The modern athlete is a different breed. No longer is the star quarterback the star point guard, as well. Of course, it can happen, but such cases are few and far between. Kids choose their sport as early as seventh grade.
Summer leagues and year round teams allow kids to directly focus on one sport. Year round one-sport athletes are not just basketball or baseball kids anymore. Now they’re lacrosse or hockey athletes, too.
I, along with many others, have sacrificed my summer and social life for sports. I don’t think our teams have had as much fun on their “all star teams” in the summer as past generations. Back then, it was more about having fun and keeping the dream alive of making it to Williamsport. Now you have to show ten coaches that you deserve to play, which constantly ups the pressure.
Playing in the summer isn’t necessarily an option, anymore, either. It’s mandatory. If you want to get better for the upcoming scholastic season, then you better demonstrate that you are working on your craft in the summer. Travel ball is also about getting the high school team together and preparing as one developing the team chemistry that is so crucial to win in today’s highly competitive high school leagues.
Today’s high school sports demand more, whichever way you slice it. Kids come in bigger, faster, and stronger and certainly more thoroughly prepared, mentally and physically. Coaches coach harder and demand more from a preparation standpoint. Complex schemes and commitment to film study in the off-season have become more commonplace. Year-round hard work must be done to ensure your position on the field and to show your coaches that you are capable of leadership.
Maybe the hardest part of succeeding in today’s ever-changing youth sports landscape is the ability to give up and sacrifice a lot. Kids may have to face the reality of not having the ability to hang out after school. Instead, they go to the gym for a couple hours to work out harder than the guy they’re competing against, where in today’s world competition is always ever present and the mere thought of losing your job always hangs in the balance and is a constant reminder of the sweat that the current athlete has to endure throughout the summer.
Overall, the process of athletics has changed dramatically. High school games are broadcast live on ESPN and student athletes are well aware of the exposure that is available. Upper tier athletes always want to make it to the big stage. They are focused and prepared to take on a lot of challenges that face them in high school. Do we need to improve? Yes. Is the competitive nature of year round sports too much at too rapid a pace and in too many instances too young an age? Without question …yes. Today’s youth endure hardships on the field of play that there is very little comparison to what my father participated in. There was no AAU, no travel teams, and no mandatory high school workouts. It was three distinct seasons of participation. Those days are but a distant memory. Athletes today are faced with a fundamental question. How bad do they want it? The fun for merely participating is still there, but clearly has been minimized in today’s atmosphere.
Publishers Note: A look at the changing landscape of Youth Sports written through the eyes of Apex High Schooler, Andrew Mason