Just let them play
With the recent influx of student-athletes seeking payment for play in college sports, the argument comes to mind of whether certain student-athletes should have to attend college at all. As of right now, each major professional sport has its own handbook of regulations on how long players must be out of high school in order to be eligible to play for any major organization.
According to the National Football League’s regional combines website, a person must be out of high school for at least three full NFL seasons in order to be eligible for the NFL draft.
The National Basketball Association allows athletes to enter the NBA draft as long as they are at least 19 years of age and out of high school for at least one year, states the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement.
Major League Baseball’s website currently states that an athlete wishing to transfer to the professional level must have at least graduated from high school.
Although these rules were likely created to protect the product of each respective organization, the success of a student-athlete’s future can heavily rest upon any given word in a document that determines eligibility.
Baseball players who are talented and driven enough to play for the MLB right off the bat are usually heavily recruited by scouts into the farm system of the MLB. The process of having to spend a certain amount of time out of high school or in college to gain eligibility is simply not needed for baseball athletes, as the farm system of the MLB is enough for an exceptional athlete to develop into professional shape.
In fact the Los Angeles Dodgers’ ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw was drafted straight out of high school in 2006 and made his debut for the Dodgers at the age of 20, after tearing through the minor leagues.
Another example is standout Andrew McCutchen, who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2005. Both McCutchen and Kershaw led their respective teams to postseason.
Some might argue that an education should be of much more priority to a student-athlete, but if these players contain the build and skill of a professional, there should not be any reason to stop them from attempting to reach their goals.
Still, the act of migrating straight to the pros is not a foolproof idea. There will always be certain players who never reach the major leagues after forfeiting the opportunity to attend college early in their career.
Athletes need to fully analyze their own skill set and decide whether they are ready to make such a large leap.
While high school baseball players should not be restricted from the decision from going straight to the majors, the NFL is a separate can of worms.
NFL players are considerably larger than those just coming out of high school or even college. Due to the fact that football requires a certain standard of strength and speed, these athletes spend years training from college down to the high school level, and even the Pop Warner level.
Heavy lifting is a necessity for most positions, and if a high school player had the desire to move to the NFL, he would lose years of much needed weight training and skill development.
The fact of the matter is that although certain sports are home to athletes that would flourish right out of high school, an NFL player would more than likely be able to break a high school player in half.
Now, while I do agree with the eligibility rules of the MLB and the NFL, there is one association that constantly causes me to rip my hair from its roots.
In 2005, the NBA began restricting their prospects from entering the NBA draft straight out of high school. I, for one, despise this rule. It is an abomination that athletes with the goods to play in the NBA right away have to risk injury or other unfortunate circumstances that could derail their status among NBA scouts.
Although the system had its share of duds — the name Kwame Brown still makes basketball fans cringe — the process of transferring from high school to the professional level has produced great players, if not legends.
Hall of famers such as Darryl Dawkins and Moses Malone were players who chose to jump the college ranks into the NBA. Recent superstars include Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, Amar’e Stoudemire, Kobe Bryant and Lebron James.
With the current regulation, these athletes usually just attend college for one year, only to play up their ranking and immediately declare themselves into the NBA draft.
It is because of this one-year rule, however, that certain players succumb to injuries that prevent them from ever playing in the NBA. There is no assurance that the injuries would not just take place anyway in the NBA, but at least the athletes would be able to taste the lights and stardom of the professional level.
With the exception of the NFL, I believe that student-athletes who are ready to enter the professional rankings out of high school should not be subjected to a wasteful period of time, which is only spent garnering additional attention.
Let them make their own decisions, and just let these athletes play.