Refocusing and Improving High School Football Camps
By Michael Chung with Stephanie Webb
For a prospective college football player summer means camps-camps-camps. If one performs well, then more illustrious invitations appear like the recently held Nike event: The Opening.
Schools have their own versions of high school football camps and Ohio State will be having Friday Night Lights July 26th.
The University of Florida will have a camp the same night with the exact same name. Here is what Florida is advertising:
WHAT WILL BE TAUGHT?
Players receive instruction in all aspects of football, including: passing, rushing, receiving, line play, blocking, and pass and run defense. Fundamentals and techniques of each position are taught and practiced.
It is all football-football-football.
Though many camps do include personal development workshops, the draw is to develop techniques from coaches/players in the hopes of improving and becoming a better athlete. Not a bad goal given that many will be on scholarship at a college in the not too distant future and almost all of these camp attendees have future NFL aspirations.
But in this current “culture of trouble” among football players on all levels—high school, college, NFL—should there be something new? Should camps focus at least some on “life” skills and not just “football?” Can there be special camps where the focus is how to prevent future off the field failure as a football player?
For some individuals, no amount of teaching, camps, workshops, personal mentoring, or anything else will prevent trouble from finding them but one wonders if more can be done. Just studying the numbers of professional football players lives shows that colleges are sending young men into an abyss of failure.
According to a 2009 Sports Illustrated article by Pablo S. Torre, by the time NFL players have been retired for two years, 78% of them have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.
Furthermore, “polls, studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that the divorce rate for N.F.L. players is between 60 and 80 percent, which is higher than that of the general population,” says Greg Bishop in the New York Times .
It is no secret that the life of an NFL player is not as glamorous as one thinks. Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports writes:
Of all the football statistics you'll read in your time on Earth, none will be as shocking as this one: According to a 2006 report in the St. Petersburg Times, for every season a player spends on an NFL roster, his life expectancy decreases by almost three years. Read that again. The average American male lives to be almost 75. According to the Times report, an NFL player, whose career lasts roughly four years on average, lives to be 55. The more years a player spends in the NFL, the more games and practices he survives, the quicker he dies.
Though Doyle’s math is off, it still illustrates the point: a life of football that so many young men dream of can turn into a nightmare.
What can be done? Maybe giving these young men a vision for the future and how to use their future fortune could be a start. They could cite an individual like Jason Trigg, who came unto the scene in Dylan Matthew’s story in the Washington Post. David Brooks of the NY Times writes, “Trigg is a 25-year-old computer science graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has hit upon what he thinks is the way he can do maximum good for the world. He goes to work each day at a high-frequency trading hedge fund. But, instead of spending his ample salary, he lives the life of a graduate student and gives a large chunk of his money away. Trigg has seized upon the statistic that a $2,500 donation can prevent one death from malaria, and he figures that, over the course of a lucrative Wall Street career, he can save many lives. He was motivated to think this way by the utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer."
From the article, "Trigg seems like an earnest, morally serious man, who, if he lives out his plan, could indeed help save many lives”(Brooks’ article has a different slant than Trigg’s example in the Washington Post).
How does this MIT hedge fund trader relate to future college football players and camps? It is simple: have a camp or two focused on personal development and not all focused on SPARQ scores, 7-on-7’s, and technique. Teach these young men how to succeed in life, give them a vision for something greater than themselves like Trigg’s fight against malaria. Show these men how to use their money to make their world a better place as well as put some in investments to earn interest to live off.
Many athletes do use their platform for charity works but if the numbers from the above stories are true, a vast majority of young men will be on the highway to despair.
There is a plethora of famous athletes who have walked the shoes of these prospective high school budding stars only to have their lives flame out. Would some of them be willing to share their mistakes and how to avoid them?
Parris Campbell was only 15 years of age when he attended The Opening (turned 16 on July 16th). He is still 2 years from adulthood and will have to have a parent sign his national letter of intent on National Signing Day 2014. The young man still has his whole life ahead of him and what better way to be influenced than by former football stars who blew it and are willing to share their failures to prevent them from making the same mistake.
Stephanie Webb, mother of 2014 commit Ohio State Damon Webb, said:
“We talk to Damon all the time about these types of failures. I feel a personal finance class should be mandatory for all athletes on all levels (high school, college and NFL). I see too many talented kids making preventable mistakes. As a parent it is very scary, we need some type of awareness and camps may be the answer. The Sound Mind Sound Body Camp (bold mine) have life skills and character development as a part of their camp but if more camps do the same, I can see it making a big difference. Here are a couple articles that I shared with our son: NFP: Five mistakes most NFL rookies will make; 5 things rookies should know about dealing with the Media; How to blow $5 million”
Preventing all these future athletes from failure is impossible but if numbers like 78% continue and fans consistently are watching these young men taught to “win-at-all-costs,” then this senseless cycle of football players flaming out will continue. Something else needs to be done and maybe the summer football camps are a good place to start.
Stephanie Webb is a university professor in the state of Michigan and the mother of Ohio State DB commit Damon Webb.