coach at USC doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to loyalty.  Scholarships are not binding agreements this early in the game.  What if in 5 years another young prospect emerges and proves to be more talented than David Sills?  I’m guessing Kiffin will pull back that scholarship offer right from under David.

I hope the Sills are prepared for that to happen.  In the meantime, hopefully David is allowed to be a kid without the burden of living up to a commitment that may not exist 5 years from now.

Story Update

I wrote the above article in 2009.  Here is what has transpired in David Sills’ athletic career over the last 3 years. For his freshman 2011 season, Sills played very well in his second year as a varsity quarterback. He was named a U.S. Air Force Second Team Freshman All-American. [1] Following a freshman season, where his father contributed to financing an entirely out-of-state schedule including air travel games to California, Red Lion Christian Academy (Delaware) took actions to downsize its athletic program.

As a sophomore, Sills became the quarterback for Eastern Christian Academy (ECA) of Elkton, Maryland. The move was controversial because the school is a newly formed online educational institution. All boys that are enrolled are on the 46-man football team established by Sills father to showcase his son. Some of ECA's opponents have cancelled their games against it. [2]

Sills is a member of the class of 2015 and is still committed to USC even though he is ineligible to sign a letter of intent until 2015. 

It appears USC is standing by the young man and he just may make it to campus after all.  That is provided he doesn’t burnout first and likely more relevant, his father doesn’t do something stupid in the meantime.  I knew the youth sport culture was in need of a wake up call but even I never imagined that a parent would attempt to create an entire school to showcase his son’s athletic ability…

How much exposure does a kid really need, after all did he not land a scholarship from USC?  It seems someone is determined to engineer the greatest quarterback in the history of football… It’s just to bad the conductor of this game plan is blinded by his own ego because he doesn’t even notice he is dangerously close to driving his son over the edge. 

Phil Loomis
Youth Fitness/Nutrition Specialist


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