Mar 18, 2014 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff WriterTucked away in my recent interview with new University of Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl was a surprise. The question to the coach was whether he was concerned about the future of his sport. The short answer: He is.
I thought the coach might talk about the fundraising pressures of Division I athletics, or the the issues surrounding NCAA conference realignments, or maybe even the highly competitive pressures of college football recruiting.
And even though he did talk about making his sport safer as important to the future of football, his quick answer to my question, without missing a beat was, "Sports specialization."
Bohl, who has done promotional work for USA Football, wonders what happened to the days of the three- or four-sport athlete. Bohl is longing for the days where boys played football in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball when the weather warms.
"We have to get back to that," Bohl said. His point is that football players should also wrestle, play soccer or go out for track, as well as play the sports that he mentioned.
He thinks that kids deciding to play only golf, tennis or basketball at such a young age threaten his sport, football.
Jump with me to this past weekend, when the dinner table conversation with California cousins inevitably turned to youth sports. Their kids have grown up in the era of professional coaching, where, they said, kids, as young as 6 years old get to their year-round practices with their personal pitching coaches and, the same happens in other sports too, depending on where the talents are.
At 6 years old?
If young athletes aren't coached by pros, they claim, then those kids are not competitive in their sports when they are middle school-aged or older.
And the money parents throw at professional coaching will make you never look at an ATM the same again.
The dinner table chat was confirmed the next day when we saw the big, beautiful Dodge Ram truck with advertising on where to call if you want the best baseball and softball coaching for your kids in Davis, Calif., just after we saw the ads for Mike Murphy Baseball, Power Alley Baseball and South Bay Sports Training.
And what if kids can't afford that type of coaching, I wondered.
"They're not playing," was the obvious, but sad, response.
It is a different world from Wyoming, where well-meaning parents continue to coach Little League, youth soccer and other sports.
And that is also our great challenge. We should protect our youth sports.
Consider volunteering as a coach. Make sure that our sports are open to all, regardless of ability to pay. Resist the urge to decide, when your kids are 10, that they are the next tennis superstar like Pete Sampras.
As coach Bohl hopes, at least in Wyoming, our kids can continue to flourish in multiple sports. Let's take advantage.
Have a great sports week. Go Big Red!
Updated: The original post of this story said that Coach Bohl was a spokesman for USA Football. Bohl has done a promotional spot for USA Football.
You can watch an interview with Coach Craig Bohl conducted by Ranger Staff Writer and Wyoming PBS Producer Craig Blumenshine here.
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