Finding a good program to play football can be tough. I am not just talking about a college football program. I am talking about a high school football program. Not only am I talking about a college football program and a high school football program but I am also talking about a youth football program. However, making the right choices concerning the latter two will certainly make the choice on the first one easier. When the choice is made, it is then about teaching the prospect to be loyal.
Though it may not seem that way, loyalty matters in the game of college football and so this article is more for parents than it is for prospects but really is for both. You may have heard recently Nick Saban quote on high school transfers “when you transfer high schools, I really don’t want to recruit you because I know you lack perseverance and grit.” That quote was heavily scrutinized on Twitter as folks broke their necks bringing up all the players Saban recruited that transferred high schools, like ex-Tide current NFL’er Calvin Ridley who did so multiple times. Many people missed Saban’s point and ultimately miss the overall point on recruiting in general.
Whatever quote you hear from a coach with regards to who they will and won’t recruit typically won’t apply to the elite of the elite. Of course coaches would rather not recruit players who transfer high schools or are questionable in their social media interactions. However, when a player is mega talented, a coach is more willing to accept these shortcomings. Those shortcomings should never be your goal and if you aren’t elite, you can expect them to upend your recruiting process. Is it fair? No but what are you going to do, cry about it?
Truth of the matter is this and if you get nothing else out of this article, get this. Shortcomings in personality and character will ultimately catch up with the player. Some coaches are willing to put up with it in hopes that they can get what they can from the player before passing him onto someone else. It’s like a grenade that has had it’s pin pulled and is being passed around from person to person. Eventually it blows up in someone’s hands.
This particular character flaw is lack of loyalty. I can hear the other argument too. Well the coaches aren’t loyal why should the players be. See my point above about shortcomings. I will also point out that the coaches are adults with families making career decisions. They have also moved through the same college football player process that kids they coach have. In some respects, they have earned the right to make the career decisions.
Enough on proving whether loyalty is a good thing. I should not have to prove to the reader that it is but such are the times that we live in. So how do we build loyalty in the prospect so that we don’t dirty up their profile when potential schools come looking?
This starts very early in their football playing career. I live in South Florida where park hopping and school transferring has become a hobby. The average rising high school senior played for 3.5 parks growing up and 2.5 high schools. Parents get upset with coaches and programs for a myriad of reasons. They use these reasons to hop to the next park and suit their son up in new colors. Many times, the problems pop up at the new park and it’s on the road again when the season is over. Rinse and repeat. Many parents fail to realize a couple of things. First, is that no park is perfect and that they all have problems. Second, is that they themselves are part of the problem. All the while, as the helmet colors change season after season, the child is learning a very important lesson and it can have some major consequences. That important lesson is that their loyalty is for sale.
You want a solid prospect by the time they are ready to graduate high school? Spend your time researching the various little league parks. Determine what is important to you in the development of your young athlete. Seek counsel on what those things should be if you have to. When you have determined what those things are, find the park that has “most” of those qualities. Notice how I did not say “all”. Determine what you are ok with doing without. I am going to tell you this right now, winning little league super bowls should not be at the top of this list. Of course you want to teach your child a winning attitude but a lot important things can get sacrificed for a coach to win the big trophy every year.
When you find a park that fits your mold, go there and make every effort to stay there. Try to see the future when you land at the park. Does the coach, commissioner and the powers that be have a vision and possess managerial skills? If so, the park is likely to hold together at least long enough for your youngster to make it through the ranks. Should any of the important elements that you hold dear start to fall off, see if you can offer some help in keeping that factor in tact.
If your child is one of the better players on his team, you can expect rival coaches to make their attempts to pull him from his current park. Resist those urges. They often come with a tremendous amount of flattery, bribery and lies. When you make that move, you put a dent in your kid’s thought process. Once you make that first move, it becomes easy to make a second and a third and a fourth. The moment he runs into trouble in high school, guess what he will expect the move to be. You already know what he’s thinking if his name is 3rd on the depth chart in college (if he makes it to college).
Sure, there will be reasons to move your child from one park to another. A complete regime change. A coach you are connected with moving to another park, etc. These things are outside of your control. They should also be one time things. If the coach you are connected with is himself a park hopper, you may want to reconsider why you are so connected with him. If parks you go to keep having regime changes, you may want to reconsider your park scouting abilities.
Human beings have become more and more petty in the social media era. We often times let it spill over into our real lives. We think that moving from park to park will really stick it to the coach and commissioner. Who we really are sticking it to is ourselves whether that is the parent or the athlete. At some point, one’s inability to settle in, build some loyalty and develop within a program will catch up with them. When it does, there will be few people to blame other than yourself. On the flip side, building loyalty teaches the athlete something about problem solving, perseverance and unity. An amazing thing also happens when a person is taught loyalty. They become stronger decision makers. When forced to deal with a situation, a person becomes skilled at making decisions to deal with problems. If the answer to the problem is leaving then that will always be the answer and stability becomes an issue. Football and life is a game of decisions. The one that is best at making those decisions are the ones that put the ball in the end zone.
Chad Wilson is a college football recruiting expert and creator of the GridironStudsApp which allows high school football players to gain exposure to college football coaches and fans. Wilson is a former college football player for the University of Miami (92-94) and Long Beach St. (’90-’91) and played briefly for the Seattle Seahawks (’95). He is also a former youth and high school football coach for over 15 years most recently for 5-A State of Florida Champs American Heritage. He runs All Eyes DB Camp a defensive back training company located in South Florida IG: @alleyesdbcamp. Wilson’s oldest son Quincy plays in the NFL for the New York Jets and his younger son plays cornerback for the University of Florida