This column is in response to the anti-player rankings column by Alan Stein. In case you haven't read it yet, here it is: http://www.strongerteam.com/2014/04/29/player-rankings/
My take? Sports are competitive - deal with it, people. If you're not competitive then don't play high school sports, it's as simple as that. Sports are for competitive people. And competitive people are driven to win, and they are driven to be the best player than can be. These types of people should be motivated by player rankings. They should want to hit the gym at every opportunity, work on their game and get better, so they can move up. Guess what, kids - sports are competitive. If you're not happy with your ranking, get off facebook and get in the gym. Think you're working hard? Well guess what, there's hundreds of other kids working just as hard. NH is just one state. Just because you're ranked high in NH doesn't mean you're going pro. Colleges are recruiting kids from all over the country, not just NH. Never be satisfied!
Sports require mental toughness. If your kid gets discouraged and starts crying just because they got moved down on a player rankings list, then clearly they are lacking in mental toughness. And on the other side of the coin if your kid gets a big head, gets complacent and stops working hard just because they get ranked high than they too are lacking in mental toughness. It isn't the fault of the rankings, it's the fault of their parents, coaches or the kid themselves for not being mentally tough enough. So you say your kid is worrying too much about where he's ranked? So what! That means he's striving to get better. Not only to get better, but he's striving to achieve his goal of playing college ball. Because guess what, that's what the player rankings are based on - how the players project as college recruits! So if he keeps checking the rankings that's a good thing! Just as long as he's not crying about it in the corner or is getting an inflated ego, because that means he lacks mental toughness. Although if he gets a little ego boost that is a good thing. All great athletes have a confidence, a swagger, or at least a little bit of ego.
Player rankings provide exposure to the athletes looking to get their name out there for college coaches, and they also motivate them to get better so they can move up. As long as the 'ranker' is someone who is credible, knows their stuff and does their homework, you're crazy if you think that coaches don't use them as a recruiting tool! Not all coaches use them but many do. Of course, college coaches don't see Player Rankings as the end all be all when recruiting. At the end of the day the coach is going to see the kid play in person and make their own assessment. But many coaches use them at least as a reference or 'jumping off point'. Coach's jobs are on the line here, the NEED to win games. And so they will use any piece of player evaluations, rankings, game film, stats, bios, etc. they can get their hands on. So that's why if these coaches find a website where the top 20 college prospects in a given state are listed, it is sorted by graduating class, the players were ranked in order of how well they projected at MY level, it has their height, position and high school all there you're damn right any local college coach is going to use that FREE ranking list as a recruiting tool, especially if it comes from a credible source.
The one part of Alan Stein's article I do agree with was in regards to age. While I don't see a problem with player rankings at the high school level, high school is where I draw the line. You will never see me release rankings of middle school players. Heck, Alan Stein even points out that someone was promoting some kid as being the best 10 year old basketball player in the country. Yes Alan, I agree - THAT is ridiculous. Or as the kids say nowadays, it's cray cray. Over the past couple years I have even waited longer before releasing player rankings. For football Class of 2015 I didn't them until the other day, which is spring of their junior year. For basketball I used to release them just prior to their freshman year, but now it's at the end of their sophomore year. Why is it better to wait? It's the same reason why it's a bad idea to rank middle school players. Heck, it's the same reason why it's a bad idea to even COVER middle school sports at all. 2 reasons. First off, kids at that age don't have the mental toughness yet. Some of them might, but only the mature ones. You know how I said at the beginning that you have to be mentally tough to play high school sports and if you're not then it's someone's fault? Well at the middle school level it's okay if they're not quite mentally tough enough yet, they're too young. Secondly, at the middle school or younger level it's just too early to predict how kids will turn out. Some of them who are good basketball players in 8th grade won't even be playing still in 10th grade, maybe they now focus on soccer instead, who knows. It's just too early to tell.
Lastly, player rankings also get a bad rap because some people who do them don't know what they're talking about. Look, I don't know lacrosse. So I'm not going to rank lacrosse players. But I do know basketball and football. Still, if I didn't do my homework, talk to coaches, watch game film go to tons of games, then I wouldn't put the rankings out. All people who rank middle school players are wrong. Most people who rank high school players know what they're talking about, and they do their homework. But not all do, and they give us a bad rap.
The problem with high school sports today isn't the player rankings, it's the fact that these kids are being coddled by their parents, coaches, friends, etc. A kid scores 20 points in a middle school game and all of a sudden thinks he's going to the NBA and stops working hard. That's the problem. Not only that, but the kids today just don't have the same work ethic as they uses to. Nowadays kids spend way to much time on their smart phones and not enough time in the gym. They're always texting, they're on snap chat, facebook, twitter, instagram, whatever. They're constantly using their phones and social media, rather than simply getting in the gym and working. And the kids who do well are getting everything handed to them. Kids are spoiled now. It used to be, you go down the street to the playground, you work your tail off on your game, then you to try to get in a pickup game and only the top players would get in a game. If you got in, you got a chance to prove yourself. If not, then you back to your drive way and work even harder. You don't have that anymore, though. Now, kids will only get in the gym if it's convenient, if it's between text message conversations. And if they don't make it into a pickup game they don't care they'll just hop on facebook or twitter. That's the problem, not the player rankings. And so these kids get coddled by their parents now, and if they get moved down a few spots on the rankings their parents will point the finger at the person doing the ranking. Instead of thinking that maybe now all the other kids in their kids grade got taller and caught up skill-wise. Maybe it's not some conspiracy against your kid, maybe they just need to get back in the gym and work harder! Coddling is the opposite of what you should do in that situation!