From the Cheap Seats

This may be a difficult pill to swallow for many athletes, parents, the family members of those athletes and future hopefuls: Club sports are not a guaranteed avenue for a college athletic scholarship.

Oh, and here’s another zinger for you: I hate club sports.

Why? Because club sports, which have become the devil of amateur athletics, take away from the normal experience of high school athletes and thrusts them into singular thinking — putting all one’s eggs in one basket, so to speak.

How can a parent, or a coach for that matter, ask so much of a 14-year-old? What has a kid at that age really figured out?

As an athlete, would a person really learn how to only shoot a basketball, but not dribble? Or learn how to catch a fly ball, but not throw? Or learn to run, but not jump?

Remember the days when college sports felt so innocent, back when we used to think college athletes played for the love of the game?

Every day we hear about athletes taking money to attend a certain school. Do you really believe a kid from the Bronx can afford to live in a condo and drive an Escalade? Give me a break.

It’s a blatant stripping of what was once good about athletics.

In the last 15 years, club sports have taken over the high school sports scene. No longer do you see many college scouts sitting in the gymnasium watching an 18-year-old play out his senior hoops season, then shake the kid’s hand after and say, “good game.”

Now, it’s all about club tournaments, making it easier for college recruiters to find that athlete.

I will agree, if an athlete decides he or she is interested in an athletic scholarship, going the club route is a fine idea.

What I don’t agree with is this: Instead of playing two or three sports in high school, young misled athletes play only one. They play baseball in the spring, then instead of playing football, volleyball, running cross-country, or swimming in the fall, they play club baseball. It’s insane.

Parents and coaches, your child or player will not become a better athlete by playing one sport. To think so is wrong.

Doesn’t anyone remember the days when the summer was over and you and your friends suited up for football, then when the leaves began to change and snow started to fall you laced it up to hit the gym for basketball practice?

Then, at the end of winter as the weather turned a little nicer, you brought out the mitt, oiled it up, and went out to play baseball or softball? Or maybe your sport of choice was soccer, or hockey, or whatever else. It doesn’t matter.

Most kids can’t stand to do one thing year-round, but they and their family members are fueled by greedy club coaches who charge insane amounts of money to play a sport for them, all while whispering in their ears, “The only way to get a college scholarship is to play for me.”

Trust me, if an athlete is good enough to play at the next level, college coaches will find them.

If the athlete’s goal isn’t to play at the next level, but to improve for the upcoming season, for whatever sport they play, club sports isn’t a great idea either. Swimmers are a good example. Basketball is one of the best cross-training sports out there for swimmers.

Instead, a young 14-year-old swimmer is told to forgo a sport he or she loves — such as basketball — because, “Club swim season is in the winter, and we all know if you want to get better at swimming, you need to do it year-round.” Baloney.

Similarly, a young basketball player might choose not to go out for the baseball, softball or track and field team because club basketball season is in the spring. Decisions such as these hurt the high school programs and the athletes themselves.

I’ll give it to you straight. According to research done by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, only 3 percent of high school basketball players will go on to earn a scholarship for a college basketball program — only 3 percent.

The research also revealed only 6.1 percent of high school baseball players earn a college scholarship, while 11 percent of high school hockey players go to the next level and about 5.7 percent play football in college.

Now, I realize many athletes just want to get better at the sport they love, but a club basketball website doesn’t say, “Get better at dribbling.” No, it says, “Here’s all the kids who went on to play college ball that played for my organization.” This may not be a realistic goal for some athletes. In the end, if club sports didn’t take away from the high school sports season, I would be OK with it. For example, if club sports were only in the summer, I could live with it. I’m sure many others agree.