Email Ken Stallings   When a game is no longer a game

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The advance of professional athletics from a pastime to a mega-corporation is a long standing reality.  We would need to go back to our grandfather's world to remember when it was just a game.

However, we only need to go back to our father's generation to remember when athletics in college was really a game and not a mega-corporation.  But too much has happened in college athletics in the last thirty years and it's been documented too well to need further mention here.

We accept that they don't truly play games in professional and college ranks any longer.  They put on corporate spectacles designed to part money from spectators.

High schools?  Eh Tu, Brutus!

Yes, sadly, the greed factor has permeated its way to the high school level, and in sports other than the big two of football and basketball.  It's long been known that high school football in states like Texas were a serious business long before the NFL became the NFL.  But the trends are now negative in sports like high school wrestling, and the driving factor are college scholarships.

The latest warning flag comes to us from the state of Georgia.  Coaches and high schools wanting to win championships at all costs are actively seeking to build what constitute all-star teams.  The wrestlers are being actively recruited to join the top flight high school programs.  There is one prime problem.  These high school kids don't live in the school district for the school actively recruiting them.  They should be attending another area high school instead, one that ostensibly still believes the mission of high schools is education.

So, to circumvent these requirements, the highly prized wrestling athlete and his parents simply lie.  They falsify the address listed on the high school admissions forms, most frequently listing the address of a relative who lives in the district of the desired school, but whom the child does not live with.

Clearly, the coaches and school staff are in on the fix.  They gain better athletes and increase their prestige over rival schools.  There has been reluctance for law enforcement to investigate this conduct.  Given this reluctance, rival school boosters are taking action privately.

Private investigators are being paid thousands of dollars to shadow high school athletes, to document where they actually live.  Once the investigators determine that the athletes reside outside the required school district, they turn this data over to the boosters, who then release it to the media, the various school boards, and law enforcement.

The school boards are humiliated and have to transfer the student to the proper school.  It interrupts his studies, and causes confusion and chaos at both schools.  The teachers are thrown into a frustrating situation of accepting a student mid-term and in needing to compile academic transcripts to send to the gaining schools.

All this from an unbridled desire to get victories in high school athletic contests.  It is a sick perversion of our primary education system.  But this perversion goes deeper.

In local communities across America, youth sports clubs and organizations were created to give elementary aged children a summer outlet for recreation and exercise.  Literally, these are the mom-coached soccer, baseball, basketball, and pee-wee football teams.  But they have become something else.  They have more recently become fertile recruitment territory for high school coaches!

Many high school coaches are using these community organizations as scout farms.  The coaches influence children to join particular teams so they can more easily scout their future athletes.  This is where the schemes to falsify high school admissions forms start.  High school coaches often identify kids they want on their teams.  They establish a relationship with the parents, and promise them if their kid attends his school, that a college scholarship awaits.

The adults are to blame -- all of them.  The parents, coaches, and school administrators all combine to create this mess.  Myopically they all morph what should be a pleasant recreational outlet for children into something foolish.  We are creating a meat market where children are being groomed at age 12 for an all-star high school team, where the athletes are being pursued by colleges looking for revenue streams offering scholarships. 

Young children at age 12 are being told foolish stories of a fast track through college and into professional athletics.  Yet, as the coaches well know, the children have better odds of winning a lottery.  Certainly, they have better odds of being a doctor if they forgo this nonsense and stick to academic studies!

It is time for adults to stop acting like children so that children won't be forced to act like adults!

-- Ken Stallings

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