Many Young Athletes Aren't Involved in the 'Normal Process'

Article excerpt

Byline: Bob Frisk

In a perfect world, each level of a sport would serve as preparation for the next level.

You play with your junior high team and then you join the high school freshmen.

After you finish with the freshmen, you advance to the sophomores or junior-varsity, gradually working your way up to the varsity.

That's the way it was when I was in high school in the 1950s or starting in this job at the Herald. You rarely saw a freshman placed on the varsity, and it was a big story even when a sophomore was brought up.

When Arlington High School had both Gary Brodnan and Chuck Close on the varsity basketball team as sophomores in 1960-61, there was a buzz in the area because that was so rare.

One varsity promotion for a sophomore was unusual. Two promotions at the same time was news - big news.

Today, the natural progression by the young athlete doesn't always work the "normal" way in some sports.

There's no hesitation to place even a freshman on varsity. Athletes come to high school with advanced skills because of ambitious feeder schedules.

Think how many competitive sports situations our young people are involved in now before they enter high school.

Of course, this doesn't take into consideration kids who have late growth spurts or are slower to develop with their skills. They often get bumped from teams before they can display that maturity.

Kids might also get introduced to their sport at the club level, not the school level, and there's a year-round approach that enters the picture.

The entire system changes.

If you're very good, boasting talent of the elite variety, you often have some serious decisions to make. Club or high school?

Soccer offers a perfect example, although it's not alone by any means. Conflicts are developing everywhere.

Now in the IHSA spotlight with the Class AA tournament for girls this weekend after St. Viator settled Class A last Saturday, soccer gets examined in an interesting article in StudentSports Magazine.

Written by Sheldon Shealer, "Fighting for High School Soccer" takes a close look at how elite players' actions reflect a split in the importance of the prep game.

"No matter where a state cup or region cup or club soccer is held," Shealer writes, "it conflicts with high school soccer somewhere.

"The same is true when elite players are called into regional or national team duty. The areas hardest hit are the West and Southeast, where the states are split among all three high school seasons. …