Do you remember the original ‘Friday Night Lights’? High school football back in the day … those cold fall football games when we were in school? Popcorn, cheerleaders, the bigger lumps in shoulder pads, huge helmets, and happy yet muddy smiles. Win or lose, we would always get together after the game for burgers and our carefree high school life continued. Of course, high school sports in the Midwest were a little more frozen than here in Florida, but fundamentally the same.
Fast forward to 2009, Florida-style high school football. Those carefree memories are a fun novelty for today’s high school jock. Playing soccer today is a very serious and often expensive business for thousands of young athletes.
According to the online publication ESPN Rise: “Many people clearly believe that Florida is the best soccer state for high schools.” Lake Mary, Florida graduate, All-American linebacker at USC, and first-round draft pick Keith Rivers of the Cincinnati Bengals is a perfect example of a ‘local kid does well in his dream’ story.
But athletic success is neither easy nor inexpensive for most young people in high school sports today, even here in Florida. Lake Mary High School athletic director Doug Peters tells me that his school alone averages 800 student athletes a year and only about 15 of those will go to college on athletic scholarships after graduation each year.
Although their parents may not know it yet, these young soccer players already know that they need real marketing, for example: professionally produced highlight videos, personal trainers, and even a “scout” who contacts various schools on the player’s behalf to to play college football. The commitment required for today’s high school athletes is so different because it involves an even greater emotional, personal, and financial investment from the entire family.
Take 16-year-old Trevor Alfredson (full disclosure: my own teenage jock son) who has been playing soccer and loves it since he was six years old. “I’ve wanted to play Division 1 football for as long as I can remember,” says Trevor. And as a sophomore college player, Trev’s season also involved hiring a firm to make a featured video, discussions with two different recruiting services firms, training with former NFL player Dana Sanders, and attending something called “combines”.
For those uninitiated with today’s “jock” lingo: high school soccer officially combines test athletes in a host of physical abilities like speed, agility and strength, as various college coaches watch. The pressure to get noticed is incredibly heavy for these kids, from the age of 14! The cost of sophomore football alone with a view to playing “division 1 football” can amount to more than $ 5,500.
The pressure and problems of “getting it” are not unique to soccer, either. Lee Morgan from Lake Mary is a third year student who plays two types of soccer (Club Soccer and School Soccer) AND American Football, so he will have the best chance of playing a college sport at a good school. Lee, a top-of-the-line super talented football kicker, has already emailed several college coaches (part of his personal marketing plan) and received responses from some of Florida’s college coaches. For a fee, Lee invited them to summer soccer camps so the coaches could get an up-close and personal look.
Despite how fiercely competitive college sports have become for young athletes today, Lee tells us that “I’ve been playing soccer since I was 7 years old and now I want to keep all my options open.” His father, an educator Walt, says that “part of the current additional pressure is because the cost of college has also increased, which can put more pressure on athletic scholarships.”
Chip Humble from Florida works for CSA Prep Stars and is looking for players for various schools. Chip says that most parents need help understanding how recruitment really works. And with the exception of those rare “front-line players” like Keith Rivers, “a lot of good athletes go unnoticed and unnoticed because they haven’t been properly marketed.”
Informed professionals say that the main reason many children are not recruited is that no one knows them. As Chip reminds parents on his athletic roster: “Just because your son was good in the minor leagues or excelled in his own school doesn’t mean he’s a ‘blue chip’ American athlete when it comes to college coaches. . “
Raising an athlete at this time means a personal profile with a website; following coaches on Twitter, verified match and combination stats, and that professional-quality featured video watched by hundreds of college coaches. Dreams aren’t cheap these days, even in high school!