According to Nathaniel Popper of The New York Times, in today’s sports world “coaches at colleges large and small” are recruiting 13 and 14 year old girls to fill future rosters, “despite NCAA rules that appear to explicitly prohibit it.” Rather than deciding which college to attend senior year, some athletes come in freshman year already committed to attending a certain college through athletics. Although it is relaxing to know you are going to college and are able to play a sport, how early is too early to commit?
The recruiting process is complicated and tedious. Once an athlete is committed, they are still not fully guaranteed admission into the school. The only assurance an athlete has is a verbal agreement. Athletes eventually sign a national letter of intent which is “stating publicly one’s intentions to attend a certain institution, is a non-binding, oral agreement between you and the institution. The only binding nature of the commitment is your word and the institution’s”, according to the National Letter of Intent official website. There are many factors that can unbind that agreement, such as grades slippage, injury, or a sudden disinterest in the school.
With the recruiting process becoming earlier and earlier, athletes feel the pressure to commit to a school as soon as they can. Many coaches also push athletes into committing whether or not they are ready. The athletes are then forced to either make a commitment or lose their opportunity. There becomes an enormous race with athletes trying to get a coach’s attention before other players do, and with college coaches trying to get the best players before another coach does. They can get so caught up in the process that they become blind to what is really important: for every individual to find the best colleges for themselves.
Beyond the fact that it might be prohibited, committing too early can cause an athlete to attend a school that may not be the right fit. As one grows as a person, his or her opinion on the ideal school changes. Also, there is a possibility the athlete will not be accepted into the school, which would leave them abandoned and suddenly with no school to attend when they had been under the intention they were “committed.” If the athlete does end up getting into the school, the team may be completely different from when he or she decided to commit.
Many want the feeling that they are going to be able to attend college and play a sport, but at a young age it is difficult to know what the right college truly is for you. College is about education and preparation for the real world, not solely about playing a sport as a job. The lust to commit can cause athletes to only focus on the sports aspect of the school, which is not the most important part. Sports should just be an aspect that makes your collegiate experience better, but should not fully take over the experience.