When it comes to recruiting, it’s all on the adults

Anyone who follows high school football in northeast Ohio has heard the rumors over the years.

“Cardinal Mooney’s a great team, but they recruit half their players, so it’s not the same.”

Similar words have been spoken about Ursuline, John F. Kennedy, Warren G. Harding – just to name a few. Teams from all over the state of Ohio have suffered the wrath of such a stereotype.

Well, those years of widespread rumors and allegations finally came full circle Thursday.

One of the most prolific football programs in Ohio, Cardinal Mooney High School, was placed under investigation by the Ohio High School Athletic Association after allegations of recruiting.

Recruiting. That’s a word coaches have dodged for years. Don’t say what you can’t prove has always been the adage. Well, the proof might finally be there.

Two eighth-grade students from Struthers were supposedly wooed by a football coach at Mooney, who took the two teenagers to dinner in an attempt to lure them to play football at Mooney. The Cardinals have long been rumored to being the benefactor of kids leaving their hometown to play at a school with more notoriety.

Student-athletes leave for a number of reasons, but mainly it’s because they’ll play for a state-ranked team that is constantly the center of attention, giving them a better chance to be seen by college recruiters. It’s a concept that may or may not have helped Mooney, among others, win numerous state titles. It’s also an idea that I believe lacks loyalty and confidence.

What happened to playing for the town you grew up in? What happened to the fun that comes along with lining up next to a kid you’ve known since preschool? Where’s the loyalty anymore?

They don’t have any magic dust over at Mooney, or any other school for that matter, that suddenly makes you run faster, jump higher and lift more weights. If you put in the time and effort, I don’t care how bad your team is, colleges will notice you. The Internet allows athletes to promote themselves in a way never thought possible. There are Websites out the wazoo where kids can make highlight films and post stats. If you can’t find one, email me and I’ll send you a link.

Half the time, when these kids run to larger schools, they ride the bench for three years, and, if they’re lucky, play as a senior. All the while they could have been making a name for themselves at their hometown school and attracting colleges just the same.

The coaches who fill these kids’ minds with thoughts of greener pastures need to seriously reassess their motives. I find it hard to believe they’re acting in the best interest of the children. Sure, private schools generally have great academic curriculums, but let’s be honest, that’s not why coaches are trying to convince them to join the school.

The focus of every educator – coach or teacher – should be what’s best for the kids, not the school or football team. If people are trying to persuade naive children to a different school for the simple fact he or she could help one of the athletic teams raise another banner, then maybe it’s not the youth of America we need to worry about as much as it is the people who are supposed to be guiding them.