Frantz: Parents to blame for athletes’ lost youth 

Jaret Frantz will soon be staring in the face of a major life decision.

He leads his league in touchdown passes by a wide margin, and as a dual-threat QB, pulls away from defenders as he streaks down the field on long TD runs, usually leaving defenders grasping at air.

On the diamond, he has a fastball that most hitters can’t catch up to, and at the plate the ball leaps off his bat as if it were spring-loaded.

When he’s indoors, he’s either calling out “The King!” as he drains jump shots, in deference to the “23” on his LeBron James jersey, or he’s looking down with disdain at another vanquished opponent after a karate or jujitsu victory.

So what’s the big dilemma, you ask? The fact that he’s only got a few years left before he has to pick a sport and stick with it, of course.

That’s what all the other dads I know are telling me — that for our boys to ever have a shot at becoming a scholarship athlete, they need to make their choice while they’re young and commit themselves to it.

All of which makes me ask one question: What on Earth are we doing to our kids?

When the story broke earlier this month about David Sills, the 13-year-old seventh-grade quarterback from Delaware who gave his verbal “commitment” to accept a forthcoming scholarship offer from Lane Kiffin at USC, jaws hit the ground from coast to coast. Mine stayed firm. But my shoulders shrugged in a deep and defeated way. I knew this kind of thing was coming, and I fear worse is on the way.

The blame certainly lies not with the kids, who will generally do whatever they’re told, particularly if they’re good at something.

Nor should much of the criticism be directed at the coaches, who will always do whatever they’re allowed to do and then some.

The true villains in stories like this — in which unrealistic expectations are heaped upon talented young athletes who often have their childhoods ripped from them — are the parents. Specifically, the fathers.

There once was a time when summer was baseball season, fall was for football, basketball and wrestling dominated the winter, and springtime began with track season. Boys and girls could play one sport after the other, having fun and diversifying their talents and interests as they liked. If a kid developed a particular skill at one over the others, he could focus on it in high school with an eye toward possibly playing in college. Today, however, high school is much too late.

“If Jaret’s going to be a quarterback,” I’ve been told, “get him out of that baseball league. He needs summer QB camps to get a head start on the other kids.

“But if he’s better at baseball, he needs to get into fall travel leagues right away, so no more of that football nonsense.”

By the way, Jaret is 6 years old. That’s right, 6.

And no, Lane, you can’t have our phone number.

Sports personality Bob Frantz is a regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at bfrantz@sfexaminer.com.

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