Blake: Rushing off to college? Slow it down

08/26/2014 12:00 AM

08/25/2014 3:26 PM

Writing Triangle fall sports previews was hard this year.

Rather than chase history, the reigning 4A state champion girls golfer is not playing for her high school this fall. She’ll focus on big junior tournaments, and we’ll never know if she could have become the first NCHSAA golfer to win four state titles.

The Triangle’s top boys soccer player from 2013 will miss his senior year. In the summer, he made the Capital Area RailHawks Academy team, which under U.S. Soccer Development Academy rules cannot allow its players to compete for their high schools.

The top returning volleyball player in the Triangle didn’t return. She will focus on basketball.

The top-ranked senior girls tennis player in the nation lives in Cary. She’s never played high school sports.

Depending on what you believe, this is either an alarming trend or something to be shrugged off.

I will miss watching them play as well as telling their stories, but the games will continue and new teams and players will emerge as always. Sometimes these decisions, to a player, are like dropping an easier class your senior year to sign up for one with an AP credit.

But I’m still unsure why there is pressure to rush off to college.

The players mentioned earlier are the cream of the crop.

They were already on the fast track to Division I college sports before making their respective sacrifices. Giving up a year of high school athletics wasn’t going to change that.

Sometimes a college scholarship is sometimes sold as a golden ticket to success when it’s really a foot in the door.

What happens once inside that door differs greatly.

Have you read our “Hometown Heroes” series closely? These articles spotlight western and southwestern Wake County’s former high school players at the next level.

No matter the sport, notice we don’t list many juniors or seniors. That is because they are hard to find.

So many athletes stop playing before what would have been their final year – and it wasn’t because they went pro early. If only about 2 percent of all high school athletes receive athletic scholarships, then that number is even less for the athletes who complete their college career.

As anyone who has been to college will tell you, it goes by much faster than you’d like. It seems even more fleeting if you’re an athlete.

As N.C. High School Athletic Association and National Federation of High Schools hall-of-famer Tim Stevens recently wrote, “The majority play the game because, despite all the pain, the time, the heat and the cold, making friends and spending time with friends is fun. Twenty years from now, few of the players will remember game scores, but they will remember the camaraderie of shared experiences.”

He was writing about football, but it applies to all high school sports.

There are some players who are weighing their decisions right now who will read that last line and decide that it’s not as enticing as Tim says it is.

Twenty years from now, they may have second thoughts. And it will be too late.

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