Saturday, July 28, 2007

Recruiters on hold

I came across this very interesting story about Elena Delle Donne, considered the number one high school basketball player in the country and the top class of 2008 recruit. Burnt out by all the attention from recruiters and the media, who suggested that the battle over getting her was at the center of the recent decision by Pat Summitt to end the UConn-Tennessee regular season match-up, she has decided to take a 2-month hiatus that will end in early September. She is not taking calls, text messages; she is not playing; she gave up the opportunity to play for the USA U19 team. She is spending the rest of the summer volunteering at a school for children with disabilities.
Her decision, and her willingness to talk about it, sheds some light on the craziness that is college recruiting--especially when we are talking about high profile sports and players. And perhaps it will lead to stronger and/or more specific regulations. Of course, this story is only news because Delle Donne is the number one recruit, because she has narrowed down her choices to four schools. (I was disappointed her crossed UMD off her list; I really like Brenda Frese and I really dislike Geno Auriemma of UConn who is still on her list. And my personal word of advice to Delle Donne--UConn may have great athletics and academics but there is nothing in Storrs. It is a sad, sad excuse for a college town given how much national recognition the school has received.) Any other recruit--or most other recruits--would get scoffed at for saying "I'm taking a two-month hiatus from basketball. Please don't call me." And they wouldn't--ever again.
As much as I liked the story, I was not so pleased with this curious line and what followed from it: "Because girls have different social mores than boys, there has been a recent escalation in complaints by players and parents about the attention showered upon girls by colleges."
It is vague, especially the abstract use of the term "social mores." Is the writer trying to say that in our culture boys and girls are raised differently? Yes, that's true. But what follows suggests that girls don't like all the attention, can't handle the pressure, and implies--through an absence of any discussion--that boys are just the opposite. Which all boils down to the idea--the "social more" if you will--that girls are more fragile, certainly mentally. In a story about the most hotly recruited high school players of all time--male or female--it is harder to suggest that girls are weaker physically, so the article trades on sociohistorical constructions of mental fragility. Long live Freud, I guess.
Still, kudos to Delle Donne for slowing things down and setting her own terms.


Anonymous said...

I am a graduate of UConn and to hear you say such things about it really irks me. Yeah it may not be for you but you aren't the one making the decision. The campus is your typical New England college campus outside the cities. It's halfway in between two major cities (1.5 hrs). It has alot to offer academically and athletically for the gifted student athletes or the non-athletes who still like to stay involved in sports. It offers a diverse student population and makes you really enjoy the people and your surroundings rather than be destracted from city life. You may dislike Geno Auriemma but his numbers speak for themselves. On top of that the women who have gone through the program have been successful outside of basketball afterwards as well even if they don't go on to professional basketball. Majority of the Alumni of UConn enjoyed their time there and would do it all over again. It may not look like much compared to other places but once you experience life there you will know you made the right choice.

ken said...

You're right, anon, in that I haven't experienced undergrad life there so I don't know what it is like. I do know 1) that it is not a typical NE college town having lived in several; 2) that UConn has a high attrition rate, that they attribute that to the lack of a typical college town atmosphere and that they are trying to remedy this by essentially creating from scratch a downtown; 3) from talking to people in the athletic department that the student-athlete experience is not typical of the average undergrad experience--that special accomodations are made to ensure student-athletes are kept happy in their environment.
I never said it was not a good school for academics or athletics. I think it has great programs in both areas.
As for Geno Auriemma, we'll just have to agree to disagree there.