Earlier this month, I briefly discussed some problems with the recruiting of young athletes by the University of Kentucky's basketball coach. Another article in the Lexington Herald-Leader continues the discussion of this issue. In the article, it is reported that Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie defended the practice of recruiting young players as something that is necessitated by the competitive nature of recruiting. Kentucky and the University of Indiana have both offered scholarships to Jeremiah Davis, who just finished his freshman year of high school. Wisely, his high school coach and his father agree that Davis simply needs to be a kid for a while.
Admittedly, Gillispie is not offering a philosophical defense of the practice. From the perspective of a coach who wants the best players he can get, Gillispie apparently feels that he should go after young players in his recruiting. However, the mere competitive nature of anything is not enough in and of itself to justify some practice. For example, consider the practices that could be "justified" by this same type of argument: doping, cheating, lying about age in the Little League World Series, and so on. Those who accept this trend in recruiting as something needed because of the competitive nature of recruiting and sport in general fail to consider the real threats to the welfare of children posed by this practice. Kids do need to be kids, while they can. Why rush them into the pressures and challenges of adulthood before they are ready, and before it is necessary? The competitive nature of elite sport is not a sufficient justification.