Something I said on Twitter last week appeared to strike a nerve.
Maybe it did that in a little different way than I expected. Maybe it did that with some different people than I expected.
A co-worker sent me a story about how several boys and girls basketball teams in this area are playing only two quarters in their JV games because they have so few players on their roster.
The story examined several theories about why the interest in being part of a team had declined, but in my opinion never got around to mentioning one of the biggest reasons, maybe the biggest reason.
So, I tweeted this: “Or maybe kids lose interest when sports become year-around, full-time jobs.”
Several parents hit Twitter’s “Like” button, as did some media people who cover high school sports. So did quite a few coaches, maybe more than I expected.
It always amazes me when I hear someone, usually an older fan with only a loose connection to a team, say the reason high school rosters are shrinking is that “kids don’t want to work hard anymore.”
My view is that the amount of time and work a high school athlete has to put in now to be part of a team is significantly greater than it was in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s or maybe even the 1990s. Or, at least, it encompasses much more of their year.
When I was in high school at the end of the 1960s, at many schools there were no weight rooms, no “voluntary” open gyms or summer programs, travel teams or AAU teams. That was probably the experience of most high school students of that era.
In 2017, the great players and the very good players will persevere and remain committed to being part of high school team sports no matter how heavy the workload, no matter the size of the time demands. They expect that they are going to be rewarded with playing time and starting roles once the season starts.
Maybe the chance to be part of a great team or a state-tournament caliber team will continue to draw average players into programs in some situations. Maybe the schools with great tradition will continue to attract players, though some of them are among the schools now playing two JV quarters.
What I suspect is happening is that many average student-athletes, who know they won’t be starters or major contributors, are looking at the demands being placed on them in order to be part of a team and deciding it’s just not worth it.
Over the years, I’ve had some very smart coaches tell me they didn’t always pick the 12 best players for their basketball teams.
What they tried to do for the last few spots on their rosters was find players who knew their roles, accepted their roles and would be good teammates.
Fewer and fewer people seem to want those role player spots with little hope of seeing the floor now that the time necessary to get them has increased.
Certainly, this is not the only reason for fewer players trying out for teams. Some smaller schools occasionally have classes in which their enrollment dips below average or there are an unusually low number of boys or girls. With the cost of college escalating, probably more students are getting part-time jobs. And there are other reasons.
But time demands on athletes is an explanation that doesn’t get enough attention and could have long-term effects on high school sports. Teams might become something only for those who specialize. The days of just wanting to be part of a team might be fading away.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.