Editor's note: Each week the Times Free Press will run a guest opinion column from Eli Cranor entitled "Athletic Support". Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author and the advice columns will revolve around youth sports. If you have questions or comments, please e-mail them to email@example.com or visit elicranor.com.
Dear Athletic Support: Last year, a senior on my son's football team held a scholarship "signing" after the season. Problem is, I don't think he really got a scholarship. I think he was just a walk-on and staged the "signing." Are you familiar with athletes faking these scholarship signings? — Curious Cat Daddy
Dear Cat Daddy: Before I answer your questions, let me hit you with a couple of facts. For the most part, the only college sports that offer full-ride athletic scholarships are football, basketball (men's and women's), gymnastics (women's), tennis and volleyball. In addition, most full scholarships only come from D1 FBS schools.
The point here is that most scholarships aren't free tickets to college. There is no way to know whether a young man is signing a scholarship for $500 per semester, or if he's getting a free ride. There's also no real way to know whether a player has agreed to be a "preferred walk-on."
A "preferred walk-on" is an athlete that has already been awarded a spot on the team but not any scholarship money. At larger programs, these are coveted positions. So much so, that coaches will sometimes even send a letter for a preferred walk-on to sign on signing day.
It's not up to you, me, or anyone else, to rain on a high school player's parade. There's no way to know if the piece of paper a young athlete signs on National Signing day involves any particular sum of money, and frankly, it shouldn't matter either way.
Dear Athletic Support: My daughter's first season of high school basketball is only a few weeks away. She was really excited about it until she rolled her ankle — again. Since she started playing basketball in elementary school, she's sprained her ankle countless times. I worry that all of those injuries are going to add up and have lasting effects. Is there anything we can do to prevent future injuries and chronic pain as she gets older? —Twisted Up
Dear Twisted: You are preaching to the choir! My wife and I were both college athletes and let me be gut-level honest with you — we live in a constant state of pain.
Bone spurs, shin splints, tight necks, sore shoulders, headaches You name it; we've got it. I played football, my wife was a pole vaulter for the University of Arkansas, and there is no doubt, our athletic careers came at a cost.
The question is, though, would we go back and do anything differently? And it's a durn good question. One we constantly ask of ourselves as we raise our own kiddos.
Honestly, I don't think my wife or I would go back and give up our athletic careers. I don't think we'd play our cards any differently. But that's just us. If our kids want to play, they'll play. If they don't they won't.
If your daughter wants to play — if the pain is worth the glory to her — then let her play. She just might need to get some ankle braces!