Editor’s note: Stephanie and Danny Britt are life-long athletes. They met in college, where he played football and she danced. Now, he’s a high school football coach and she runs a cheerleading gym. They have two daughters in middle school and their adopted son, Demarcus Dobbs, plays for the San Francisco 49ers.
HLN: Your son Demarcus now plays in the NFL, but as a freshman in college, he was red-shirted (did not play in his first year). How do you feel about that?
Stephanie Britt: I think it’s the right thing to do. I thought that’s what every freshman did, but apparently not. I also think that you can’t judge what’s right or wrong for another person’s family. You have to do what’s right for your child and your family. Sports is the perfect mirror for life. Even if you’re sitting on the bench, you’re still learning to be part of the team and learning life lessons. You don’t need to burn the kids out -- sports isn’t going to be their life forever.
HLN: Kids are now starting to get recruited as young as age 11 -- do you agree with such early recruiting?
Danny Britt: I’d be shocked if a college recruit was scouting at a middle school. But I did hear recently that an eighth grader was offered something by LSU. Isn’t it a little early, especially for football because it’s such a physical sport? Maybe for basketball, because if the kid is super tall, it makes sense to be noticed. Still, you don’t know what’s going to happen to a kid when he’s that young. His mind and body have to mature a little bit.
HLN: When do you think is a good age to start recruiting kids for college athletics?
DB: Junior year in high school is a fair time to give kids an opportunity. Physical aspect is a big part of it: You can see how they’re maturing and what their bodies can do when they’re 19, 20, 21. Emotionally it’s a good time, too: At 17, they have to handle problems on their own, come up with solutions, drive a car, do things without mom and dad. At that age, you can see how they act without parents.
SB: Getting recruited before high school could also be bad for kids for social reasons: They would be under so much pressure for five years. Let them be kids! Let them be normal! I could see it leading to problems.
HLN: What kind of problems?
SB: The expectations on these kids would be unbelievable. I’m worried they’ll constantly be thinking, “I’ve got to be this great player and I’ve got to perform.” It’s hard enough when the kid is a junior or a senior in high school and feels the pressure only for a short amount of time, but when you push it back to middle school, that pressure lasts much longer and affects everyone around the kid.
DB: Plus, the pressure of deciding what school to go to. They would certainly have plenty of time, but all of a sudden, you’ve got all these college fans coming up to you, saying, “You’re coming to our school, right??” It’s hard enough at 17, but I can’t imagine a 13-year-old trying to do that.
HLN: What about the parents: What should they look out for when it comes to early recruiting?
DB: It’s a hard relationship between the football coach and the parents: If your kid is not being recruited, they get [angry].
SB: It feeds the parents' egos to be able to say, “My kid went to signing day!” or “My kid got recruited!” And it puts more pressure on the kids who aren’t getting recruited -- and especially on their parents. My kids would be devastated if another kid at their school got recruited and they didn’t. They’d be disappointed, and honestly, so would I.
HLN: And what about academics? Do you think getting recruited early could put so much pressure on a child, it would put his grades on the back burner?
DB: No, I wouldn’t worry about academics. If a kid knows that he was offered a scholarship by a Division I school, he’s thinking, “I have to get my grades up to a certain level.” So that may actually be a positive thing to come out of early recruiting. The kids should already know they have to make the grades, but this could be an even a greater incentive. Because if this amazing scholarship is dangling in front of them, they know they’ve got to make good grades. Otherwise, they’ll lose it.