Should professional sports draft high schoolers?
- According to the NFL's website, early draft eligibility requires athletes to be 'out of high school for at least three years.'
- In 2005, Andrew Bynum became the youngest person to be drafted into the NBA. He was just 17 years and 249 days old when picked by the LA Lakers.
- Because athletes were serving overseas during WWII, sporting associations began drafting teenagers to take their place. Fifteen-year-old Joe Nuxhall became the youngest person ever drafted by Major League Baseball in 1944.
- Before the 2005 NBA rule change that 'required basketball players to be at least one year out of college and at least 19 years of age' before being drafted, approximately 25% of those drafted 'straight from high school' made it to an all-star game--most notably among them Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, and Dwight Howard.
Drafting players into professional sports straight from high school is a huge mistake because young people aren't mature enough to handle the immense responsibilities associated with professional sports contracts. Science has shown us that the brain doesn't achieve cognitive maturity until at least the mid-twenties, and studies reveal that the human brain isn't fully developed until the age of twenty-five.
The physical contact of professional sports can damage brain development in young people and hamper the growth of grey matter which controls high cognitive functions like social behaviors. That is a huge and unnecessary risk for developing youth.
The prefrontal cortex is the last part of the brain to develop fully. This area is responsible for priority, planning, and impulse control which is why teenagers are often known for their risky behaviors. Teens often lack the ability to consider the long-term consequences of their actions. It is vitally important to protect the brain while it is developing the protective layer of myelin, which helps cells communicate and establishes mature cognitive function.
To further complicate matters, young adults are rarely prepared to properly handle the large sums of money accompanying professional sports contracts. Playing professional sports is physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting, and teenagers lack the discipline to stay the course while standing up to professional sports' life challenges. Furthermore, a random life-altering injury can suddenly end a professional sports contract prematurely or unexpectedly.
People should not be drafted into professional sports until the brain is fully developed and they've had ample opportunity to finish the education that will ensure a productive adulthood regardless of a sports career.
Although it may feel a bit odd to say that teenagers excel in professional sports, they are very much capable of doing so.
Athletes like Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Garnett immediately dominated professional basketball right out of high school and were able to provide for their families earlier than most. Although teams take a considerable risk drafting athletes at such a young age because they lack professional experience, the arrangement offers little risk to the young athletes themselves, who almost immediately become millionaires. Additionally, former teen superstar Kevin Garnett explained how he received valuable information and career tips from mentors like JR Rider, who took him under their wing because he was so young.
Even if an unexpected injury were to present itself to the newly-drafted young sports star, they would still have more than enough funds to receive a college education and live comfortably.
Furthermore, if athletes enter the pro game earlier, they have more time to adjust to the level of competition and coaching. When recent NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo entered the league, he was one of the youngest players of all time. Each year, the Greek forward made clear strides in his development as a basketball player, going from an untamed athletic marvel to a polished tactician.
Players are typically picked as high schoolers due to their athletic ability, not their sports knowledge or other intangibles. Therefore, the physical development that comes from playing college sports may be unnecessary to an athlete who would benefit more from being taught the advanced strategies of the league by a professional coach.