Parents Just Don’t Understand ! Characters: DJ, recruiting coordinator of a Centennial D3 football program and Will, head coach of a 6A District 1 Program. DJ: Hi Will, I would love to talk to you about players in your program that you believe can help our team WILL: You, bet DJ. I have two kids in particular that fit your academic and athletic profile DJ: Sounds great, you know that we put a true emphasis on “student athlete” here at Centennial College. WILL: That could be a real problem with one of them, Johnny Come Lately. He is really being misled by his parents-- DJ: (politely interjecting) Let me guess….Because he goes to ABC Speed Camp and they have shelled out hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to get him faster and more “exposure”, they think he is “at least a Division II player..” WILL: (chuckling) Yeah, we have seen this movie before, haven’t we? The reality is that our program has a saying that “water seeks its own level” DJ: Lemme guess, Johnny wants to get dropped off at some PSAC factory, where he will learn how to get pummeled on the scout team and be a tackling dummy for many that just do not care about grades or a total experience. WILL: I keep telling his parents that his measurables (height, weight, 40 time) just aren’t there. But his academics (GPA, ACT/SAT, AP/Honors courses, class rank) and his intangibles (DNA, coachability, toughness) are pretty strong. He could be a big fish in a small pond at Centennial. DJ: I see it all the time, Will. Many times we are able to make it just as cost-effective as the PSAC for a true student-athlete that is committed to being well-rounded WILL: We adopt the football gods’ motto that “the divine scales of justice balance, if not now, then hereafter.” This will not end well if his parents steer him to the wrong choice. DJ: I think what you are saying is that parents and their delusions of grandeur are the true problem here. WILL: You hear me loud and clear. Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT bashing the PSAC, they have their value proposition. BUT, parents that never played or fell short of their own goals are vicariously living through their sons. It is a mistake to “force” them to “play at the highest level.” WILL: Completely Agree. I just got an email from a CYO feeder program parent. It was a YouTube video of his son’s 7th grade highlight film. Talk about a red flag. Do the parents really think this matters? DJ: I know, it is comical. The other red flags are when you see these kids transferring multiple times to various high schools. One raises an eyebrow, more than that is downright suspicious. Many times, it is not the kid’s fault, but the parents must be more cognizant of the negative perception and optics. WILL: It sends a bad message. It is easier for me to run away from competition, adversity or a challenge as opposed to battling through it and trying to overcome it. That pattern tends to manifest itself in the real world. DJ: Needless to say, our institution will avoid those kids and parents like the plague. We also have a ranking system with 5 levels: *, +, O, -, SD. (STARS, PLUSSES, CIRCLES, MINUSES and SLAPDICKS). WILL: Tell me more, DJ. DJ: Well, we apply it in general to players and then to our level. In reality, your STARS* are few and far between—your true FBS players. Plusses + are lower level FBS and your FCS talents. Circles O are the Division II/III prospects. Minuses – (aka CP for Can’t Play) and SD for Slapdicks that should not even be on the team. WILL: That makes sense, how do you overlay it to your level at Division III? DJ: It is fairly simple. Stars* are those handful of kids a year you are grateful to have because they slipped through the cracks, you just cannot count on a lot year in and out. Plusses + are those kids that have very good academics and measurables and are the true lifeblood of your program. Circles O are those kids that have a slight deficiency in either measurable or academics. We take these kids all day long, because if they work hard and want to get better, they will! They become Plusses + or even Stars*. Minus- obviously Can’t Play (CP) so are lacking in measurables. However, if they work hard and want it, they can become Circles O and can wind up contributing. SD Slapdicks will probably never play but you need a scout team. Many times they have strong intangibles and academics that add to team chemistry and they may eventually become a Minus-. EVERYONE has a role. Many times, the SD kids are very successful after college. They are willing to work, put in the time to get better and understand teamwork and embrace esprit de corps. WILL: There is a clear method to your madness. Well, the other kid I mentioned, Tommy Upandcomer is a general Circle 0 but probably a Plus+ for you! DJ: OK, great. What are his measurables, academics and intangibles? WILL: He is a 6 foot, 180lb linebacker with a 4.8 40. He has a 1050 SAT and a 3.45 GPA with all honors and AP classes and is in the top 10% of his class rank. He is tough as nails, a great leader and has no quit. His parents are middle income. DJ: Sounds like our kind of kid. I will find his HUDL video. He can play, huh? WILL: The Eye in the Sky Does Not Lie. He is one of the best “football players” we have had here. DJ: This young man should be able to come to Centennial College and with proper focus, get bigger, faster and stronger. He will get a top flight education, have a chance to be a major contributor at a price tag lower than the PSACs if mom and dad make less than $125k combined. WILL: Plus, the academic reputation of the school stands alone and it has a great network that should enable him to find a good job when he graduates in 4 years. DJ: We should have recorded this conversation, Will. PARENTS JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND! BREVIN WHITE, a top 15 ranked pocket passing QB from California has committed to Princeton. Why Brevin? “I want a roommate that’s smarter than me.” Interesting, after visiting 12 big time schools from Arizona to Tennessee and with a brother who plays at Arizona State, he still made this choice. Turns out he loves the idea of studying economics or psychology and the proximity to NYC. In addition, according to Princeton, students whose parents have $140k or less in income, usually pay no tuition. Listen up, the gods implore all parents to have the gumption to shepherd their sheep to the right pasture. Where can they thrive? Is it location or proximity to home? Academic reputation? Specific type of major or curriculum/program of study? “Playing at D-1” often turns out to not be what it is cracked up to be for many Stars*. That also applies to any level that a student-athlete is not suited, for that matter. Of course, the boy (and we emphasize that maturity level) is not always going to make a rational or sound choice. They are 18 years old, emotions and “what people think” as well as peer pressure can influence a decision too easily. With the proper guidance from mom and/or dad--sometimes it is the coach—(Hi Albie—see Tep, David or Goliath?) a more appropriate, realistic selection can be chosen. The top required reading on the gods’ syllabus is David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. Bottom line of the missive: be a big fish in a small pond. Essentially, unless you are in that handful of Stars*, go where you can stand out. Do not allow your successes and failures to be measured by those around you. Sitting on the bench as a walk on at Penn State when you could have played at Delaware and built up your confidence is likely a better outcome. Should I got to West Chester and maybe play by senior year, or attend Gettysburg where I can probably be a two-year starter and have a chance to shine and not be demoralized early on (and later regret quitting because “it wasn’t for me”). Heed the gods, parents! Buck the “conventional wisdom” of going to the highest level with the dangling carrot of “playing on TV”. The NFL is not a realistic goal. Log on to NetFlix and check out LAST CHANCE U to witness the harsh reality. Spend your $ on academics, not athletic training. Listen to your boy’s coach. Be realistic about his academics, measurables and intangibles. He is probably a circle O or a Minus-. Drop him in a small pond where he can swim in safer waters and grow to this full potential. For those informed parents of Plusses + or Circles O that want to be a disciple of Gladwell, look no further than the following four conferences for football: IVY, Patriot, NESCAC and Centennial. Close to 20 years of data. Point of emphasis here—these are NOT the only choices. But in SEPA the list probably starts here. Many other fine institutions that can also be considered (and the gods have plenty of data on those as well—ask and you shall receive).