Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

Archive for the ‘i believe the children are our financial future’ Category

Smoke, drink, gamble and blow stuff up — it's for the children

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Someone’s gonna get a new baseball field out of this.

There is a lot of youth sports fundraising and product-selling going on that makes selling candy or cookie dough look as wholesome as a Little League-sponsored organic farmers’ market.

In Walcott, Iowa, you can buy beer from the concession stands at Little League games.

In the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, one dollar from the sale of each carton of cigarettes on the Shubenacadie First Nation community will go toward funding fees for youth sports registration.

In Minnesota, the Rochester Amateur Sports Commission brags that it has distributed $50,000 over the last 18 months from proceeds of charitable gambling.

In California, more than likely the stand where you’re buying your fireworks is partnered with a youth sports league that gets some of the proceeds.

You want marijuana legalized? Find a way to sell the idea you’re using it to give money back to youth sports, or to kids’ programs in general. It worked for state lotteries!

Jordan Hill smashes your child's future

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The New York Knicks’ No. 1 pick, the eighth overall, was Jordan Hill, a junior from Arizona who is the reason why all that money you spend to put your kid in basketball camps is a big, fat waste  (if you’re dreaming of an NBA career for your child).

Hill didn’t start playing organized basketball until the ninth grade. And he didn’t play at all his junior year of high school because of academic troubles. He didn’t start on the AAU circuit, where most of the best players to go get noticed, until before his senoir year of high school. And yet Hill got a scholarship offer to a major basketball power, and got picked in the top 10 of the NBA draft.

Clearly, Hill has worked very hard in a very short time to improve his game enough to get noticed by the NBA. Of course, it also helps a bit that he’s 6-foot-10.

Your child is not going to be 6-foot-10.

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That’s Jordan Hill, dunking on your dreams for your child.

No matter how many camps you send your child to, no matter how many leagues he dominates, once your child runs into competition that is 6-foot-10, he is sunk unless he is preternaturally talented or is also 6-foot-10. All the more reason to relax when you watch your kid’s games, never to push them to become the NBA players they are never going to be.

Ron Harper’s kid is going pro

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418282085_a1519c3a28_mNo, not that Ron Harper.

You might have heard lately about a wunderkind named Bryce Harper, a Las Vegas high school baseball player who already has scouts writing reports so breathless and glowing, Fabio should be on the cover. Speaking of covers, you might have seen Bryce “Baseball’s LeBron” Harper on the cover of Sports Illustrated, unless you live in the Midwest (we got the Detroit Red Wings), or you are so Internet-centered you have no idea what a “cover” or a “Sports Illustrated” is.

Jeremy Tyler, a 6-foot-11 basketball wonder from San Diego, raised some hackles when he announced he would leave high school after his junior year to play pro ball in Europe, and get his GED along the way. The Harper family is raising even more hackles, enough hackles to get farm subsidies for them, by announcing 16-year-old Bryce is leaving high school after his sophomore year to play in a community college and get his GED so he can enter the major-league baseball draft earlier. (Thus turning community college into the real-life punchline for the old joke about it being high school with ashtrays. Except that with smoking laws as they are, the ashtrays are gone. So what is the new punchline?)

The part of the news conference that interested me the most was a line from Ron Harper that was pulled by Youth Sports Parents:

“People question your parenting and what you’re doing. Honestly, we don’t think it’s that big a deal. He’s not leaving school to go work in a fast food restaurant. Bryce is a good kid. He’s smart and he’s going to get his education.”

Ron Harper is in a difficult position here. Sure, he pretty much since day one trained Bryce to be a pro baseball player, though he seems much more well-adjusted than your average Marv Marinovich. And clearly Bryce is a sureshot future No. 1 pick. The Sports Illustrated cover article’s comment about competition his own age makes it clear that Bryce is way, way ahead, to the point that it’s probably hurting his own development as a player.

Managing a prodigy is no easy task. Move ahead too quickly, and you risk turning your child into a nut job like Michael Jackson. More ahead too slowly, and you might squelch and squander your child’s talent. I know this to a very, very small extent.

When I had just turned five, my parents moved me out of my kindergarten class into a first-grade class at another school because I had what, in the mid-1970s in a small Michigan town, was considered a major problem: I knew how to read. Well, it was a particular problem for the teacher, who was ticked when I would read the kids the angry notes she wrote about them. From what I told, I was crying most every day coming home from school, so my parents were faced with a tough decision: keep me in kindergarten, where I was miserable, or move me up to a grade where I would be more academically challenged.

Their decision to move me up was not met with understanding. My dad tells story of having to, literally, throw people off of his front porch because of the angry arguments about. And believe you me, when I was 14 while everyone else in my class was getting their drivers’ license, or 19 when my friends were allowed to drink legally, I wasn’t sure about the wisdom about the decision. Being two years’ younger than my classmates often was tough socially, and it definitely was a disadvantage in sports, as well.

However, I have come to understand over time that as a parent, you have to make the best decision with the information you have at the time. And I’ve led a mostly happy, successful life. No $20 million or so signing bonsues are awaiting me, but by any measurement I’ve had things go pretty well.

Maybe someday Bryce Harper will look back and think that leaving high school early was a mistake. I’m sure Ron Harper’s stomach is churning. Maybe Bryce Harper will get a big signing bonus and crap out because his maturity is lacking. Or maybe moving ahead early will help his game and his maturity level. We just don’t know. And that’s the fun and pain of parenting: you make a decision, and you never know how you child will turn out as a result of it.

Ron Harper's kid is going pro

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418282085_a1519c3a28_mNo, not that Ron Harper.

You might have heard lately about a wunderkind named Bryce Harper, a Las Vegas high school baseball player who already has scouts writing reports so breathless and glowing, Fabio should be on the cover. Speaking of covers, you might have seen Bryce “Baseball’s LeBron” Harper on the cover of Sports Illustrated, unless you live in the Midwest (we got the Detroit Red Wings), or you are so Internet-centered you have no idea what a “cover” or a “Sports Illustrated” is.

Jeremy Tyler, a 6-foot-11 basketball wonder from San Diego, raised some hackles when he announced he would leave high school after his junior year to play pro ball in Europe, and get his GED along the way. The Harper family is raising even more hackles, enough hackles to get farm subsidies for them, by announcing 16-year-old Bryce is leaving high school after his sophomore year to play in a community college and get his GED so he can enter the major-league baseball draft earlier. (Thus turning community college into the real-life punchline for the old joke about it being high school with ashtrays. Except that with smoking laws as they are, the ashtrays are gone. So what is the new punchline?)

The part of the news conference that interested me the most was a line from Ron Harper that was pulled by Youth Sports Parents:

“People question your parenting and what you’re doing. Honestly, we don’t think it’s that big a deal. He’s not leaving school to go work in a fast food restaurant. Bryce is a good kid. He’s smart and he’s going to get his education.”

Ron Harper is in a difficult position here. Sure, he pretty much since day one trained Bryce to be a pro baseball player, though he seems much more well-adjusted than your average Marv Marinovich. And clearly Bryce is a sureshot future No. 1 pick. The Sports Illustrated cover article’s comment about competition his own age makes it clear that Bryce is way, way ahead, to the point that it’s probably hurting his own development as a player.

Managing a prodigy is no easy task. Move ahead too quickly, and you risk turning your child into a nut job like Michael Jackson. More ahead too slowly, and you might squelch and squander your child’s talent. I know this to a very, very small extent.

When I had just turned five, my parents moved me out of my kindergarten class into a first-grade class at another school because I had what, in the mid-1970s in a small Michigan town, was considered a major problem: I knew how to read. Well, it was a particular problem for the teacher, who was ticked when I would read the kids the angry notes she wrote about them. From what I told, I was crying most every day coming home from school, so my parents were faced with a tough decision: keep me in kindergarten, where I was miserable, or move me up to a grade where I would be more academically challenged.

Their decision to move me up was not met with understanding. My dad tells story of having to, literally, throw people off of his front porch because of the angry arguments about. And believe you me, when I was 14 while everyone else in my class was getting their drivers’ license, or 19 when my friends were allowed to drink legally, I wasn’t sure about the wisdom of the decision. Being two years’ younger than my classmates often was tough socially, and it definitely was a disadvantage in sports, as well.

However, I have come to understand over time that as a parent, you have to make the best decision with the information you have at the time. And I’ve led a mostly happy, successful life. No $20 million or so signing bonuses are awaiting me, but by any measurement I’ve had things go pretty well.

Maybe someday Bryce Harper will look back and think that leaving high school early was a mistake. I’m sure Ron Harper’s stomach is churning. Maybe Bryce Harper will get a big signing bonus and crap out because his maturity is lacking. Or maybe moving ahead early will help his game and his maturity level. We just don’t know. And that’s the fun and pain of parenting: you make a decision, and you never know how you child will turn out as a result of it.

Those dudes with cameras at your kids’ games? That would be MLB Network

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MLB Network, the TV arm of Major League Baseball, stretches the definition of “major” in its August TV schedule. Not content to let ABC have all the fun with the Little League World Series, MLB Network has declared August “Youth Baseball Month.” From its own release:

MLB Network today announced that August will be “Youth Baseball Month” on MLB Network, with exclusive broadcasts of the final rounds of the RBI World Series presented by KPMG, New Era National Youth Baseball Championships and the Cal Ripken World Series this August. Coverage will begin on August 9 with the Senior Boys RBI World Series presented by KPMG, continue with the Cal Ripken World Series on August 21 and 22, and conclude with the New Era National Youth Baseball Championships from August 27-30 for the 10-Under and 12-Under divisions.

Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. will join his brother and MLB Network analyst Bill Ripken in the broadcast booth throughout the Cal Ripken World Series. Broadcast teams for each event will include MLB Network on-air talent.

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“Welcome to MLB Network, everybody. I’m Cal Ripken, and joining me in the booth is my brother, Fuck Face.”

In case you don’t know, RBI Baseball is MLB’s inner-city program. Cal Ripken [which is a 12-and-under championship] is what used to be the Babe Ruth League. And the New Era Championships (yes, New Era is the name of the sponsor) has 10-and-under and 12-and-under national championships. So if you thought a Little League World Series was exploitative, just wait!

“As part of our 24/7 coverage of baseball, it’s important to include programming that is relevant to the sport’s younger players and fans,” said Tony Petitti, President and CEO of MLB Network. “These three marquee events are deserving of a national TV audience and we are looking forward to bringing them to MLB Network this summer.”

Translation: We can fill dead air time! Yay!

Within five years, if your kid’s league isn’t on TV, then the game just won’t be worth playing.

Hopefully the youth culture won’t kill their dog

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Most bands that see someone cop their image are immediately on the phone to their attorney to get a lawsuit good and ready. But most bands, as has been abundantly clear through a long, storied and quirk-filled career of college alternative, telephone-based, TV theme and children’s music, are not They Might Be Giants.

Two guys named John (like the two guys who make up They Might Be Giants) named their Seattle T-ball team after the band, using the images from their first children’s album, “No!” (It’s a word you end up saying a lot when you manage T-ball.) The two Johns in TMBG were so excited, they started a contest in which they will sponsor 10 more teams, anywhere across the nation.

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Photo of the Seattle T-ball team comes from a parent who submitted it to the band. I presume if the band is OK with a team using its image, it’ll be OK with me doing the same (fingers crossed).

The band is having you send your pitches (no pun intended) to littleleague@tmbg.com. You need to include your city, state and zip; the name of the local sports organization; the ages of your team members; the size of your team (presumably, number of players, not actual sizes of players, though both might be helpful); and anything else the band should know.

Band member John Flansburgh is quoted on the band’s site saying: “If a pizza parlor or a super market can sponsor a team, why can’t a rock band? We’ve posted a free shirt offer on our web site, and as new teams form we’re going to post their group photo alongside the Seattle team. We only have t-shirts to offer right now, but if we can get hats too, we’re up for that.”

Given the troubles many leagues are having attracting sponsors, this is a great offer, presuming your legal isn’t halfway over already (maybe the offer will be good for next season if it’s too late). I’m amazed more entertainment aimed at children, or even their parents, haven’t turned to youth sports sponsorship. “Night at the Museum 2″ probably could have sponsored every team in every sport in America for what it spent on TV ads, and reached just about as many kids and parents. I’m sure TMBG is doing this sponsorship contest out of the goodness of its heart. But a band that won a Grammy this year for its children’s album is reaching the right market handing out T-shirts to T-ballers.

However, I am emailing the band to find out if they understand what youth sports sponsorship entails. I’m curious how the two Johns (the T-ball coaches) got to pick the shirts. Depending on the league, TMBG is going to have to do more than hand out free T-shirts. Is the band willing to pay $200 to see “Phillies” on the front and “They Might Be Giants” on the back? I’m sure there are a lot of league boards that are going to have conniptions over the thought of the uniforms not being uniform.

Count him in

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For the youth sports leagues who lost money trusting it to Terry Drayton’s Count Me In, a savior has emerged… Terry Drayton.

drayton

That’s right, bitches. I’m gonna own 2009 after all.

From John Cook (no relation to your humble blogger) at TechFlash, who has done a great job breaking news on the Count Me In saga:

Let’s call it a comeback. Count Me In founder Terry Drayton is leading a new effort to buy back the assets of the troubled online payment processing company.

The move comes a little more than three months after Bellevue-based Count Me In was forced into Chapter 7 bankruptcy by some of its non-profit customers for losing roughly $5 million in registration fees.

Drayton has now emerged as the leader of an entity called Rainier Software that appears to be in the pole position to buy the assets. It’s the latest twist in a saga that has drawn considerable chatter on this blog. According to court documents, Rainier recently made a $200,000 “stalking horse bid” for Count Me In’s domain names, technology, contracts and other assets.

The owner whose incompetence and/or malfeasance (depending on what league you talk to) led his company to bankruptcy and screwed up the finances of organizations across the country gets to buy Count Me in back for a song? This can’t be legal, right?

Oh yeah, it is, though by the time you get through the ridiculousness of how this can happen, it’ll make sense that the trustee assigned to the Count Me In bankruptcy is named Ed Wood, because the process seems as strange as an Ed Wood movie.

Basically, what happened was. On March 20, about three months after Count Me In was forced into bankruptcy, a company called Rainier Software filed something called a financial statement, or UCC-1. It’s filed by a lender with the state’s secretary of state as a means to secure property owned by the debtor. So Rainier Software was saying it lent money to Count Me In, and that Count Me In put up property as collateral — thus bringing it to the head of the bankruptcy line as a secured creditor. Ed Wood was OK with this because he determined that the youth leagues who used Count Me In, and were still using it, would be out more money if the company shut down than if he allowed it to continue on.

Meanwhile, Ed Wood was determining that he couldn’t find a buyer for Count Me In. Ed Wood “determined that businesses of the type and sophistication of the debtor’s are dominated by a few businesses, including the debtor,” according to the latest bankruptcy court filing. “The Trustee has been in constant contact with most of these companies, but only one company, Rainier, negotiated a purchase and sale agreement.”

The operator of Rainier? None other than Terry Drayton.

So for $200,000, less the approximately $49,000 discount Rainier (Drayton) gets for its secured-debt level on Count Me In (Drayton), Rainier (Drayton) is first in line to buy the assets of Count Me In (Drayton). Rainier (Drayton) has 60 days to give the court a list of contracts from Count Me In (Drayton) plans to assume — meaning the possibility exists that leagues that are owed money by Count Me In (Drayton) not only might never see it again, but that they might be tossed overboard by the new owner, Rainier (Drayton).

Of course, a “stalking horse” deal such as this means that others can bid a higher price and take Count Me In (Drayton) out of the hands of Rainier (Drayton) — as long as Rainier (Drayton) gets a break-up fee of $65,000.

John Cook’s story notes that the Washington Secretary of State has gotten numerous complaints about Drayton. But all of this, while crazy, appears to be perfectly legal. Which means your league could soon be perfectly fucked. And that’s why Drayton is a serial entreprenuer who gets on magazine covers, and you are not.

Your kid bores me

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As I’ve mentioned before, many newspapers are going into overdrive encouraging parents and coaches to submit youth sports photos and scores, figuring that those parents and coaches, and anyone who knows a kid on the team submitted, will buy the paper or peruse the Web site as a result. For example, the Signal in Valencia, Calif., is setting up dedicated web pages for leagues and sports, and even individual teams. The newspaper also will collect stats. So just in case you wanted to know who was leading all 9-year-olds in doubles in local softball — now you’ll know.

The risk I hadn’t mentioned in my previous post about this strategy is that for every person all excited about your newspaper and web site for accepting little Jimmy’s soccer picture, you’ll have an infinite number on the other side who don’t give a shit.

That is the stated opinion of the Mansfield (Ohio) News-Journal’s Larry Phillips, who is, shall we say, skeptical of his newspaper’s fawning over kiddie sports. He figures it’s a bit of a yawner to anyone outside the child’s immediate orbit.

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At the risk of rankling my superiors, I’ve got a youth sports bulletin.

For years here, we conducted reader panels that insisted folks wanted more youth sports coverage. In response, our marching orders were for more youth sports stories.

After 20 years in sports and repeated attempts at attacking this beat with issue-oriented stories, event coverage stories and feature stories garnering mostly negative feedback, I can say with full confidence the truth about this topic.

No one, repeat no one, wants to read about youth sports unless those stories are about their child, their grandchild, or someone else near and dear to their heart.

That’s a fact, and I can prove it.

My 5-year-old is in his first season in youth soccer. He split the posts for the first time with an own goal, but has since rallied to find the correct net twice in four games.

Bored to tears?

Of course. That’s two sentences readers will never get back.

I absolutely understand the personal investment in youth sports. I also understand its relevance in the overall landscape of north central Ohio sports.

What we’ve tried to do, and in fact encourage, is the team picture philosophy. Submit the squad’s photo identifying each youngster and the team’s accomplishments. As the weather warms and more teams are participating, we’ll move those photos toward a consistent online package. With our space in sports, that’s what we’ve done with turkey and deer pictures for our hunting fans. It still gives the kids recognition and for those readers cutting out such things for scrapbooks (and my wife is among them), it serves a dual purpose.

So, Larry, are you saying I’m wasting my time with this here blog? Um, I’m not sure I want you to answer that.

The youth sports stadium game

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If you thought the competition to build massive sports stadiums was just for cities that were, well, cities, then you are correct. As long as you think of those stadiums only for professional teams. Smaller towns and suburbs are drooling to replicate the success of Blaine, Minn.’s National Sports Center, or merely trying to attract big tournaments that fill hotel rooms and restaurants with rude kids running wild (at least that’s what I’ve seen and heard in the hotels I’ve stayed in that were hosting kids playing youth tournaments).

For example, the State Journal-Register of Springfield, Ill., reports in today’s edition that a $60 million youth sports facility is under consideration. It would have, as the paper notes, “a 3,000-seat baseball stadium, soccer fields and a football/track facility.” That would make it the biggest construction project in Springfield since the monorail.

If $60 million in a city of about 117,000 sounds like a lot, how does $60 million in a suburb of about 24,000 grab you?

That’s the pricetag Westfield, Ind., is putting on its proposed complex, which would be located a 5K run from where I’m sitting now (my parents’ house in Carmel, another north Indianapolis suburb.) The complex would consist of a 4,000-seat multipurpose outdoor stadium (which would also be used to attract an independent minor-league pro baseball team), indoor sports facilities, and baseball, soccer, softball and lacrosse fields. It would be part of a $1.5 billion development with retail, housing, hotels and a golf course already there, money to be raised in a public-private partnership.

Wow.

The youth sports stadium game is like the big-time stadium game in that burgs known for little or nothing (as Indianapolis was when it beefed up its Olympic sports facilities and filched the Colts in the 1980s) are using the facilities to make some sort of a name for itself. For example, Westfield, known nowhere outside of Indianapolis and barely known within it, wants to be known as “the Family Sports Capital of America.”

As Westfield Mayor Andy Cook (no relation to your humble blogger) told Indianapolis TV station WTHR: “To our knowledge, there are two there facilities similar to this. One is in suburban Minneapolis. The other is in Disney World.”

See, there’s Blaine lust again. As for Disney World, apparently Cook is hopeful that someday a Super Bowl winner will yell, “I’m goin’ to Westfield!”

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Come in to Westfield, the Happiest Place on Earth.

I must admit, I admire Westfield’s gigantic civic nards in proposing this project, especially in this economy, even though Westfield is a fast-growing burg.

There are plenty of stories out there bragging about how much money youth sports is bringing to various small towns. If you need an exact number, you can always call someone like Patrick Rishe, an economic professor at Webster University in St. Louis, who is making a side business assessing an economic impact number just like people used to do for pro sports stadium projects.

Of course, a lot of those pro sports numbers are in serious dispute, like this report in the Philadelphia Inquirer (via The Sports Economist) states:

In a just-released article in the Journal of Sport and Social Issues, my colleagues and I [Rick Eckstein, a Villanova sociology professor] studied media coverage of 23 publicly financed stadium initiatives in 16 different cities, including Philadelphia. We found that the mainstream media in most of these cities is noticeably biased toward supporting publicly financed stadiums, which has a significant impact on the initiatives’ success.

This bias usually takes the form of uncritically parroting stadium proponents’ economic and social promises, quoting stadium supporters far more frequently than stadium opponents, overlooking the numerous objective academic studies on the topic, and failing to independently examine the multitude of failed stadium-centered promises throughout the country, especially those in oft-cited “success cities” such as Denver and Cleveland.

The argument for youth sports stadiums over pro sports stadiums is that they’re cheaper to build, and that they attract almost all out-of-towners rather than taking money from one local entertainment venue to another. The argument against is that given the relative size of the towns, the money being spent is the equivalent of what a big city pays for a big stadium. And you can’t assume everyone will stay in your town’s hotels, or spend as much money as you think they will spend. Plus, it seems slightly creepy to base a major part of your city’s economy on kids playing games.

However, it’s doubtful this (fools?) gold rush is ending anytime soon. To symbolize where we’re going, Vero Beach, Fla., is looking at converting Dodgertown, the old Los Angeles Dodgers spring training site, into a youth sports complex.

High school junior plays basketball in Europe; world does not end

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It’s a bit slimy that shoe huckster Sonny Vaccaro is behind this trend. OK, really slimy. But it’s hard to argue that a 6-foot-11, 17-year-old already being discussed as an NBA No. 1 pick should waste his time playing high school ball.

From the New York Times:

Jeremy Tyler, a 6-foot-11 high school junior whom some consider the best American big man since Greg Oden, says he will be taking a new path to the N.B.A. He has left San Diego High School and said this week that he would skip his senior year to play professionally in Europe.

Tyler, 17, would become the first United States-born player to leave high school early to play professionally overseas. He is expected to return in two years, when he is projected to be a top pick, if not the No. 1 pick, in the 2011 N.B.A. draft.

Tyler, who had orally committed to play for Rick Pitino at Louisville, has yet to sign with an agent or a professional team. His likely destination is Spain, though teams from other European leagues have shown interest. A spokesman for Louisville said the university could not comment about Tyler.

“Nowadays people look to college for more off-the-court stuff versus being in the gym and getting better,” Tyler said. “If you’re really focused on getting better, you go play pro somewhere. Pro guys will get you way better than playing against college guys.”

When Brandon Jennings left last year to play in Europe rather than college, he had already graduated from high school. Tyler’s move could be significant because elite players who haven’t graduated could follow his path. It’s hard to argue they shouldn’t. They can make money and hone their careers — two things they might not be able to do under your usual egotistical, semi-despotic, preening college coach. Let’s put it this way — if this kid were a talented violin player, and the Berlin Philharmonic wanted him, no one would worry whether he would lose anything missing senior calculus.

Sonny Vaccaro, a former sneaker company executive, orchestrated Jennings’s move and has guided Tyler and his family through the process.

“It’s significant because it shows the curiosity for the American player just refusing to accept what he’s told he has to do,” Vaccaro said. “We’re getting closer to the European reality of a professional at a young age. Basically, Jeremy Tyler is saying, ‘Why do I have to go to high school?’ ”

Vaccaro said he was unsure how much money Tyler would make, though it will most likely be less than the $1.2 million Jennings made in a combination of salary and endorsements this season. Vaccaro said Tyler would make a six-figure salary, noting that the economic crisis in Europe could hurt his earnings.

The Times story notes that two of his high-school coaches were fired for illegally recruiting three transfers to play with him. When they were ruled ineligible, he was left with no teammate taller than 6-foot-2, meaning Tyler was subject to triple-teaming and a lot of hacking. He wasn’t going to get any better playing high school, and probably not even playing AAU ball.

There are plenty of parents spending big money hoping their kid turns into a star. If you kid already is one — a real, legitimate star like Tyler — you would be doing your child a disservice if you didn’t explore every option, as he and his family are doing. Even if Sonny Vaccaro is involved.


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