There are some annoying things about recruiting season that make my skin crawl whenever it comes around. As much as it means that the team that you root for will eventually get better, it has turned into a reality spectacle befitting of The Bachelor (The Recruit, If you will.)
One of the most mindbogglingly asinine features of recruiting is the scouting of middle school age children for the possibility of an early offer. Just last week Louisiana Lafayette head coach Mark Hudspeth offered 14-year old offensive lineman McKinnley Jackson a scholarship to play for the Ragin’ Cajuns, a move I’m sure Jackson will stick with for the next four years.
The offers are not the only thing geared at showcasing the kids. Organizations like the Reese’s Senior Bowl now host camps that are used so middle schoolers can showcase skills in a scouting combine-like setting. Rivals.com now has scouting profiles (but no rankings) for two kids in the class of 2021. That’s two kids who were born in 2002 who are getting more attention than some seniors are right now.
All of this just feels like a messy part of the system that can’t simply be solved. Players are committing to teams earlier and earlier. It has become a nuclear arms race to be the first team to offer a kid and set up shop, which shouldn’t be the worry of a middle schooler.
It’s kind of a reflection of our society’s values upon these kids. Children are seemingly being pushed to grow up faster and make life decisions in the now instead of waiting. All of this in a complicated window of development where no one knows how a kid will react. They may burn out of the sport, get hurt or in trouble, change to a different school or play another sport.
It’s hard enough to get a read on what high schoolers want when they go through the recruiting process. Now you’re telling me that a kid with more time is going to be able to keep his decision with all those changes going on around him? I say no way.
The best thing that could happen for these kids would be if someone just let them play football and be young adults. They still have time before football is super serious and geared towards getting into college instead of just a thing they play for fun after school.