I'm amazed at the dedication some of our local high school athletes have for their craft. While the rest of the student population will either be working, sleeping late in bed then moving to the sofa in front of the big screen, going away to visit family or just getting away from the area for awhile, these athletes are out there practicing for hours to get better.
I understand why they have to do it. With more and more kids playing and everyone wanting to be the best, they have to practice. But the question that keeps coming up in my mind is what's the cost of all this practicing? I wonder when do these kids/student-athletes get a chance to take a break?
Other than the week of the Fourth of July, which is a mandatory break between player-coach practices under Georgia High School Association rules, every other week of the summer is fair game. But that doesn't mean they can't practice or play for a non-high school sanctioned team.
Neither of my daughters was into sports, but I've been around enough summer high school practices to know that after that practice, most of them have to go to their other practice.
Be it softball, baseball, basketball, track or golf, someone out there is always willing to spend time helping them improve. There's AAU basketball and track plus the ever-popular traveling baseball and softball teams, Atlanta Junior Golf, and other programs for other sports, including soccer and wrestling.
It's not just high-schoolers that are out there sweating. My daughters had friends when they were in elementary and middle school who played travel ball every spring, summer and fall. It's one thing to have them do this during the summer, but they do it during the school year, which cuts into homework. Sometimes, depending on where they have to go and when their games end, it cuts into their sleep for school the next day.
Then there's the financial cost for some of these travel teams. Some parents say it's an "investment" in their future so they can go to college. From what I've been able to pick up from parents that had their kids on various travel teams over the last however many years I've been doing this, the average cost is close to $6,000 a year. Obviously, that's not just to play. That also includes the cost for the parents to travel to wherever they're playing and get into the games. Then there's food and the snacks at the park during the games, plus lunch or dinner afterward with the team. Sure, some could pay less, but at the same time some could pay more.
But let's stick with the $6,000 for now. If one were to take that money and put it in an account where it makes 3 percent every year for 12 years, they would have enough money to send their child to UGA for all four years of college at the present cost of $20,800 per year.
If they did get a scholarship to play, what if the school is below them academically? Do they go to an academically inferior school to play because as parents we put their entire collegiate future in one basket?
Then there's the problem that the kid is burned out on whatever sport they're in and they don't want to play anymore. Plus we shouldn't forget that there's always the possibility that while they're good enough to play at the high school level, there's no guarantee that they'll get any offers to play at the next level. It's one thing if a player participates in the sport because they enjoy it. But it's another because of pressure to get into a college or because it's the dream of the parent.
Yes, I think that if they're going to play the sport they need to practice so they get better. But at the same time there has to be a point where they have enough free time to, well, be a kid.
Manny Fils is a sports writer for The Citizen.