When you work with youth athletes, especially those in high school and college, you become acutely aware of an overwhelming fact: kids are eager to make a splash and get noticed by anyone and everyone, especially in the age of social media.
There is no doubt that young athletes committed to their training work hard, play harder, and have more drive to succeed than most people will ever know. We see it every day at Healthy Baller: the kids who train and practice, sometimes 2x a day, while also going to school and doing homework; the teams who work hard to make their interactions on the field or court appear seamless to the people in the stands; the athletes who live and breathe their sports because it is who they are. For the most part, these are kids who recognize that it’s the hard work they do that makes them so exceptional.
That’s why a display like the one Levi Jones put on during his national signing day press event was so disappointing. Getting signed to a nationally ranked college team is unthinkable for most athletes. Nothing about getting courted by one, let alone by 3 different schools, is anything short of phenomenal. That’s why, when ESPN covers signing day events, we expect the athletes to project a modicum of gratitude for the offers they’ve received. They are at the top, the representatives of their sports, the ones the public look up to and strive to emulate. Instead of coming across as humbled, Jones came across as flippant and entitled. How many high school athletes would give anything for a chance to just be considered by a Division I team? How many younger athletes watched Jones and internalized his arrogance as the way they should act if they get lucky enough to choose between top-tier athletic programs? Talent like the kind Jones and other elite athletes possess is a gift, something that shouldn’t be treated cavalierly, nor should it be exploited for purposes of Twitter mentions and Instagram posts. He did himself and the youth who look up to him a huge disservice by treating his popularity as clickbait. Although we fear an eruption of such stunts as their popularity on social media grows, we hold out hope that this signing day presser was an outlier and not an indication of things to come.